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“How To Prepare For Attending DBF 2016”

The Inside Scoop with Stefani Sloma
“How To Prepare For Attending DBF 2016”

Every other week, the AJC DBF will have a different literary blogger share their “Inside Scoop” on various tracks, authors, and opportunities that will be at #dbf2016. Stay tuned for these curated sneak peeks into all the magic at this year’s festival!

If you’ve never been to a literary festival before, they can be a little intimidating – from the amazing schedule chock full of authors you want to see, to the many signings, to the vendor area, festivals are overflowing with incredible things you want to make sure you see. I’ve been lucky enough to attend (and work at) several book festivals in both the United States and the UK, including the past two years at the AJC Decatur Book Festival (DBF), and I’m here to share my experience with YOU to ensure you have the best time you could possibly have at the 2016 DBF!


I always recommend a variety of things to have with you when attending a festival of any kind. First, you’ll need a backpack. If you carry a purse you probably know that you can’t always fit everything you need in that bag. A backpack is the perfect thing to carry with you to make sure you have all your normal stuff, as well as room for more.

This is what I carry in my backpack: the books I want to get signed, my schedule, a water bottle, chapstick (Burt’s Bees all day, every day), my keys, a Sharpie (you never know where you might run into an author!), my phone charger/portable charger (pictures and social media will drain your battery), snacks, and sunscreen (it’s still hot and sunny in September in Atlanta).
Plus, a backpack means I have room for those books I’ll inevitably end up buying at Little Shop of Stories’ book tents (you’ll totally end up discovering an author you’ve never heard of or have been interested in trying, and the Shop is there for you)!

Other things to pack:

  • Comfy shoes. You’ll be walking around a lot (and possibly standing in some signing lines) so make sure you have shoes that’ll hold up and not make you want to cry. I would not recommend high heels or flats (unless you’ve just got the super comfy ones). I usually wear my tennis shoes or Converse or Vans.
  • Snacks. I know I already said that earlier, but granola bars, chips, PopTarts, and other snacks are life savers, especially if one of the panels you want to see is during lunchtime! Plus, because you’ll be walking around in the hot sun, snacks are the perfect way to refuel.
  • A notepad. Sometimes an author will say something at a panel that you just don’t want to forget. Or you’ll go to a panel with several authors you want to read in the future. Or you’ll meet someone you want to keep in contact with. A notebook is perfect because it doesn’t drain your phone battery!


Okay, so you’ve packed everything you need for the festival, but where are you going to go once you get there?

The wonderful people at DBF have worked hard to create an awesome schedule for the weekend full of bookish panels in all categories – from picture book authors like Ryan T. Higgins to young adult authors like Victoria Schwab and Adam Silvera to adult authors like Ron Rash and Emily Giffin. Check out the full list of presenters HERE. I recommend pursuing the list and writing down all of the authors you’d like to see. Some of them will be on the same panel, so make an Excel sheet with the times of each of the panels you’d like to see. Authors will be signing their books right after the panel ends.

Don’t freak out if there are two panels you want to see at the same time! Either you can see some of both panels or if you’d rather just meet the authors of one of the panels, you can see all of one panel and then go to the signing for the other. Plus, many of the authors will be exploring the festival during the weekend and you might run into some of them then!

I would not recommend planning your schedule down to the last second. Leave room for spontaneity and exploration. The streets surrounding the festival will be full of food trucks, vendors, publishers, live music, poetry slams, and more, and you’ll want to see what’s on offer. Plus, while you explore, you might chance upon a panel that you never knew you wanted to see. Discover new authors and books and people!


Don’t be nervous if you’re going by yourself. You’ll be attending a festival with about 75,000 other bookish people. I attend about half of the book events I go to by myself and end up meeting some absolutely amazing people every time. Just don’t be afraid to talk to someone new!

If you’ll be driving to the festival, you should remember that the festival is in downtown Decatur, meaning that some of the parking is free, but some is not. Here’s a handy guide to navigating parking in Decatur. I usually park a few blocks from the main part of the festival (where I can typically find free parking) and walk in!

DBF has provided some directions for getting to the festival from various areas surrounding Decatur.

If you have any questions or want some more info, reach out to me on Twitter @StefaniSloma!

Stefani Sloma is a Young Adult Librarian in Mississippi and a literary agent intern remotely. She has a master’s degree in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling in Scotland. When she doesn’t have her nose buried in a book, she can usually be found on the road traveling to a concert, a book event, or a place she’s never been. Check out her literary blog, Caught Read Handed, or follow her on Twitter @StefaniSloma!