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Festival of Books: Authors and visitors gather early for the love of books

Early birds Saturday gather at USC for the L.A. Times Festival of Books.

Book enthusiasts and authors began streaming onto the USC campus for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books as early as 9 a.m. Saturday morning.

Dylan Landis, author of "Rainey Royal," sat on a ledge near the authors' check-in booth and looked over her schedule.

"It’s exhilarating to be with this many people who connect over books," Landis said. "People talk about print dying out, but this is all about print, and it’s marvelous."

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Landis has been coming to the festival for several years and will be speaking on a fiction panel at 11 a.m. titled "Coming Into Her Own." She'll be speaking with other authors who have written on the topic of coming of age.

Landis hadn’t planned out all the events she wants to attend because she likes to browse. She passed on some words of advice for festival-goers: "You’ll wish you wore sneakers," Landis said, pointing to her feet.

Before the festival opened, vendors rolled in carts of books and pamphlets, and set up folding chairs. On the Hoy stage, hosts did sound checks and practiced their speeches. Authors lined up to receive access badges, chatting up neighbors and hugging old friends.

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Downey residents Julie Thormodsen, 53, and her father-in-law, Richard Thormodsen, 85, woke up at 7:30 a.m. to eat breakfast and catch a bus from the Downey City Library to the festival.

The two, equipped with sunglasses, hats and empty totes to fill with books, said they had been coming to the book festival for about 20 years. While they play it by ear as far as sessions, the Thormodsens said their one go-to is poetry reading.

"It’s always fun to hear what their ideas are as they express it in poetry. And it’s a comfortable place to sit," Richard Thormodsen said, with a chuckle.

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While Julie Thormodsen said online shopping offered a wide selection of books, it can’t point your attention to authors and books the way the festival can.

"It’s a great place to find new books and new authors, and there’s such a vast variety you can’t find anywhere else," she said.

Check out the Festival of Books schedule for this weekend.

MORE FROM THE FESTIVAL OF BOOKS:

What's the secret to making a crime novel work?

Can social media solve the social justice problem?

'Books spawn change,' Times' Austin Beutner says to open Festival of Books

Follow the books section on Twitter @latimesbooks and Facebook

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