Book Festival Begins Today at USC

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The two-day Los Angeles Times Festival of Books begins today at USC with 150,000 people expected to attend the event billed by organizers as the nation's largest literary festival.

More than 500 writers, musicians, artists and chefs are expected to attend. The festival will have nine outdoor stages and activity areas, including those devoted to cooking, poetry and children.

A new element of this year's festival is ``Newstory,'' a series of multimedia programs highlighting creative forms of storytelling.

The festival also includes dozens of expert panels on subjects ranging from politics to pop culture, musical performances, art installations and Spanish-language programming. There will be more than 200 exhibitors with books and merchandise for sale.

Authors scheduled to appear today include actor Ed Asner; actresses Danica McKellar, Gabrielle Union and Vivica A. Fox; Univision anchor Jorge Ramos; ``Today'' West Coast anchor Natalie Morales; National Humanities Medal recipient Joyce Carol Oates; novelist Walter Mosley; and retired boxing champion turned television personality Laila Ali.

Authors scheduled to appear Sunday include Maria Shirver, the former broadcast journalist and California first lady now seeking to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease; actresses Valerie Bertinelli and Jenna Fischer; and comedian Patton Oswalt.

The festival will run from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free, although tickets are required for portions of the festival. More information is available on the festival's website,

People taking Metro to the festival will receive a 10 percent discount on official festival merchandise. Rides on Metro trains and buses will be free Sunday in connection with Earth Day.

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