BEA, NYC & Falafel
I really enjoyed my trip to Book Expo America and have so much to say, but, honestly, I just need to talk about falafel for a minute. Because, hot damn, I had a lot of awesome falafel in New York. Guys, I just really love falafel a whole lot.
My source was Taim, which was conveniently located in the nifty West Village neighborhood I stayed in. (Seriously, guys, if you go to NYC, skip the hell that is Midtown and stay in the Village, it's so pleasant.) Here are some of my falafels.
I loved that place so much that I hauled a falafel home in my suitcase, no lie! Portland falafel is just so subpar. Taim, do you need a spokesperson? I am super cute and will work for falafel!
Anyway... I guess you want to hear about BEA. I left on Monday night, because I stupidly decided to take a redeye, as it had been a long time and I forgot that I super-hate redeye flights.
I did not heart New York when I arrived, folks. It was hot and gross and I felt like the only person in the world who can't sleep on airplanes. But, still, it was exciting to be there after not visiting since before 9/11. It's gotten so fancy...
BEA Day 1
Wednesday was BEA BloggerCon, and I was on a panel about creative blogging content with Sarah from Forever Young Adult and Katy from the Katytastic YouTube channel. It was moderated by Brittany, an ace publicist from Big Honcho Media, and she made it so much fun.
I am going to write a bit more about BloggerCon in general soon(ish), but I was thrilled that we had a packed room of very cool bloggers who were super engaged with our topic. I've gotten a number of emails about podcasting and blogging in general, most of which are from new bloggers who are excited to try different media. How cool is that?
I was incredibly disappointed that one person in the audience--a blogger I knew on sight--chose to snicker, whisper and text/tweet all through our discussion. It was incredibly distracting and actually through me off in the middle of a sentence at one point. I don't know why you'd go to an event like this and behave like that, but I lost all respect for that blogger, permanently. If you're not interested in the topic, quietly excuse yourself and go hang out with your pals or get a soda or something--it's not that hard to act like a decent human.
The Javits Center itself looked super dressed up for BEA, which was pretty exciting, to be honest.
Illuminae was the big YA book at BEA. I passed on a review copy several times because it was hardcover and weighed approximately 400 pounds, and even though I like one of the authors, Amie Kauffman, I'm rather uncomfortable with the other one, who has a history of appropriating cultures in his work in a rather gross way. Regardless, this promo on a staircase at Javits was super-cool.
One of the cooler things they do at BEA is put out a straight up magazine every day of the show. I've been to a fair number of trade shows, and most put out something each day, but this was really impressive.
One of the highlights of BEA for me was the comics/graphic novel aisle, which was just the best thing. Seriously, I felt like I was amongst my people. Bitch Planet took up the main pillar at Image's booth and one of my favorite line moments (and there were a lot of those) was chatting with a Huffington Post writer about Kelly Sue Deconnick's oeuvre, as one does.
Speaking of comics, another highlight was the graphic novel buzz panel featuring a conversation between Maggie Thrash (whose graphic memoir I'm super excited for), Derf Backderf, Ben Hatke, Jeremy Sorese, moderated by Calvin Reid--who was absolutely fantastic, just incredibly knowledgable and engaging. This panel just reinforced my feeling that some of the most creative, boundary-pushing work in literature is happening in comics and graphic novels.
I literally found this ARC of Stuart Neville's new book--my husband is a big fan, so he was pretty excited.
My big excitement of the first day of BEA was definitely Jennifer Donnelly's signing for her new historical mystery, These Shallow Graves. Jennifer wrote one of my favorite books, A Northern Light, and it was so thrilling to meet her. No surprise she was absolutely gracious and very sweet to everyone freaking about out how awesome she is (myself included), which has got to be weird and awkward.
The lines at BEA are very long and everything is very strictly controlled. Unlike other publishing events, where they give out review copies upon request, if you want a book (or even an excerpt), you've got to stand in line for either a signing or a galley drop (a timed giveaway of review copies). I know a some people were complaining about this, but it does seem like the fairest way to handle the crowds--no one is privileged over anyone else. Penguin Random House, in particular, handled this very well, giving out tickets 30-60 minutes before signings--if you had a ticket, you'd get a book, no matter where you were in line.
Their crack organization meant that the vast majority of the books I picked up with from Penguin or Random House. I will say, the couple of booths where I missed ARCs were super-receptive to connecting with me after BEA regarding ARCs I missed, so while there were complaints, there were also solutions, if you asked. (With the exception of the folks working at one of the big publishers' booths who I won't name, but I was unsurprised, as all my my online interactions with them have been unpleasant.)
BEA Day 2
My second day of BEA started in early afternoon. I made the decision to not devote entire days (except the day of BloggerCon) to BEA, since I was in New York and there were other things I wanted to see and I had some work/personal meetings set up as well. So, I gave up some book grabbing in favor of fun and seeing some cool folks (Hi Jennifer! Hi Julia!). I'm really glad I made this decision, because I didn't run myself ragged and got to enjoy the city. (I like traveling by myself, so I'm sure I seemed super anti-social because I didn't go to any of the things everyone else seemed to be heading to.)
I stumbled upon a signing for The Big, Bad Book of Bill Murray and, of course, I was all over that. Because what kind of jerk wouldn't love a book dedicated to the observation of the one and only Bill Murray? It's pretty hilarious and my husband was extra-thrilled.
Speaking of my husband, I surprised him by standing in a long-ass line for Julianne Moore's signing. I am happy to report that Julianne is even more beautiful in person and was absolutely gracious to everyone in our line. She literally said something kind to every person, which was pretty cool to see, since she's kind of a big deal, with that Academy Award and all.
My other big book goal for the second day of BEA was to snag an ARC of Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book. He's such an important voice in our world right now, and it was incredibly exciting to meet him. I, naturally, said something super-awkward about his tweets about comic books, because I can't not be weird and awkward... UGH!
I had the first of several encounters with a fellow FNL fan in that line, Jaki, who works for a book festival in Kentucky. We're twitter friends now. I think her colleague might have thought we were out of minds because we started discussing characters as if they were real people that we knew and naming episodes by their names.
That evening, I headed for dinner near Times Square with one of my clients--we had a great time, and I had a nice time counting Billboards for The Rock vehicles and chugged Snapples like it was 1997.
BEA Day 3
The captions say it all. My third day at BEA consisted of one goal. Achieving this goal required an extra dose of coffee. (Pro tip if you're staying in the West Village, there's an A+ coffee shop at The New School called Joe Coffee, which is a small, family-owned chain and the people working there are very nice and friendly, unlike the usual insufferable coffee shop people in Manhattan.
One of my favorite publicists invited me to a luncheon with Penguin authors Sarah Dessen and Carrie Ryan, which was just lovely. While my excitement was most around Sarah, Carrie really stole the show for me--she was really interesting and her new book had been completely off my radar, and it's a revenge thriller, which sounds totally up my alley. Sadly, I couldn't get my books signed because I'd been fighting off a sinus infection thing and was getting a pounding headache and needed to get out of the air conditioning before the day's main event.
Remember that time I was first in line to meet Mindy Kaling?!
Okay, I still feel kind of like an asshole for this, but Penguin Random House was super strict about how their line setup worked. Basically, no lining up early for tickets. So, when people did line up early, they didn't honor that line when giving out signing tickets. So, I got to the Mindy signing really early, but not as early as people who'd been there for, say, three hours or more. However, I happened to walk down to check on the line situation at the exact time the line started and the rep from PRH grabbed me and informed me I was the start of the line. I tried to give my ticket to someone else, but was told that wasn't okay. From a logistics standpoint, I understand where they were coming from, but at the same time, I felt so jerky that I was the first in line when I hadn't been waiting as long. I had been waiting with Tiff from Mostly YA Lit (who is the cutest--it's ridiculous how cute she is), but there was a big crush of people and we got separated... it was bonkers.
Anyway, I bonded with some sweet ladies, both of whom were librarians who loved Mindy as much as me, and it was super-fun, actually. We sat on the floor and chatted about books and TV and stuff and it was a good time. I guess that's why I wasn't so mad about the lines, because it was such a fun chance to get to know people I wouldn't have talked to otherwise, and there are lots of nice people in the book world, you know? I guess it all depends on your perspective...
Anyway, Mindy finally arrived and looked super-glamourous, and debuted her brand new bob! (Seriously, this was big news in my world.) The PRH folks gave us strict instructions that Mindy would not be personalizing her excerpts, would not be taking pictures and would not have time to chat.
Mindy, on the other hand, had other ideas. I was struck by how she genuinely seemed overwhelmed at just how many people were waiting for her and how thrilled they were to see her. When it was my time to kick off the signing line, she thanked me profusely for showing up and was really chatty. I blathered some dumbass stuff, as I do, and she doodled on my excerpt and personalized it. Apparently, she tried to take selfies with some other folks, but the publicists wouldn't allow it.
I know it sounds cheesy, but it meant so much to me to get to meet Mindy--her work just speaks to me in a way no other comedy writer's does. I preordered the hell out of her new book--the excerpt was wonderful.
After Mindy's signing, I jetted over to Austin Kleon's, who wrote two books I use in my teaching and consulting, Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work. Austin was definitely in my top three authors to meet at BEA (edging out Julianne Moore, easily), and while I was waiting in line I met another FNL fan, Amy. We're twitter friends now. Seriously FNL brings people together, folks.
It was pretty cool to meet Austin and chat with him briefly about how I use his books and about how Show Your Work, in particular, is a great resource for anyone committed to always learning. What a straight up nice person, he is.
For the rest of the afternoon, I wandered the show floor aimlessly, stopping in at random signings and galley drops that looked interesting. I found some neat stuff I otherwise wouldn't have that way, and I wish I'd done more of that earlier.
At the end of BEA, I headed on a crazy shuttle bus ride to midtown and ended up sitting next to the lovely Nancy Robards Thompson, a Harlequin author, and she and I seriously thought we'd be trapped on the shuttle bus to nowhere on a permanent basis, so we bother bailed and booked it on foot to our respective dinners, which happened to be on the same block. It was pretty wild. Anyway, I need to read one of Nancy's books, because she was fabulous to chat with.
I had a lovely dinner with the girls from the aforementioned Big Honcho Media and a couple of other bloggers (Jenny, Mary and Erica) at Urbo Times Square, which had good food (yay, housemade veggie burgers) and beer (omigod, someone please send me a case of Ommegang Abbey Ale) , a charming waiter and a super snotty stereotypically rude NYC hostess (I will never understand the "let's be rude so we look cool thing). I was, as usual, the oldest person at dinner, which is getting to be a more common experience for me, and it's truly confusing because I'm used to being the youngest. When did that happen? **sigh**
I ended up walking something like eight miles on the last day of BEA, so by Saturday, I just wanted to go home--but my flight didn't leave until 8:00 p.m.
I wandered Greenwich Village and the Flatiron District and spent a lot of time looking for non-disgusting bathrooms, since apparently in addition to no one eating in NYC (seriously, so many model-esque skinny people), no one ever pees either. I have no beef with New York, but I could never live somewhere where it's so difficult to find a non-gross bathroom. I did discover that the Moleskine store was in the neighborhood I was staying in, and found some pretty cool stuff there (I would have spent more money, but the salesperson was really unfriendly and I was so sick of the snooty aloof thing at that point, I just couldn't, despite my Moleskine love.)
I did grab one final falafel from Taim (ILY, Taim), and headed to JFK way early, where I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a Jamba Juice, which was basically the best $7 I ever spent.
I don't think I've ever been so happy to be in an airport, and I don't think I've ever been so happy to get on an airplane. I do need to shout-out the fabulous crew on my JetBlue flight, who handled a passenger's medical emergency brilliantly. Those folks are real superstars, and I don't think we give flight attendants credit for how hard they work and how challenging their jobs are.
Reflecting on BEA, I am really glad I went. I doubt I'll make it an annual event, but if I was on a panel again, I'd definitely go. It would be a whole lot of fun to go with a friend or two, but I also loved going on this trip completely solo.
Some other observations:
- YA, Middle Grade and Literary fiction are definitely the focus on BEA. I was hoping to discover more genre fiction, especially adult contemporary romance and women's fiction, and except for the BIG authors, I didn't see much. Harlequin had several signings, but their staff isn't super-friendly, so I didn't bother.
- With YA being such a big focus, I realized that while I like YA a lot of the time, I'm most definitely not clued into what's hot in YA and who the big authors are. For example, everyone was freaking out about Truthwitch, which I'd only heard of because it was one of the big books at BEA. I knew that author was popular, but I didn't know she was wait in line for five hours popular.
- I definitely think there are a lot of cliques (and I don't mean that in a negative way, it's just an is) and that's never really been my thing (though Laura and I are most definitely a very small gang), so I did feel like kind of an oddball because I didn't have lots of plans for meet-ups and stuff--and I was really happy about that because I need my alone time or else I become a crank. It's also probably a function of me being ten years older than a lot of bloggers.
- Something I've told Laura that I want to talk about in a future podcast episode is the profound lack of diversity amongst the people buying and selling books at BEA. It was really startling and I think speaks to a lot of the issues in publishing with regard to representation. We keep putting it on readers to read/buy diversely, and I think that's important (obviously), but after attending BEA, I definitely think that the conversation needs to be focused on the problems of representation at the level of the publishing infrastructure.
- While most people were really well behaved and orderly, I saw a few people act like entitled brats (ie, they thought they were too good or important to stand in line), and more than one person start screaming at a publicist because they couldn't get a book outside of an assigned drop/signing time. It was shocking. One person in particular threw an epic fit at the Rainbow Rowell signing I happened to walk by (I got sort of trapped near that line for awhile), that was a fit for the ages... just wow.
- A publisher gave away beer in their booth at the end of the last day. They freely gave it to some people, but not others and it was super tacky and solidified everything I've experienced with that publisher. Rule of Life: If you're giving away beer, give it to everyone, people.
- I think there needs to be a real conversation about the purpose of BloggerCon. I've definitely been to worse conferences, but I feel like it needs to have more focus so that people know what to expect from it. As it is, it's all over the place, and I don't know how useful that is, both for attendees and publishing people hoping to connect with bloggers. I sent a lengthy email regarding BloggerCon to the organizers, so hopefully they take the feedback seriously.
- I literally cannot comprehend how people managed to acquire hundreds of books at BEA--logistically it seems impossible, but maybe I'm just lazy. I acquired 20 and that seemed like a lot of effort.
- Random line conversations were the highlight of BEA for me--I love chatting with people I'd not normally have met, it's just such a joy. I know that sounds cheesy but sometimes I feel like our modern world keeps us from those kinds of encounters, and they make me really happy.
I hope you enjoyed this verbose reflection. Please send falafel.