Part of this week we spent our time consumed in that the book publishing circus that is Book Expo America–BEA. And, oh my! I’ve been to many, many trade shows and numerous ones at the Javits so I was prepared for the actual floor: the booths crunched next to each other, the hoards of people trying to make their way up and down the aisles, jockeying for the attention of the exhibitors as you network, and the slew of goodies that are handed out to entice attendees.
But BEA is so much more craziness than that! There are the lines! Oh the lines! You REALLY have to decide which authors are the ones whose autograph you must have because you have two choices: get to a line early and wait before the signing or get there relatively on time and wait during the signing. But either way you are waiting and you are missing someone else you were looking forward to meeting. But in the end, we met so many amazing people and had such a great time that all the lines and aches are worth it.
Monday was some type of preview day and the beginning of the Bloggers’ Conference, which we did not attend. We kicked off our week on Tuesday with the opening of the expo. Lisa woke up at 4:30 am (yes, am!!!) so that we could get out on time and be at the Javitts at 7am. Why so early? Tickets and line placement. Some of the more well-known authors are ticketed and while the tickets are free, you still have to wait in line to get one. The line on Tuesday was virtually non-existent and we easily snagged tickets for Natalie Merchant
and Molly Ringwald (who looks amaaaaazing!).
Then we headed over to the Adult Author’s Breakfast, which was emceed by Stephen Colbert. I tweeted a couple of quotes from the breakfast, and Colbert was exactly as I expected him to be–hilarious! He was the reason we were at the breakfast in the first place and he made it worth it. Every now and then he would call out a euphemism for his penis, like “purple-headed warrior,” as an homage to 50 Shades of Grey. The breakfast also included Junot Diaz, who was very eloquent; Barbara Kingsolver, who was funny, quirky, and reminded me of Diane Keaton; and Jo Nesbo, who I was unfamiliar with before the event but he was FUNNY and I am making it a priority to read his novel, Phantom.
Next on the agenda was the convention floor and author signings. The breakfast ran until 9:30, so I wasn’t able to line up in time for Gabrielle Zevin or Jennifer Weiner. We headed to check out booths and line up for an under-publicized Deborah Harkness signing that Lisa found on the author’s Facebook page. Talk about friendly and personable! Deborah is so down to earth and was a fabulous way to start off my day of signings. Thanks for the copy of Shadow of Night.
With that line down we moved over to the line for the Harlequin Dark Days signing with Maria V. Snyder, Julie Kagawa, Aimee Carter, and Rachel Vincent. This was a group signing done right and all I can say is “Kudos to you, Harlequin!” The Dark Days signing was the best organized of the show. Great line control, tickets to show you had been waiting so no one can cut in, treats for the peeps on line, a line that moved, and friendly staff. Plus, when I got up to the authors we could take a picture and, more importantly, speak with them for a second without feeling rushed. Now, you do have to keep the line moving, but at other group signings you got a smile and the book and that was about it. If you can’t allow a sentence expressing appreciation for each fan, your event is poorly organized. This signing was big but still had a relaxed, friendly feel and I appreciate that. (Another event highlight: Aimee Carter recognized my Twitter handle!!! And side note: Rachel Vincent looks young in her book jacket pictures, but she looks YOUNG in real life.) Rachel signed the new omnibus for her Soul Screamer series, Maria signed the Inside omnibus, Julie signed The Immortals, and Aimee signed Goddess Interrupted.
Lisa, gave up on the Dark Days line, however, and went to see Natalie Merchant, who turned out to be a bit of a bitch. Disappointing, but not surprising since I had heard this about her before and have had it confirmed by other people. If you don’t want to do a signing, either don’t do it or fake graciousness, you know? Natalie signed a poster for her new book.
Those signings took up a fair amount of time, so we quick fast grabbed some street meat from the food trucks (Javits’ food is waaay over priced) and headed to the line for Lauren Oliver who was signing ARCs of The Spindlers. Lauren is much taller than I expected, but just as cool as I thought she would be. I’ve been trying to get to one of her signings since I read Before I Fall, so this was a big moment for me.
Once we finished up with Lauren we headed over to the line for Molly Ringwald, who has released a book of short stories called When It Happens to You. She was friendly and looks amazing–like she’s 30 (without any work done) and I am jealous.
In between some of these lines we managed to stop at some booths and check out new titles, but working all that in was tough and we were tired, so after Molly we headed out to hit up the Deborah Harkness and Laura Moriarty reading at the Alagonquin Hotel. This intimate event was modeled after the round tables held at the Alagonquin by The Vicious Circle back in the roaring 20s. The authors sat at a table with a half-circle of 12 chairs in front of them. We were lucky enough to get a chair and then there were probably about 10 people standing in the back so it really was small and intimate with a lot of personal attention and opportunity for good discussion. Harkness spoke about Shadow of Night and Moriarty spoke about The Chaperone before reading a passages from their respective novel. Then the event concluded with a Q&A and a signing. Deborah remembered Lisa from the morning signing and remembered her friend who lives out in California and was even more personable than I remembered. Laura Moriarty is fascinating and has me on a Louise Brooks kick.
The meeting drew a surprise guest, as well. An older gentleman from California saw what we were doing and sat at a nearby table to listen. As the evening drew to a close, he asked to speak and shared a story about his lifelong dream to come to the Alagonquin, see the actual table (which was moved for our event but is still there), and stay in the hotel. He was accomplishing that dream, but added that our event added another layer onto it as he never expected to see a real readers’ discussion in the hotel. His story added a level of magic to an event that was already steeped in history, celebrity, and excitement.
Waking up at 4:30 am the next morning was not fun, but we did the routine again and got to the Javits at 7 only to discover that everyone else planned on getting there early too! The line for tickets was insanely long, so Lisa waited to get a John Greene ticket while I secured our place in the line for the Children Authors Breakfast. I didn’t know much about the event other than John Greene and Lois Lowry’s participation for The Fault in Our Stars and The Son, respectively, so when Chris Colfer from Glee took the stage I thought, “Who is this young pretty boy? I hope this doesn’t suck.” Colfer was fabulous, though. He was funny–he shared questions he’s been asked about his book The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell while on the red carpet, a picture of the world he created for his book when he was 1o years old, and emails to the illustrator with suggestions and critiques. Colfer was also able to joke with each of the attendees as well, like when he said John Greene was the Justin Beiber of the literary world. Kadir Nelson also spoke about his latest children’s book, I Have a Dream, which introduces Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech to children. I was honored to be at an event with this group. The breakfast was funny, moving, and inspirational.
While Lisa ran off the the John Greene autograph line, I walked the floor to check out booths I had yet explored. The amount of books being given away and the amount of authors doing signings was unbelievable! I had to turn people down because there was no way I could carry everything. I wanted Becca Fitzpatrick’s autograph, but she left before I got there 😦 So I started my search for Kristin Cashore, but was never able to find her. I did find the line for Teresa Guidice from The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but she still hadn’t shown up 10 minutes after her start time, so I had to leave the line. I don’t really watch the show and I had a lot to get done. Like get to my next signing.
Veronica Roth (Insurgent), Aprilynne Pike (Destiny), Bethanny Griffin (Masque of the Red Death), and Elizabeth Norris (Unraveling) were doing a group signing that we did not want to miss. We waited a looong time for this one, but the authors were so nice. The signing was a little rushed and was basically a smile-sign-and-give-the-book-quick deal, but we waited awhile so perhaps the authors were able to be chatty earlier and realized they were running out of time.
Lisa was a little bummed to find out that the authors weren’t allowed to sign books they weren’t there to promote until the line was finished since she brought her copy of Divergent hoping to get Veronica Roth’s signature on it too. Veronica mentioned that if she stayed near the booth until the signing was done, she could sign Lisa’s book then. So, while I headed off to explore and wait for other signings, Lisa chilled at the booth until the line ended and Veronica called her over. They chatted for a few minutes about the theories Lisa had while reading Insurgent and the big reveal at the end of the book putting Lisa in fangirl heaven. She also passed a plea from our friend Kelly begging Veronica not to kill off Four (the main male character), but Veronica said that she doesn’t know who will make it out alive! She also mentioned that the third book will release in Fall 2013. It was super nice of Veronica to take all this extra time to talk to Lisa and it solidified Veronica’s position as one of Lisa’s favorite authors.
While Lisa was with Veronica, I went over to the booth where Michael Ian Black and Megan McCain were signing America, You Sexy Bitch. They were very lively and funny. McCain’s brother was also in attendance and was constantly cracking her up. Jennifer Armentrout signed copies of Cursed, and was a lot of fun to talk to. Free beer in the Little, Brown booth was a unexpected pick me up that I appreciated as was the abundance of cake and cupcakes various publishers brought out. Appearances by an Obama impersonator, Clifford, the Harlem Globetrotters, and a crew of shirtless men signing their calendar were just some of the quirky surprises encountered on the floor.
Libba Bray had more people in line than books for autographs, so we explored until it was time to line up for James Dashner and The Infinity Ring. He was really cool and took the time to ask everyone a little something about himself. He comes across as a really good guy online, but in person you can really see that it’s not online posturing.
After all that walking and waiting, we were ready for home. After a pit stop for burritos and frozen margaritas, we were on the train and back to NJ. I, for one, could not wait to get into bed. But BEA is absolutely worth it.