Here we go. I’M FINALLY RECAPPING BEA/BOOKCON!
(Warning that I’m splitting this recap into three posts, corresponding with our three days of book events. But even with that, this post is going to be a billion words long, so read at your own risk.)
A couple weeks ago was the biggest publishing industry event in the US: Book Expo America (better known as BEA). This year’s event was hosted in the Javits Center in NYC–and my mom, roommate Hannah, her mom and grandma, and I attended the last day of it (Friday). Afterward was BEA’s sister event for consumers, BookCon, which ran Saturday and Sunday. Aaand we attended both days of that.
My mom and I got to New York Thursday evening, after lots and lots of super fun plane trouble (because it wouldn’t be a trip to NYC without it). We dropped our stuff at our hotel, then spent a couple hours checking out the area where I’ll be living later this summer and all that. We grabbed a late dinner at this place across the street from the hotel, and apparently a famous dude was sitting right behind us, but who really knows. (I didn’t recognize him, but the waitresses got supes excited and made him take a picture with them.)
Part 1 of BEA: Children’s Author Breakfast
First thing Friday morning, we headed to the BEA shuttle. Unfortunately, I forgot our empty suitcase (for putting freebies in), so Mom graciously ran back to the hotel to grab it, so I ended up riding the shuttle alone. Got to Javits Center, got Mom’s and my badges, then headed for the line to get into the Children’s Author Breakfast.
Fortunately: Hannah and her family got to Javits way earlier than I did and saved my mom and I spots at the front of the line.
Unfortunately: My mom was still back at the hotel waiting for the next shuttle when they let us into the Special Events Hall to do the mad dash for decent seats.
Because we were practically the first people in line, we managed to find a table where we could all sit together and I could even save a seat for Mom. But then it was five minutes to the start of the breakfast and she was still waiting in line at the luggage check to drop off the suitcase (you aren’t allowed to have wheeled bags anywhere in Javits outside of the luggage check areas). And, like, that was a problem because I had her badge and her ticket to get into the breakfast. And I wasn’t exactly close enough to the door for it to be polite to just get up and leave partway through the authors speaking in order to get her stuff to her.
I felt so bad, because a really nice lady sat down next to me, and she was asking all about Ch1Con and talking about how she has a client who lives near where I’m from in Michigan (turns out she’s a literary agent) (BEA is the kind of place where you just randomly get talking with literary agents)–and through it all I was FREAKING. OUT.
Then, thank God, one minute before the breakfast was supposed to begin, Mom texted me to say she was at the door and I scampered over to hand her her stuff. We sat back down at our seats right as the lights dimmed.
The authors speaking at the Children’s Author Breakfast this year were:
- Master of Ceremonies: Nathan Lane (Naughty Mabel)
- Oliver Jeffers (The Day the Crayons Quit)
- James Patterson (too many books to keep track of) (not that he’s written most of them, ugh) (but whatever)
- And Rainbow Rowell (Fangirl)
All of the authors were super, super awesome and funny and adorable (even, I hate to admit it, a little tiny bit James Patterson). We stuffed ourselves with bagels and orange juice, ogled our first free books and tote bag of the weekend, then trooped out of the Special Events Hall to figure out our game plan for the rest of the day.
Part II: Wandering and Buzz Panels
Of course, five seconds out of the Children’s Author Breakfast, I made a fool of myself for the first of what would become many, MANY times over the course of the weekend when Hannah spotted Rainbow Rowell heading for the escalator and we not-so-sneakily fast-walked over to her to tell her we love her books and her and can-we-be-best-friends-please-OMG. We didn’t fast-walk quite fast enough though, because we reached her right as she was stepping onto the escalator, so it turned into us kind of shouting our adoration up to her as the escalator carried her away from us, and she very politely shouted an awkward thanks back, and the fact that Hannah and I didn’t die of humiliation is a testament to our strength.
However, THE STORY GETS BETTER: Only a couple minutes later, we were discussing the Encounter That Must Not Be Named while riding up another escalator when, GUESS WHO WALKS BY TO GET ON THE ESCALATOR BESIDE OURS, GOING DOWN. THAT’S RIGHT. RAINBOW. FREAKING. ROWELL. And of course, not thinking, my automatic reaction was to say, “Oh, hey!” And, of course, her automatic reaction was then to turn towards the person who seemed to be speaking to her. Except at that point we had already long passed one another on the escalators–because, you know, they were moving in opposite directions. And, like, I honestly don’t know how I’m still alive right now. I should be dead. Oh my gosh.
Luckily, things got slightly less awkward for a while after that. (BUT DON’T YOU WORRY; MORE IS DEFINITELY TO COME.) We wandered the exhibit hall for a bit, picking up free ARCs and bookmarks and stuff, then headed to the Meet BEA Young Adult Buzz Authors panel. The authors speaking on the panel were:
- Moderator: Susannah Greenberg
- Nicola Yoon (Everything, Everything)
- Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski (Nightfall)
- Daniel Kraus (The Death And Life Of Zebulon Finch, Volume 1: At The Edge Of Empire)
- And Estelle Laure (This Raging Light)
The authors were absolutely lovely, and so smart and nice. Afterwards, though, came Part III in the Adventures of Julia Not Knowing How to Human: On our way back into the exhibition hall, we passed Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pierce preparing for the panel they were about to be on, and I… maybe… accidentally… stared them down while trying to figure out if Tui Sutherland (who was also going to be on that panel) was with them.
(Quick back story on that: A billion years ago, Tui Sutherland had a message board on Scholastic’s online forums for kids, called the STACKS, where if you shared a wacky story about a pet, she’d respond. I have a lot of wacky pet stories. We ended up talking on there a pretty decent amount and she even mentioned one of my stories–I think it was about our suicidal water frog?–in a blog post. I haven’t talked with her in like eight years though, so it would have been really cool to see her.)
I didn’t spot Tui though, and the others dragged me off (thank goodness) before I could make an even bigger fool of myself. From there we wandered the show floor some more, picked up more free stuff*, then headed downstairs for the Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz panel.
The editors and books on the panel were:
- Moderator: Sarah Hines
- David Levithan, talking about Alex Gino’s George
- Nany Paulsen, talking about Lisa Lewis Tyre’s Last in a Long Line of Rebels
- Martha Mihalick, talking about Nicholas Gannon’s The Doldrums
- Elise Howard, talking about Adam Shaughnessy’s The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib
- And Andrea Spooner, talking about Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish
It was a FANTASTIC panel, and afterward they gave out ARCs of all the books. (I’m so excited to read these things.)
As we were picking up our ARCs, we ran into Hannah’s cousin who works in the industry. Esther is amazing, so it’s always a pleasure to talk to her, even if only for a couple minutes. We all split up after that and I headed back to the exhibition hall for my first book signing of the day.
However, on the way there, I got a little lost and ended up running into this beautiful human:
Part III: Book Signings and More Panels
The first signing line I braved for the weekend was Shannon Hale’s, signing The Princess in Black. I adore Princess Academy–it’s one of those books I grab when I wake up from a nightmare and need something to calm me down; it’s just so sweet and beautiful and ugh–so it was really nice to get to meet her.
Of course, because being awkward around authors had become a reflex at that point, I stumbled all over my words while meeting her and it took me like thirty seconds to remember the name of Princess Academy and I had half a second of panic when I wondered if she truly was the one who’d written it or if it had been someone else. (Yeah. I don’t even know.)
Then, as she was handing my book back to me, Scott Westerfeld appeared out of nowhere to talk to her.
And she went, “Oh hey. This is Scott Westerfeld.”
And I went, “Hi.”
And he went, “Oh hi there.”
And I went, “IT WAS NICE TO MEET YOU LOVE YOUR BOOKS ‘KAY BYE.”
And then I ran.
After that, Mom and I found each other, stopped by a booth to talk with a friend, then dropped off the books we’d collected so far in our suitcase (seriously, such a nice thing to have there). From there, we headed to the WNDB Presents: Diversity, Be the Change You Want to See panel. (However, Mom kindly left it early to go grab a signed copy of Rules for Stealing Stars for me from Corey Ann Haydu.)
The speakers were:
- Moderator: Ellen Oh (Co-Founder and President of WNDB)
- Matt de la Peña (author)
- Linda Sue Park (other super cool author person)
- Tim Federle (yet another super cool author person)
- And Lamar Giles (VP of WNDB)
It was an amazing panel. A part that especially resonated with me was when a speaker called for more literature focused on characters who are incidentally diverse (as in: while diversity is important to these stories, the plots revolve around something else). This is a kind of diversity I’ve really, really been wanting to see more of, so it was SO COOL to hear someone successful in the industry say he wants the same thing.
On our way out, I spotted Kaye (one of this year’s Ch1Con speakers!) (update for 7/7/2020: Kaye’s author pseudonym is Karuna Riazi!) and I stopped to say hi to her. The moment she found out who I was, she threw her arms around me like we’d known each other forever, and OHMYGOSH KAYE IS SO INCREDIBLY NICE TOO. EVERYONE IS SO NICE. YAY PUBLISHING.
From there, I scurried off to my next round of book signings.
First up was Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pierce (signing Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures), who luckily didn’t remember the Stare Down From Hell. After that I hopped into the Marissa Meyer line and got a signed copy of Fairest.
I wasn’t sure what to do after that, because I had a bit of a blank patch in my schedule, so I decided to try the Patrick Ness line. After only a couple minutes in it, though, I spotted Christine Riccio of PolandBananaBooks on Youtube. Her videos give me life, so I hopped out of line to grab a picture with her.
Because of that, I missed the cut off for the Patrick Ness signing line (but so worth it to get to meet Christine, along with Kat of katytastic and Jesse of jessethereader). Luckily, right as I was trying to figure out what to do instead, Hannah texted me to say she was going to the Middle Grade Characters & Adventures panel, so we rounded the group up and all hit that together.
The panelists were:
- Moderator: Peter Lerangis (Seven Wonders series)
- Corey Ann Haydu (Rules for Stealing Stars)
- Lauren Oliver (Curiosity House)
- Kevin Sands (Blackthorn Key)
- And Ken Oppel (Nest)
It was yet another really, really great panel. Afterward, I grabbed ARCs of Blackthorn Key and Nest (I was too slow to get the others), got a couple Curiosity House pins from Lauren, talked with the authors for five seconds, got my Blackthorn Key signed, and managed to get out of the panel without being too much of an idiot. (Improvement!)
Part IV: Last Few Signings
Mom and I had Avid Reader Passes (basically, they let you into special signings) for Meg Cabot and Jennifer Armentrout, so we headed back to the Autographing area for the last few signings of the day.
Neither of us had used our Front of the Line passes (pretty self-explanatory) yet, so we used those to jump the massive line to meet Meg Cabot. She is beautiful, and just as funny and sweet in person as you’d expect from her books.
She was one of the few authors during the day I remembered to ask for a picture with. It was the Return of the Awkward though, because in order to get behind her signing table to take the picture, I had to dodge around the line divider and a trash can, which obviously meant that I consequently tripped all over the trash can. But Meg Cabot–bless her beautiful, funny, sweet heart–helped me untangle myself from it, all the while cracking jokes and making sure I was okay.
After that, Mom and I met Jennifer Armentrout, got wrangled into getting some other books signed from an author we’d never heard of (the poor guy had gotten stuck at the signing table in the far corner where no one could see him, so his line was nonexistent), then headed out to the lobby area to grab our suitcase and figure out what to do with our books.
On our way, we spotted a mob of Youtubers sitting on the floor, just kind of hanging out, so we stopped so I could get a picture with Kristina and Kayley from FiveAwesomeGirls(!).
We also stopped at the Scholastic booth, because I had to snag a picture with their sign in honor of my days on Write It. (LOOK HOW FAR WE’VE COME.)
At the luggage check, we quickly realized we had way too many books to fit in our suitcase, so we ended up lugging all of them down to the shipping cavern to send home in a box.
Afterward, we met back up with Hannah’s family at the tables by the Penguin truck. Hannah, her cousin Esther, and I talked for a while, while our moms and Hannah’s grandma talked, then we all grabbed our stuff and walked to a cute little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant a few blocks away.
Post-dinner, Mom and I said goodnight to the others, dropped our stuff at our hotel, then went exploring a bit. We ended up spending like an hour just sitting at a table in Times Square, taking it all in. We joked about how I won’t be allowed to enjoy the touristy parts of New York anymore once I move there in a few weeks, and it was really weird to think of how This Is Truly Happening. I’m actually moving to New York for two months. I’ve been dreaming of living in New York City since I was like ten. It’s kind of terrifying and kind of amazing.
And that, I guess, is where this first obnoxiously long and detailed recap post ends.
Thank you for slogging through this entire thing, if you made it this far. (And if you just skimmed the post, I totally understand.)
Check back later this week for Parts 2 and 3, covering BookCon!
PS. I want you to know that I’m currently dyeing my hair with honey (because why not) and it keeps dripping on my hands as I type. #Professional
*I freaking. adore. free. stuff.