For the last several years I've been experiencing a more-than-passing longing to attend the legendary Book Expo America. It all started back when I used to frequent a lovely place known as Readerville. I met so many wonderful people there and a few of them used to regale us youngsters with tales of floors of bookish sorts, rows of publisher booths, stacks of free galleys, and line after line leading to authors willing to talk to you and smile at you and nod patiently while you tell them you love them. My longing grew. Soon I began plotting how to get around the minor obstacles of lack of funding and a location nowhere near New York City.
Well, this year everything just fell into place. It should be noted that it helps to have a husband willing to keep the kids and garden alive while you go off gallivanting with a few thousand other hopeless bibliophiles. And every time you call to check in he tells you everything's under control, everyone's happy, and go back to enjoying yourself already. It should also be noted that it helps to have a friend willing to let you crash at her place, tag along with her to various publishing events, and keep her up late talking when she has a host of other important things to do. If you do not have these two sorts of people in your life I highly recommend acquiring one or both.
There's so much I could tell you that, if I let it, it would bleed over into a string of increasingly rambling, gushing posts. Add to that the fact that there are literally scads of BEA reports out there you can read to your little heart's content, and I think I'll settle for a list of things I learned at my first BEA (with accompanying art).
• Deanna Raybourn is as luminous and lovely as Lady Julia Grey herself. I actually had to restrain myself from asking her if there's a real Brisbane out there somewhere as well.
• When four YA authors get together to form a rock cover band (particularly when one of them is Libba Bray) the results are simply awesome.
• Neil Gaiman doesn't just sign a book, he draws a picture of your gravestone above the signature while chatting charmingly in a voice you could listen to all day long.
• Sitting in the cupcake cafe at Books of Wonder and reading is one of the most relaxing things you can do while in NYC. Particularly when the book you're reading is a galley of Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater.
• Librarians make the world go round. No joke. I talked to one who works full time at her high school library and part time as a YA librarian at her local library. She literally spends every hour of every day fostering a love of reading in her patrons. It's a labor of love and that's all there is to it.
• If you've never been to the Statue of Liberty before, it really is worth a trip. It certainly was a (non-book-related) highlight of mine.
• All those bloggers you converse and correspond with on a daily basis but have never actually "met" before? They're just as cool (if not cooler) in person as their virtual personas lead you to believe.
• Scott Westerfeld is a funny man. He is also fond of midnight blue velvet blazers, zombies, and Lindy Hopping in the street.
• Being able to periodically stop in at the shipping center and drop off your latest haul in a box with your name on it throughout the conference is ideal. Having to tape up the box, let UPS haul it away, and cross your fingers it actually arrives is less than ideal. It's not that I don't trust the strapping UPS dudes. It's just that there's a copy of Catching Fire in that box. And Forest Born. And Fire. And, well, you get the picture...
• Having people come up to you and tell you they love your blog, they read it every day, they think it rocks? That's the kind of mind-blowingly awesome experience for which I was completelty unprepared and which, for the record, I will never forget.
So. That's it in a nutshell. Walking out of the conference center was a surprisingly difficult thing to do, only slightly mitigated by the knowledge that it'll all happen again next year. Of course, leaving TMUAGOBPE is much easier when you have this bundle of awesome to come home to: