This past week I made my annual pilgrimage to BEA, BookExpo America, at the Javitz Center. I am lucky in that I live a short train ride from NYC, so each year I manage to take a personal day and spend a few hours at the conference. It’s a crazy conference- huge, crowded, huge, and oh yeah, crowded!
Wednesday morning I made my way to the train station and was in the city by 9:30am. I had made a plan with Teresa (@trkravtin) to meet at the Candlewick booth at 10am. Teresa and I have been talking on Twitter for a while now and it was great to finally have a chance to meet. I quickly walked the few blocks to the Javitz Center and picked up my badge without a problem. It was 10am on the dot when I made my way onto the exhibit floor. (Nice timing, huh?) Candlewick was easy to find so I began the day browsing their ARCs. Sadly, I missed the galley giveaway for Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd but I did pick up a few other ARCs. And at that point, Teresa was there!
Teresa and I chatted for a little bit and she is just as wonderful in person as she is on Twitter. But time is valuable at BEA, and we parted ways so I could start walking the floor. I had planned to go to Ally Condie’s signing but when I saw that the line was wrapped around half the Javitz Center, I decided to skip it and just wander around. I knew I had about 20 minutes until Mary Pearson’s signing and I really wanted to meet her, so I did a quick lap around the center. I picked up an ARC or two, including Daughter of Smoke and Bone, signed by the wonderful and pink-haired Laini Taylor. What a sweetheart!
After my inital lay-of-the-land walk, I made my way back to the Henry Hold booth and got on the line for Mary Pearson, who would be signing The Fox Inheritance (The Jenna Fox Chronicles). I am a huge fan of Pearson’s writing and I had tweeted her that I would be stopping by her line. Of course, I forgot to mention that I am unbearably shy in situations like that so I would not dare mention my name when I got to the front of the line. When it was my turn, I passed my book to her and mumbled how much I love her work. Thank goodness for name tags, because the awesome Mary Pearson read mine and recognized me right away! She is a sweetheart and I can’t wait to read The Fox Inheritance. We chatted briefly and promised to keep in touch. Her line was long and I didn’t want to take up too much of her time, so it was time to go walk the floor some more. As I left the booth, I also picked up a few adult ARCs for my students.
Walking away, I overheard someone say that Jimmy Fallon was signing copies of his new book a few rows away. I didn’t need a copy of the book (and it turns out they had already run out of copies anyway), but I did walk by and take a quick picture of him. After that, it was time to head to Scholastic to scope out the scene. I really lucked out and was able to pick up an ARC of Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers. Yes, my seniors requested this one. They were in 3rd grade when the first book came out and were laughing when I mentioned that the second book would be published this summer. Needless to say, when I got back to school they swiped it from me and quickly read it).
I spent the next hour or so walking around, talking to publicists and picking up some ARCs. While standing at the Abram’s booth, I ran into Pam of MotherReader fame! She was wonderful and gracious and we ended up spending a good portion of the afternoon together. It was great getting to know her outside the blog (I highly recommend meeting bloggers! It’s really great!) and we chatted about books, teens, writing, and the 48 Hour Book Challenge. She let me know that Lisa Yee would be signing at the American Girl booth and I was happy to wait in line to meet her and of course, Peep! (Peep is famous. Really. Just ask him. )
Together we waited on a few signing lines and even made our way over to the autograph tables, which are complete chaos. I completely lucked out when Scott Westerfeld’s ticketed line slowed down and the girl corralling the line let me jump on the back, without a ticket. It was my biggest coup of the day and I knew I had students who would be falling over themselves to read Goliath. Scott Westerfeld was really nice and autographed the copy directly to my class.
Sadly, it was time for me to leave MotherReader at that point and begin to make my way back to Penn Station. I did one more quick loop around the convention center and really lucked out. Standing at the Random House booth, completely alone, was Christopher Paolini! One of my seniors had begged me for an ARC of Inheritance, but they were not available. However, Paolini was kind enough to sign a poster for him and we had a short conversation. It was interrupted when I heard someone practically hyperventilating behind me. There was a tween boy there who was gasping and kept repeating “You’re here. Oh my god, you’re here. I had no idea you would be here. Was it in the program?! Oh my god, you are my hero!” I stepped aside as this young boy met his hero. Paolini was deep in conversation with the boy only moments later and I had to smile. Sure, I had seen some people at BEA act crazy, but that one moment is what BEA is truly about for me- meeting authors that I love and networking with all of these people I have only met online.
I had a wonderful time at BEA this year. I’m not sure I could handle attending the entire conference, but one day is perfect. I get to meet people I admire, I network with my publishing contacts, and I bring home ARCs for my students.
On Thursday, I took all the ARCs to school (with the exception of a few I claimed first) and laid them out on the back table. My classes all walked through and made a list of the books they want to read, and I pulled names out of a hat at lunch. Most of the books have a waiting list, so students had to promise to review them on goodreads in return for getting the opportunity to read them. My first student has already reviewed her ARC! I expect more reviews to be posted this weekend. This is why I love BEA- ARCs build passion. Students are making lists, sharing books, and talking about them because they have the privilege to read them before anyone else. It’s fantastic!