I crossed my fingers as I hit send on the e-mail. I had just requested professional days to attend Book Expo of America. My administrators quickly agreed that this was a great opportunity and approved my request, which was just beyond!
Fast forward a few weeks . . . .
By nature I am a nervous person, so I am sure that when I tell you I woke up at 3:30 am and left my place at 6 am, it won’t be a surprise. The drive was relatively relaxing. The first item on my agenda for the day was to check my suitcases in (I had been prepped by a BEA pro). After I checked out the available signing table tickets, I awkwardly stood around waiting for 9 am. An unofficial line formed just before 8 am and I met two wonderful ladies from the D.C. area. Chatting with them made the time pass rather quickly. What I did not understand about BEA is that essentially it is the Black Friday Shopping event for books. The excitement was palpable. Attendees were strapped with bags on their shoulders and color-coded spreadsheets. I felt like I should be wearing sweatbands and stretching in preparation for what awaited me at the top of the escalator. My only real mission for Thursday was to snag a ticket at the Harper Collins’ booth for the afternoon Veronica Roth Allegiant poster signing. Anything else that I scored for my readers would be a nice bonus.
As I rose to the top of the escalator, people were speed walking to their desired booths. I dodged and weaved my way to the Harper Collins’ booth and (woot woot) nabbed a Veronica Roth ticket (#17 out of 200). After that the rest of my morning was pretty laid back. I wandered around getting a sense of the venue and scooped up books whenever I saw something my readers might be interested in.
As a newbie, I relied heavily on the BEA mobile app to help me keep track of events and direct me to the right areas. I found the app extremely helpful. The only two drawbacks were that when I wanted to clear up my agenda it wouldn’t let me delete anything and it completely drained my battery. There were charging stations available. But with so much going on, I didn’t have time to eat so charging my phone didn’t seem so essential.
I had the opportunity to grab a lot of books and meet a few writers. I was able to get signed copies of Lauren Myracle’s and Kami Garcia’s new books. I was also able to do the same for James Dashner. My students are big Maze Runner fans so this was a total score. I also picked up Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – which was a lucky coincidence. While working on a project my student saw an ad for it and thought it looked interesting. I was happy to be able to give him an advanced copy to read over summer. I think the most highly coveted book I got was an arc of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves. I was happy about this acquisition, because I have been a fan of Maggie’s since Shiver and also because it was a lucky coincidence that I happened to be passing my Scholastic when they were handing them out.
My favorite moment of today was the 5 seconds I spoke to Veronica Roth as she signed my poster. My students loved reading Divergent for their literature circle and I think having even just a signed poster by her ups my awesomeness factor.
I ended up leaving day 1 with one large suitcase and 1 small suitcase packed with books. I hadn’t expected taxis to be unavailable and to have to drag them to the parking garage in the 90+ degree heat. The end of my experience wouldn’t be complete without then being stuck in traffic for a two-hour drive home in a car with a broken air conditioning unit. I arrived home sore and cranky, but when I looked at my literary bounty – it was worth it.
BEA Day Two at the Javits Center came with a partner in crime, courtesy of my co-worker, Lauren. We arrived early, snagged some author signing tickets, and fortuitously ran into my aforementioned BEA guru, Suzanne. She gave us some book drop times and then I went off with her to the Children’s Author’s breakfast while my co-worker went off to await the madness of the escalator line.
The Children’s Breakfast is definitely something that I would do in the future, especially if the author line up is of interest. We got a mug, a t-shirt, and 2 books at our seats. Octavia Spencer spoke about her new children’s book and then introduced the rest of the speakers. Mary Pope Osbourne spoke about some of her experiences with readers and also about the importance of readers being on level by third grade and how this can influence their future. Rick Riordan was very funny and engaging. It was a treat to be there when he revealed the cover of his new book. My students LOVE his books. Veronica Roth was the final speaker. She may have the least amount of “experience” out of all them and she also might have been nervous, but I found her to possess the most candor (no pun intended). She seems thoughtful and earnest.
Post-“breakfast” (and by that I mean I drank orange juice), I entered the arena. At that point, my cohort had already filled her first suitcase = I had some major catching up to do. The first item on my agenda however was to get in line for Rick Riordan. The last time I tried to see him was an epic disaster and so this time I was determined to get my 5 seconds of face-time. I did have to wait in line for like an hour, but it went pretty quickly.
There were so many fantastic events and authors on today’s schedule that I feel like I spent have the day waiting in line . . . for Paolo Bacigalupi or Rick Yancy or Ransom Riggs. My big grab of the day was a copy of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The line was loooooong, but worth it.
I found Twitter to be immensely helpful during my Book Expo experience. Following certain authors and publishers, in addition to BEA, I was alerted to books drops, events and other opportunities.
On Saturday, I could hardly believe that the last day of BEA had arrived. I was hoping for another laid back experience, but the Power Readers were among us and I was warned that things might get serious. But honestly it wasn’t the mania that I had anticipated.
The major item I was looking for today was an arc of Amy Tan’s new book. I skulked around the Harper Collins booth, hoping for a stack to appear. But it never did. And then I saw a woman take three copies from behind the podium – like the holy grail of BEA arcs. I weaved my way through a group of people. I pleaded and I quote, “Please, you don’t even understand.” And I totally scored a copy of the book = day made.
Another book I was excited to grab was Counting by 7s. The Twitter buzz has led me to believe that this is a must read. And a potential addition to my new literature circle for next year.
Lessons learned: Addidas slides and Aerosoles are not the best footwear choices. Sneakers seemed to work best. Sturdy duffel bags are a must. Don’t bring a purse. Bring a backpack or another kind of bag that leaves your hands free for book grabbing. No suitcase is too big. You will get enough books for an entire year of reading J.
As a first time attendee, BEA was an incredible experience. I can’t wait to return next year.