Book Expo America was held at the Javits Center last week. I'd heard about it from Grace last year but never attended. I was a bookseller last year, but not at the Marble, yet.
When I found out that I could go this year, I was super excited, and when I got my badge I felt maybe more professional than I have in the recent past. I checked the website and the app often and planned a pretty ambitious first conference.
I was lucky enough to stay with my wife's family in Brooklyn, a quick subway ride away from BEA. I was pretty nervous about using the Metro. I live in Philly, and love transit, but SEPTA is quite far away from the complicated beast that is MTA. I got off the Q train at Herald Square and thought I'd gotten off too early. My phone told me I was about a mile away, so I tried to hail a cab, but the driver told me I was only three blocks away. So, I walked what turned out to be a little over a mile. It was hot. I was wearing too many clothes and lugging and awkward suitcase. I was red-faced and sweaty when I finally arrived.
The Javits Center is huger than I realized and I eventually got settled in and found Grace. We found coffee and wandered around for awhile.
Fun fact, we walked past this pink ass booth and Grace said "Yup" at the same time I said "Nope." I think this is a pretty fair summary of our personalities and friendship.
I stayed with my wife's aunt and uncle in Brooklyn and there were delicious home cooked meals waiting for me every evening. It was so awesome at the end of really packed, overwhelming days. I was terrible company, since I'd been talking to people all day, often while dodging tote bags filled with books swung carelessly by passersby.
The haul from my first day. Not too shabby. That little highlights thing is full of an assortment of very helpful post-it notes. Highlights: You know what teachers like. Juneteenth was wonderful and fun to read to my storytime crew. And the Wet Bandits in the Home Alone picture book look just like Joe Pesci and the other guy from the movie. (Sorry other guy, I am actually too lazy to look up your name. No hard feelings.)
I woke up to this fancy elaborate breakfast spread every damn morning. SO, so awesome.
The view from the ABA VIP floor. It became apparent on day one that I had WAY over scheduled myself, so I cut out a lot of the things I'd planned. The VIP lounge had coffee, popcorn, water, a charging station and comfortable couches. Needless to say, it was my constant BEA sanctuary.
Real talk: I did't actually steal crayons. Some kid abandoned them and I snapped them up to color for stress relief.
Day two Haul. Such exhaustment.
I accidentally took a limo ride. Here's how it happened. My suitcase was so full of books that I couldn't haul them onto the subway and up the steps of the Q train platform. I thought I'd take a cab back to Brooklyn, which would be expensive, but worth not having to break my arms. There weren't any cabs around, so I thought I'd order an uber. I've never used uber before and I thought: Oh, ok. I have that first time user discount code. Worth it!
There was a line of black cars outside of Javitts, so while I was trying to make the app work, a dude came to try and sell me a limo ride. I thought it would be suuuuuper expensive, so I didn't really engage, and he kept dropping the price. So then I started negotiating with him because ... why not?
I've never been in a limo before. When I got in, I wasn't sure what to expect, and then I got paranoid that this cheap ass limo ride would have me waking up in a bathtub full of ice with a missing kidney, but after I followed our dot on google maps for awhile, I could see that we were heading in the right general direction and felt promptly asleep.
The American Booksellers Association Indies Choice and E.B. White Awards were really really wonderful. Mac Barnett and Jon Klaussen gave a really hilarious speech about how much they loved indie bookstore employees and Jacqueline Woodson spoke eloquently about the impact of her family on her writing.
We started off Day Three feeling (and yeah, looking) kind of rough.
But then I got to meet Dr. Ruth who is so lovely and tiny. I took a picture on the sly because I got nervous that she might not want to take a selfie with me. In retrospect, I'm sure she would have been fine with it, but my brains are not always ruled by logic as anyone who's known me for more than ten minutes can confirm.
We split up for awhile on day three. In the morning, I went to publicist speed dating, which was a nice way to talk about the collaboration between publishers and bookstores to hold successful events. And then later, I went to a toast for the American Booksellers Association's Indies Introduce authors - which is actually one of my very favorite things that ABA does. It was so nice to be able to meet people whose debut offers are about to blow up. I talked in Episode three about how rad Kate Scelsa is, but you should also know that every single person there was lovely. I especially liked meeting local author Annie Liontas and Nicola Yoon, as well as charmer Brian Panowich who gave us all a moonshine recipe. I did grab some swag, but most of the day was spent having some really awesome conversations with great people about books we love.
I was sad to leave the conference, to say goodbye to the Javits Center, but eager to get home. BEA was a really beautiful adventure I'm glad to have had.