I don’t mean to imply by the headline that BEA is a horrible experience to be survived rather than enjoyed. I had a great time! Buuut … I didn’t get a lot of sleep last week! Wednesday morning, I was lucky enough to have been invited to present Wuftoom at the Harlem Village Academies: Leadership middle school. I was an afterschool tutor this past year, and I really fell in love with the kids and the school, so I was really excited to be back. However, I don’t normally get up in time to give presentations at 7:30 in the morning! So when I left the school at about 8:00 a.m., I was happy but also a little loopy from lack of sleep. I thought about trying to go home and take a nap, but I was afraid I’d never make it down to BEA if I did that, so I pushed on!
Once I got to BEA, I was immediately flummoxed by a change in set-up from last year, whereby the press booth had moved from right out front to under a large sign that read “Press Area.” At my level of sleep, this was confusing, but ten minutes later, I had made it there and picked up my press pass, which identified me as “Blogger, Teen Writers Bloc” (a cheaper designation than “Author,” unfortunately. By cheaper, read “free.”). Then I was ready to hit the booths. I didn’t have a particular plan when I began sifting through my conference schedule. I came with a single, seemingly realistic goal: I was not going to pick up too many books. I came up with this goal after last year’s experience. Last year I spent one day at BEA and picked up what felt like a lot of ARCs. That seemed wonderful until I got home and tried to read them. Of all the ARCs I picked up, I liked exactly one of them! (That was Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby, which I reviewed here. It was good enough to make the whole day worth it!) I will not take everything I see, I thought. Even if they are books that some sales person has designated as a “big” or “buzz” book, because I have a pile of “buzz” books at home that weren’t for me. I was going to be strong and not buy into the hype. I mentally reminded myself that just because something is free does not mean I want to read it. Well, you can probably guess how that turned out! By the end of the day I was carrying so many books—which I was sure were going to be worth it—that I felt like my arms, shoulders, and feet were all going to fall off. But I digress.
After I took a look at the conference schedule and realized I had no idea what I wanted to do, I met up with The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands author Kate Milford, who, it turned out, actually had a decent plan. Piggy-backing on her fortuitous (for me) preparation, I began the day’s sweep for ARCs that promised to be stuff I really wanted! I picked up middle grade, YA, and picture books, books from big names like Scholastic (The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater) and independent gems like Peachtree (The Universe of Fair by Leslie Bulion). I even made a stop at the Downtown Stage to listen to a presentation for an adult nonfiction book, Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. I walked away with the heavy ARC somewhat guiltily. After all, I’m supposed to be a YA person, which is kind of cool, right? What if someone found out that secretly, I’m a huge nerd who loves nonfiction sometimes even more than YA? Oops, I think I just let that proverbial cat out. Oh well. After a break for a quick sushi-roll lunch downstairs, where a nice lady told me I look like “that girl from Twilight” (totally true, by the way), I went on to pick up more books and listen to more genre-appropriate panels, including a fantastic panel on chapter books that included R.L. Stine (Goosebumps) and Nancy Krulik (Katy Kazoo).
Whew. By about 3:30, Kate and I were carrying so many books that we were about ready to drop, so we hoisted our bags on our shoulders and got ready to head over to a bar whose name I can’t remember for an early dinner. That was when my swag bag burst at the seams and almost dropped my huge haul of books all over the bathroom floor! After the nice folks at McGraw Hill rescued me with a giant red bag big enough to fit, me, my twin Kristen Stewart, and all seven dwarves inside it, we were finally out! We had our books, our memories, and lots of pictures of Kate’s home-made sock monster “Lish McGlovin” with everyone she could convince to pose. See the photo of us, above, reading our menus. In my fatigued state, I found Lish infinitely entertaining. But maybe that’s just the kidlit author in me and I am that immature all the time. Let’s just say, I can’t be blamed for any pictures that may one day show up on the interwebs. The day ended with a nice fish-and-chips dinner, a kidlit drink night, and a critique group with some of my Teen Writers Bloc crew. I probably wasn’t at my best during the critique, because I was so tired that at least once I commented on the wrong project. But it was nice to see everyone!
My BEA experience finished up Thursday at 6:00, when I got the chance to sit on Books of Wonder’s “Meet the Class of 2K12” panel and read a little bit of Wuftoom. By that time I was at least enough recovered from Wednesday to sit up in my chair and not drop the microphone, so I’m calling it a success!
Well, that was my recap of my BEA12 experience. How did everyone else do?
Photo credit: Kate Milford