Where to start?
I forgot to take a camera.
I knew going in that with only a day and a half of BEA time, there’d be a lot of people I’d regret not getting to spend more time rapping with — and I was right. In this category place nearly all the litbloggers on hand, Cecil Castellucci, Anne Ishii of Vertical, the hilarious M.T. "Tobin" Anderson (who has excellent socks) and a ton of other people, some of whose names I don’t even remember. Then there were people I got to spend a decent amount of time chatting with, but still greedily wish there’d been more; in this category, find the divine Ms. Pinky, style goddess Lauren Cerand, Matt Cheney, Max of the Millions, Holly and Theo Black (Wiscon!), Ed Champion (if not Mr. Segundo), etc. But, honestly, it felt like a week! Here I sit with a hoarse throat (more on that) and happiness to be home. Some things about BEA, in numbered list format, at least until that proves unsustainable.
1. Wandering the floor at BEA what I most felt like was a shoplifter. No, seriously. You’re just kind of meandering through crowds and grabbing books and stuffing them in your bag. At the big publisher booths, I even found myself avoiding the eyes of some of the booth workers. I am stealing from you, I thought, why don’t you stop me?
2. Why doesn’t D.C. have a smoking ordinance? I’m still talking like a husky-voiced man from all the loud, smoky bar time.
3. I think the publishing industry should be run more like Wiscon. Bake sales would seriously improve things.
4. That said, scary suit people aside, the vast majority of people were knowledgeable, nice book people. It’s a trade show, basically, so you have all these niche ghettos all over the place, but well, it’s a trade show, so of course you do.
5. Where was the SF? Basically, the pimpin’ stylin’ Jeremy Lassen of Night Shade Books was the only one to represent. The major publishers had a barely (if) there presence in support of fantasy and science fiction. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say that it was the least-represented of any of the main genres that have their own little section in the bookstore. Disappointing and I fear self-perpetuating of the flattish sales and fear of the "state of the field" everyone always talks about.
6. One thing that BEA did do usefully was provide a big fishbowl example of word of mouth in motion. Everyone talks to everyone about which galleys to get, which booths are good, who’s signing when, which covers are terrible and books are absentee. I’d wager this is the most effective part of the show in terms of creating the much-coveted "buzz" about a book. It certainly seemed to impact which ARCs went more quickly than others. Of course, my sample size is small. But when you have to think about how to get two boxes worth of books home, you want the books to be good. I’m sure there are people who just grab everything, but most people I saw were being uber-selective.
7. Speaking of which, Kelly and Gavin are being nice enough to get my books to Wiscon next weekend so I can’t post a list of what I got. The ones I brought home to read in the meantime were: John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines (so, so good! and such a pretty cover!); Tobin Anderson’s highly recommended The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party; Ysabeau Wilce’s also highly recommended Flora Segunda: The Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog; and Scott Westerfeld’s continuation of the Peepsverse The Last Days. Which I now realize are all YAs. In fact, there were a great deal of excellent YAs available. But I got lots of Books for Adults too.
8. Got some info on the Vermont College low res MFA program in YA/children’s writing from people in the know. I’m applying. Don’t tell anyone. (Vermont people, send me more dirt.)
9. I think I was lucky to not feel untethered and overwhelmed by the hugeness of things (though seriously, a trade show for anything is huge, right? I expected it to be bigger!), because Kelly and Gavin and Alan were there and so it felt a bit like a family reunion and familiar. The Super 8 we shared a room at was AWESOME and by that I mean an awesome topic of conversation. Craig Gidney informed us that the rooms are rentable by the hour. The clerk sits behind bulletproof glass. On Saturday night I skipped out earlyish (midnight), leaving the others to the PGW party so I could grab four hours of sleep, and there was an honest-to-god motorcycle gang zooming past for the first hour I tried to go to winkland. (And when Matt Cheney and I were getting our books signed by Tobin Anderson he asked me how the room by the hour was and the other people in line looked very confused.)
11. People in the rest of publishing drink even more than SF people do, but they don’t seem to actually eat anything. It’s insane.
12. The prom at the Hyatt YA drinks night on Friday was the absolute best, best, best-dressed prom ever. Seriously. Made my weekend. Even the pregnant girls were super-styling. Trust Cecil to inadvertently provide such fine entertainment.
13. Tom Doyle is a stand-up guy. He got us bottled water. (No bottled water at the Super 8. Or irons (you could burn a hooker with that). Or hair dryers (um). But it had a great shower(yeah).)
14. I got to meet several of the people I interviewed for my little PW Show Daily pieces (it’s the newsletter Publishers Weekly hands out free at BEA) and they were all exceedingly nice. Janis Cooke Newman happened to be signing copies of Mary when we wandered by the MacAdam/Cage booth and was pleased her son was mentioned (after all, it’s not every kid who’s obsessed with John Wilkes Booth and manages to serve as inspiration for both a memoir and a novel). The Soho Press folks reminded me about their cocktail party and I snagged a couple of squirt guns and ARCs from them.
15. The publicists I met were all wonderful and since they don’t get enough praise… Let us all recognize the extreme excellence of Unbridled Books‘ Caitlin Hamilton Summie, who talks about books as intelligently as anyone I know and always tries her best to target books to individual bloggers’ tastes. (And they have some great-looking books on the way.) Coffee House Press publicist Molly Mikolowski was also fabulous — and the publisher (I believe) told me he thinks litblogs are an unqualified good thing for the book world (plus, they had gummi rats at their booth!). And MacAdam/Cage’s Julie Burton is great too. There were lots more. Sing their praises.
16. The first things I saw at BEA were: Helen Thomas (I shook her hand while buying a much-needed emergency sandwich (see # 11)) and a sevenish-year-old kid dressed in a tailored suit followed by his dad in the exact same adult-sized version of the suit sans the kid’s red ribbon that said Author.
17. Dogs are hot. Really hot.
18. I love you all. Goodnight, Washington!
p.s. Panels? I didn’t go to no stinking panels!