I gave an overview of BEA 2013 last week but thought I’d go more into the fun stuff in this post—namely, the authors, of which there are an abundance. I was at the show for two full days, which felt like enough until I sat in my hotel room on Saturday morning thinking ‘I really want to meet J. Courtney Sullivan and get a copy of The Engagements but can I be in that crowd again without going into anaphylactic shock?’ My gut said no, I could not, as on Saturday they open the conference to the public (if they pay) and I’m now enough of an elitist that I didn’t want to be surrounded by people who only wanted to know if E.L. James was there. So, Saturday morning was spent walking around the city.
Before heading to NYC, I activated my OCD tendencies and arrived prepared with a list of publishers, booth numbers, authors, and titles I wanted to get. I also had a separate list of the publicists I had interacted with over the last year so I could go by their booth and introduce myself. Working it and handing out business cards like a drunken sailor. I was so adorably naïve. My Evernote list of booth numbers looked like stone carvings compared to the women who whipped out color coded spreadsheets and were working in teams. I was a lost lamb.
I’ve already mentioned this but the books are not just sitting out in stacks waiting to go to new, loving homes. Unless, they’re romance, young adult, or fantasy. Then there’s a likelihood that you’ll be hit in the head with a copy chucked by an overly enthusiastic publicity intern. My interest lies in literary fiction, debut authors, and new works by those more popular authors I’ve enjoyed for years. In these cases, the books are put out only at a certain time. There will be a schedule at the booth but then you have to get out your iPhone and adjust your plans. It becomes a muddled mess and means that the hours when you thought you would be getting advance copies of books are spent hoofing it from one end of the Center to another. When you do get to the right place at the right time you will still find a line. Some short and some longer than the one for Space Mountain at Disney Land. In many cases the publisher brought a limited amount of copies so you are given a ticket as well. If you arrive and there are no more tickets, there’s no point in waiting because there are no more books.
I did get to see a couple celebrities and would have taken pictures but apparently they don’t like pictures being taken of them (what?!). Most specifically, Jessica Lange, who has written a children’s book. I had my camera poised and was startled when a brawny man touched my should and said, “No pictures, please. Miss Lange does not want any pictures taken.” Huh? I’m not hiding behind her garbage cans trying to catch her in sweat pants. This is a publicity event! Still, I didn’t argue and moved on.
On Friday, I had escaped to a quiet area at the far end of the center. I needed a place to sit down and put all my books etc. into my roller bag. I turned down a hallway and saw a single chair against the wall. The nearest people were a group of burly men in black tee shirts, a tall man, and a hyperactive woman whose squawky voice carried. They all turned and stared at me as I moved towards them but looked away when it was clear I wasn’t going to charge and was more interested in the chair than them. This was the end of the day and I am so tired by this point that I’m not sure of my own name and the humidity has turned my hair into an uncontrolled mess. As I work at getting everything into my small suitcase, I hear voices and look up to see the group approaching me, the woman still chattering. In the lead is a tall guy carrying a cup of coffee. As he passes, he looks at me and says hello. What do I know? I say hello back. He then turns to the woman and says, “Let’s get this thing going!” He’s still walking and is about to turn the corner but before he does he turns, cocks his head, and smiles at me. And then, and only then, do I recognize him. The smile and the way he tilted his head? Jim Carrey. Who also has a new book coming out. That’s when I knew for certain I was out of usable brain cells. I have a mind for faces and would normally have been able to spot Jim Carrey from the moment I entered the hall. This time? Nothing and no photo. Nothing.
Here are quick bits on the people I did get to see and sometimes talk to.
Veronica Roth: author of the megahit series Divergent. The third book, Allegiant, comes out in October and I was on a mission to get a galley or something for my niece. This is when I learned that with franchises (and yes, they are a franchise) this big, they are no advance copies and they are sure as hell not going to give any away. So, I waited in line for almost 30 minutes and met an amazing Young Adult blogger, Nicole Brinkley. She was so interesting I’m considering reading some of her YA recommendations. Her blog is WORD for Teens– check it out.
What I got was an autographed poster and the chance to tell Veronica that my niece thinks she’s “the greatest living author.” Who doesn’t want to hear that?
David Baldacci: I’ll just admit, I’ve never read his books but he is a huge draw. The line was so circuitous and long that some people thought they were in one of the food vendors line (food vendors live on the outer edges of the center). Still, he had no problem with his picture being taken.
Andre Debus III: Most notably, the author of The House of Sand and Fog. A mesmerizing book but not my favorite. When I finally reached him, I blurted out, “Your book The Garden of Last Days was a five-star book for me. I thought it was amazing.” This launched us into a conversation about the reception the book got (middling) and why. He is a very warm and gregarious person—which was fun when you were the person he was talking to but made his line one of the longer ones!
Chris Bohjalian: This was my most exciting moment and I did nothing to record it. No photo, nothing. I was waiting in line for another book and saw Chris heading towards me. He has a very distinctive face and is a sharp dresser. For once, my brain didn’t fail me and I said, “Chris!” as he approached. He looked at me and then my badge (which is not insulting because I don’t have any photos of myself on the blog or on twitter) and then said, “Catherine, oh my God, how great to see you!” We stood and happily chatted about Vermont and the heat in NYC and his upcoming book tour. It was one of those moments for me (because authors are my celebrities), where I was talking to him but could see people starting to gather around us. I love the fact that even NY Times bestselling authors walk around alone but Jim Carrey has to have 5 bodyguards. Chris will be in Portland in July and I PROMISE I’ll get a photo then.
That’s about it. For the truly dedicated autograph seekers/collectors it’s not much but it was a lot of schmoozing for me. And schmoozing with people I admire, which is even harder because you don’t want to sound like a complete fool. My next post on the conference is going to be about the books so keep checking back.