Free books and autographing authors: The best of BEA 2014
I’ve been to my fair share of conventions, but it wasn’t until this year that I really found the one that was made for me: Book Expo America, a large annual trade show held at the Javits Center in New York City. Though I’ve attended New York Comic Con at the Javits many times, BEA was a bit different. The stipulation of “trade” show means that the convention is only open to those who work in the realm of the book industry – publishers, booksellers, reviewers, agents, and the like. Publishers are the exhibitors, and they’re hawking their hottest upcoming titles like crazy – expect ARCs, author signings, creative knick-knacks, and lots and lots of tote bags. If it sounds like heaven… well, it is. I’ve been so busy reading the books I picked up and smelling that sweet new-book smell that I’m only getting around to writing this blog post now. Without further adieu, I present to you… Book Expo America 2014!
The “Dreams Come True”
A huge part of BEA is discovering new authors and up-and-coming books, but an important staple for guests are the visits by beloved authors. For me, there were a number of authors who were a dream come true to meet. Among them are…
Who didn’t read The Giver in elementary school? Few books of the last few decades have become so pervasive throughout school curricula while still captivating the hearts and minds of the thousands of children who were forced to read it. What really happens to Jonas at the end of the book? It can’t really end like that, can it? The Giver was one of the first novels with an ambiguous ending I ever read, and one of the first to make me excited to do my homework. At BEA, Lois Lowry was present signing hardcover copies of The Giver, and dozens of fans (me among them) lined up hours early to get the chance to mumble incoherently at her for a few seconds.
Many of you may not know who Jesmyn Ward is, and that’s a shame. If you get the chance, I cannot recommend highly enough her two books Salvage the Bones and Men We Reaped. Her writing is so beautiful it burns. Although her latest book came out last fall, her publisher had her signing at their booth for a few minutes on Thursday. Unlike some of the other events I attended over the weekend, this one wasn’t overly crowded – but that, too, is part of the beauty of BEA. There are so many things going on that even though there may be 20,000 other people there, you are still able to carve out special moments to connect with books and authors that you love.
OMG. GARTH NIX, YOU GUYS. YOU GUYS. He’s the best! Sabriel and its sequels? Amazing. The Seventh Tower books? Superb! I could go on, but I think you get the idea – Garth Nix is amazing. He’s also Australian, which means that it’s rather rare for US readers to get the chance to meet him. At BEA I was fortunate enough to get to speak with him twice – once during an autographing session he had at the convention itself (where he went overtime just to make sure everyone that lined up got to speak with him!) and at an evening event at Books of Wonder (a happy accident of many authors converging on the city to attend BEA is that they often hold other public events in the city). His accent was divine, and I probably stuttered when I met him.
The great thing about meeting these “dream come true” authors is that often they meet so many fans at BEA that they won’t even remember that awkward thing you said to them. Probably.
The YA Heavy Hitters
The organizers of BEA made a big change to the event this year – adding BookCon, which was open to the public, to the final day of the convention. Though the third day of BEA, formerly known as Power Reader Day, has been open to the public in past years, this year Reed Pop! (the company that puts on the whole she-bang) totally revamped it with impressive results. Now, a lot of people love books, but in this day and age few people express their love of books as exuberantly as teenage girls. In a lot of ways, BookCon was a bit of a mess because there simply wasn’t enough room for all of the people queuing up to meet authors – a good problem to have in this day and age. But one way in which it succeeded tremendously was in connecting enthusiastic readers with authors they love. Here’re the ones people went the craziest for.
Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
Each of these authors had signings of their own throughout the weekend, and all of those had lines snaking around the autographing area, but nothing quite compares to the fervor the emerged when the two of them signed together on Saturday, promoting their upcoming book The Iron Trial. I read The Spiderwick Chronicles when I was younger, but the prime of Clare & Black came slightly after my YA heyday. Even so, the excitement for the pair was so contagious that I hopped in line myself. Contagious enthusiasm is one of the best parts of any convention, and is a great way to discover new favorites.
Maggie Stiefvater may not be quite as established as Clare and Black, but you better believe she’s a contender in today’s YA market. I’ve devoured all of her books, and she’s got two more coming out soon. In July, readers will be treated to Sinner, a companion novel to her Shiver trilogy, and in October they’ll get Blue Lily, Lily Blue, the third book in her Raven Boys cycle. Maggie also did a public event in the city in addition to her appearance at BookCon, but that did little to reduce the crowds lining up to see her on Saturday. One guy even offered me $100 for my ticket. But her public event did offer the chance for me to see her standing on a table. Hurrah!
Okay, so technically Rick Riordan didn’t sign during BookCon, but that’s probably only because he would have been mobbed if he tried. He signed on Friday, and I saw more than one person walking away from his table in tears, elated that they had finally met their idol. I actually saw him at an event earlier this year where a girl standing in line with me was utterly obsessed with his books but had never read Harry Potter. Now, as a Potter fan I may not be able to condone that, but I can respect people’s excitement to meet him – he’s basically J.K. Rowling to some readers.
If these names have got you salivating, you probably want to consider attending BookCon next year – rumor has it they’re expanding it to two days. Oh, and did I mention John Green was there? John Green was there. He didn’t sign books because he would have been mobbed, but he did talk a bit about The Fault in Our Stars. I’ll come right out and say that I didn’t even try to get in that line because I had already seen the movie, but I will bet you money there were girls crying in that panel. Speaking of John Green, that brings me to the last category of authors I’m going to touch on…
The LeakyCon Contingent
Going to BEA was a bit like a preview for LeakyCon in July. In other words, it was awesome. If you like the sound of these authors but didn’t make it to BEA, you should totally buy tickets to LeakyCon, because it’s going to rock. Besides John Green, these awesome LeakyCon guests were also in attendance:
Honestly, Rainbow could have fit into any of these three categories – she was a DREAM to meet, she had legions of teenage (and adult!) fans, AND she’s going to be at LeakyCon this July. She was promoting her upcoming book Landline and was absolutely as charming in real life as she is on Twitter. I was uber-lucky to also get to see her at a public event at Housing Works Bookstore, where she appeared with John Darnielle (THE LEAD SINGER OF THE MOUNTAIN GOATS YOU GUYS) reading from his new novel. GUYS RAINBOW ROWELL AND I HAVE THE SAME FAVORITE (& QUITE SAD) MOUNTAIN GOATS SONG. Oh Lord. Seeing the pair of them reading. Forget all those other dreams I got to live out at BEA. This one doesn’t even seem real. Plus she’ll be at LeakyCon! Buy a ticket and come swoon over her with me. That way I won’t seem so weird…
Just in case you’re not aware, Lev Grossman writes this amazing series called The Magicians which is reminiscent of Harry Potter except with older students, no Dumbledore, and lots of cursing and tragic occurrences. It’s amazing! The final installment of the trilogy, The Magician’s Land, comes out in August, just days after LeakyCon ends. This isn’t Lev’s first trip to LeakyCon, and he’s greatly looking forward to returning (he told me so himself!).
Ok, so Kazu wasn’t actually there, but Scholastic was giving out Advanced Reader Copies of the Sixth Installment of his Amulet graphic novel series, due out in August. I met Kazu at the unveiling of his Deathly Hallows cover last summer, and he truly is the nicest guy around. I’m looking forward to chatting to him again this July, plus I may have snagged an extra copy or two of his ARC, and there may be a chance to win it at LeakyCon.
Before I end, I’ve got one more treat for you readers. While I was wandering around the show floor on Friday I happened to come across this beauty:
That’s right – it’s a rare promotional shirt for J.K. Rowling’s second Cormoran Strike novel, and we’re giving it away to one lucky reader! With an excerpt of the book just released, there’s no better time to try and earn yourself some Silkworm swag!
Entering is easy – simply fulfill the requirements below to earn more entries. What’s even better is that this giveaway is worldwide – anyone can win! This is a FLASH giveaway, which means it’s only open for 48 hours – so there’s no time to waste!
Alright! I’m done! You’ve sifted through over 1500 words of me reliving my amazing weekend at BEA – I won’t make you endure any more. Were any of you in attendance? Which authors would you love to someday meet (besides JKR, of course!). Let us know in the comments!
Photo Credits: Matthew Adelman
Reporting by: Jessica Jordan