NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-Up, Part 4

16 Jun

While my posts about BEA etc. have been pretty detailed to this point, my descriptions of Wednesday and Thursday are going to feel like a blur. Because that’s what they felt like to me. I came into BEA with a plan, I swear I did. I had a spreadsheet and maps and highlighters, and I was pretty successful at sticking to it. Okay, so success is relative, but I did make it to about half the things on my schedule, starting with the Children’s Author Breakfast. Being the poor student I am, I didn’t bother with the more expensive breakfast tickets and I sat in the back in theater seating, for the event hosted by Sarah Ferguson (fresh from her news-making scandal) and featuring Cory Doctorow, Mitali Perkins, and Richard Peck. Each of the authors was someone I was familiar with by name, but not by work. Mitali made some great connections about children’s literature providing “windows and mirrors” for kids, which is one of the most beautiful and accurate descriptions of children’s literature I’ve heard. Richard Peck was hysterical. He said one thing in particular that made me laugh and cringe at the same time: “The English invented childhood, but we Americans invented adolescence….And then we invented graduate school to make adolescence last longer!” Oy. That’s so me — and so true. I loved his talk.

I’d also gotten up early to get a ticket for Joyce Carol Oates’ signing for her new collection Sourland: Stories — however, Ms. Oates never showed and I didn’t stick around longer than 15 minutes to see if she would. Unfortunately, the publisher gave each of the people in line a copy of the book anyway, after I bailed. Oh well. I had places to go, people to see. I popped into see a few minutes of the “You’re Reading That!?! Crossover YA/Adult Readers Come of Age” panel, but it was a full house, and I had to get in line for Scott Turow’s signing of Innocent, which had just been released that week. This is a sequel to his nearly 25-year-old blockbuster Presumed Innocent which I’d never read. Standing in line though, I started chatting with a bookseller who pressed me to read the original before I picked up #2. He told me that Presumed Innocent was essentially the genesis for all crime/procedural fiction of the last quarter century, and that he literally wrote the book on the genre. Considering one of my guilty pleasures is crime fiction (hello, Greg Iles and Tana French!), I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it. So I got my copy of Innocent and promised the bookseller I’d read the original first.

From there, it was a blur of signings (Allison Winn Scotch, Elizabeth Scott, and more) and finding my way around the floor. I think I managed to eat at some point in the day…maybe? Then I made my way down to the BEA YA Author’s Buzz panel. The editors included: Julie Strauss-Gabel, Associate Publisher, Dutton Children’s Books with Ally Condie’s MATCHED; Jennifer Weis, Executive Editor, St. Marin’s Press with Rebecca Maizel’s INFINITE DAYS; Cindy Eagan, Editorial Dir., Poppy with Kody Keplinger’s THE DUFF; Farrin Jacobs, Executive Editor, Harper Teen with Sophie Jordan’s FIRELIGHT; Arthur Levine, VP & Editorial Dir., Arthur A. Levine Books with Erin Bow’s PLAIN KATE. Publisher’s Weekly has a great wrap-up of the panel here and I’ll admit I wasn’t as jazzed about the titles in the YA Buzz panel as I was about the Adult Buzz panel, I came away from it wanting to read at least a few of these titles. I picked up copies (both right after the panel and over the course of BEA) of Matched, Infinite Days , The Duff: Designated Ugly Fat Friend, and Firelight. Following recent YA trends, there are several trilogies in the making, dystopian fiction, dragons, and fantasy in this collection of titles. Keplinger’s The Duff is the only real life book in the pack, and I’m really intrigued by this book, as the author was only 17 when she wrote it, which according to her, only took a month and half. I don’t know if that’s an indication of the quality of the writing or of the truth behind the story. It actually reminded me of a quote from Richard Peck’s speech earlier in the day: “No one grows up in a group. They grow up one at a time despite the group.”

After BEA (and a few more signings and booth visits), I made a pit stop at my cousin’s place to drop off books and gussy myself up for HarperCollins’ Blogger Roundtable — which was really just an open bar with bloggers, authors and HC editors and publicists. Fine by me!! I’d run into an old college friend at the 7 x 20 x 21 panel the day before who is an Associate Editor for HarperCollins, and I got a chance to catch up with him. I also met some great authors like Teddy Wayne (Kapitoil), Jennifer McMahan (Dismantled) and Rachel Shukert (Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour). I mingled with bloggers I didn’t know of and bloggers I was secretly obsessed with and would never ever introduce myself to (omg, they’re like celebs — what?). I also met Lori of The Next Best Book Blog who instantly became my blogger buddy for the rest of the week.

After a long day on Wednesday, I was starting to feel the pain of the conference. My shoulders ached, my feet hurt, and I was exhausted. But power through I did, and Thursday turned out to be a great day.

I started my day a tad late (sleeeeep deprived!) and walked into the Author Breakfast right after John Stewart took the mic. Oh. Dear. Lord. Funny. Seriously, my sides ached, my face hurt, and I was crying. If anyone was like me in that breakfast and had walked in feeling really sleepy and unenthusiastic, they certainly didn’t walk out that way. The authors on the panel were no slouches either: Condelezza Rice, John Grisham and Mary Roach. Stewart intro’d each of them appropriately; after giving a run-down of Rice’s resume, he said, “You know, I’m not all that familiar with her work…yeah…I don’t really know anything about her.” She then got up and talked about the book that she’d written about her parents, their encouragement of education, and about spending the first decade of her life or so in Birmingham, Ala. in the midst of the civil rights movement. Stewart, of course, immediately said after she was done, in a totally fake crying voice, “Don’t… make… me… like… you.” Big laughs with that one :). He then introduced John Grisham as “a really handsome guy. He’s written like 80 million books.” But Grisham’s portion actually was pretty poignant and he told the story of how he got the idea for his first and only non-fiction book Innocent Man. It came from an obituary in the New York Times, about a guy who’d been freed from death row after being wrongfully convicted, and who’d died at the age of 51 in a nursing home. The story stuck with him and he continues to work to get innocent men out of jail. In fact his new book, The Confession follows a similar line of thought — what happens if someone confesses to a crime that someone else is already serving jail time for? Finally, the last of the authors was Mary Roach, who joked that the breakfast had been billed as “Stewart, Rice, Grisham and More!” She was “More!” Mary was my favorite of the authors, by far. I own but haven’t read her books Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. She really knew how to make a mark on the panel and told us that she’d warned the organizers not to have her speak during a meal. For example, she talked about the process of bowel movements in space (the “plop”), and what happens to dandruff in space? Does it just float around? She was an excellent “more” and I’m excited to read not only her new book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void but her previous ones as well.

After Stewart skewered the audience in the Q&A session (“Don’t you people have any questions where we don’t have to help you? Aren’t you interested in the shit we do?”), I spent most of the morning in lines for autographs from authors like David Wiesner, Joshua Braff, Deanna Raybourn, and Steve Berry. I’d intended to attend a panel around mid-day (The Next Decade in Book Culture: A Conversation sponsored by the National Book Critics Circle), but I ran into my uncle (father of the cousin I was staying with) in the middle of the Expo floor. I knew he was attending BEA, to support and promote some kind of partnership between publishing houses and the hospitality industry, but I figured that I’d have to track him down since the Expo was so massive. Nope, I was wandering through the aisles and heard someone call my name. Since “Rachel” isn’t the most uncommon name, I turned around expecting the shout to be for someone else. It wasn’t, of course, and I spent a good hour chatting with my uncle and his colleagues. He was also there as an agent for a book by Rebecca Costa, The Watchman’s Rattle , and I met a few other agents and did a little bit of schmoozing (which I’m apparently terrible at — oh so awkward!). At that point, I had to book it to get to the Author Lunch and promised to meet up with him and my cousin for dinner that night.

I caught some of the Author Lunch, hosted by Patton Oswald and featuring Sara Gruen, Christopher Hitchens, and William Gibson. Okay, really, I just popped in long enough to hear Sara Gruen talk about her new book Ape House, and her description of the bonobo apes she met and interacted with — no, developed relationships with — to research and write her book. And I wanted to snag my copies of each of the featured authors’ new books that they gave to everyone attending the lunch. But then I had to book it to the autograph sessions with Rachel Vail and Gretchen Rubin. Can you tell what a busy day I had? I was on a schedule, people!

I took the opportunity for a break and sat through the YA Author Buzz panel, in which the authors of each of the Buzzed books answered questions and talked about their “process” for writing. I was more affected by the fact that I got to sit down for more than 10 minutes, than I was by the authors themselves. Then I stopped to get an autograph from Jennifer McMahon (who’d I met the evening before) on her new book, Dismantled. After that I waved my white flag, and hit the Book Blogger Convention Reception, where I met up with Lori from TNBBC and author Teddy Wayne. I managed to not fall asleep on my feet, and made it back to my cousin’s apartment, where I quickly shed my new load of books, put on something resembling fashion, and booked it to Dos Caminos for sweet, sweet margaritas and then dinner at ilili, a Lebanese restaurant where we ate what can really be described as an incredible feast of flavors. Seriously, the tabouleh was the best I’ve ever had. A great evening to top off a great BEA.

Next: My impressions of BBC

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6 Responses to “NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-Up, Part 4”

  1. lori (TNBBC) June 16, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    Hey Rachel, I love your recaps. They are so detailed and chaotic, just like the BEA was!! That sucks that you didnt get a copy of the Joyce Oates book. Do you read her much? I own three of her books but havent read any yet (I know I know.. I’m strange). I

    • Rachel June 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

      I read “We Were the Mulvaneys” but nothing since that. I really wanted to read her short stories though. Bummed I didn’t get a copy.

  2. Amanda June 16, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

    This is probably an inadequate response to this whole post, but I have to say I’m so jealous of your Lebanese food!

    • Rachel June 18, 2010 at 8:46 am #

      Actually, if you’re gonna take anything from that post, the food is a good thing to take. It was that good. I’ve been craving it ever since I left 🙂

  3. Life of a Doctor's Wife June 17, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    Sucks that you missed out on JCO – she was a big mentor to this guy who lived next to me in college, and he described her as being quite a lovely person.

    If you like crime fiction, have you read anything by Sophie Hannah? She is my new fave “mystery” author. Am on my third book of hers, and while it’s a little slower to begin than the others, I am still totally captivated.

    • Rachel June 18, 2010 at 8:48 am #

      Her collection is one of those that I’ll probably buy when it comes out anyway.

      I haven’t read Sophie Hannah, but I’ll check her out now. Thanks for the tip! Which book should I start with?

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