I’ve been home from Chicago for a week now. Long enough to get all of my thoughts together about BEA and BookCon. Also, I was waiting to get my books I shipped back home, roughly 40 total from the trip.
I flew out of Richmond to Chicago on Wednesday. I figured by the time my flight got in, I would get to BEA about an hour after the bloggers conference started. Turns out that fog had descended upon Chicago and they weren’t allowing flights to land at O’Hare so we got delayed a bit. I ended up arriving at McCormick Place right around noon. It was relatively easy to get to by train, and thankfully they had a bag check so I didn’t have to stop at the hotel first.
Studying maps is kinda my thing, a feature of my anxiety. I knew I’d need to go up to the 3rd floor to check in and then back to the 1st for the second half of the bloggers conference. By the time I made it back to the 1st floor no one was there. I supposed they went to get their lunches, and soon they began to trickle back in the room with food. I found someone who appeared to be in charge and they kept promising they’d get me my meal voucher in “a minute.” This happened repeatedly until I gave up. Thankfully a kind blogger shared her curly fries and I had some snacks in my backpack. It was then time to break into table talks, where folks had a 30 minute stint at their choice of tables with a specific topic, repeated two more times.
This didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. But we still had really good conversation. I found some of the moderators to stray completely off topic or just chat with those near them and not conduct a group discussion. Some did really well in keeping everyone on topic. Not everyone’s strong suit is leading conversation, and I suppose the choice gets slimmer as we boil common interest down to bookish people who write blogs. Overall, it was okay but I do not think it was close to $65 okay. BEA should think about getting rid of this fee or up the quality. But I am happy to have met many of the bloggers that I did. It’s good to make those connections, and it’d be harder to out on the show floor.
The show floor opened in the afternoon and I browsed around there, mostly to figure out the layout and my schedule for Thursday. I flitted into the ABA lounge and ran into Sarah from The Book Jawn Podcast (and the whole reason I was able to go to BEA!) We gave tired hugs (yes, tired from only a half day of BEA) and browsed through the galley room. This is where I picked up Mara Wilson’s upcoming memoir, Where Am I Now?
I went back to my hotel and basically crashed (after a quick jaunt down the block to Shake Shack.) After looking through the books collected on day one, I am the most excited to read the aforementioned Where Am I Now?, Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (she did a signing for just the bloggers con which was a nice surprise. Plus, I am interested to see if this books ends up as offensive as folks expect), and Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow.
On Thursday I rose early to ensure I’d get an autograph ticket to get Ann M. Martin’s new middle grade book, a retelling of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, called Missy Piggle Wiggle and the Whatever Cure. A Baby-Sitters Club fan like myself couldn’t contain my feelings in meeting her. I got a little teary eyed and blurted out, “I’m here because of you.” It’s true. That series hooked me on reading. It taught me that you can use your imagination to create a whole world.
I was also able to stop by the ABA lounge for their autographing session and was really happy to get a signed copy of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Also, Alex Gino signed a copy of George as a blog giveaway so stay tuned for that! I stood in line at the Penguin Random House booth in order to get a signed copy of Emma Cline’s The Girls. While that was going on a large line was forming for Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s upcoming look at race in, Writings on the Walls which I hadn’t planned on standing in. By the time I was done at the PRH booth, they were still allowing folks to jump in the Time, Inc line and I snagged a copy signed to my dad (don’t tell him, he can’t have it until I read it.) Meanwhile I walked all around over and over again, getting lost in the aisles of publishers.
Even as an introvert, I sometimes enjoy crowds because I can blend in and disappear. BEA was good for this. It helped that BEA crowds were book professionals and for the most part acted like it. (I didn’t witness some of the grabby hands others saw during ARC drops.) I was able to stop at some of the smaller publisher booths, where I didn’t feel like I was getting in the way of any important meetings. I had a great conversation with the fellow at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy booth about some hikes near to me but aren’t super busy trails. The folks at Housing Works were really great. They are a charity helping people effected by AIDS who obtain funding through thrift and used book shops. I plan on writing about them in the future. I ended up getting my hands on one more ARC that I absolutely cannot wait to read and that is Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings.
This is getting rather long, so I am going to save a BookCon post for another day. You may wonder what happened to Friday at BEA? I skipped it. As a lifelong baseball fan, and a girl who was born in Peoria it would be silly of me to not visit Wrigley Field when I was in Chicago. I took myself on a date to see a fantastic Cubs game… and they won!
Overall BEA was a blast. I would love to go again. If a trip to NYC is in my budget for next year I will be there. I know to wear comfortable shoes, take breaks, bring a refillable water bottle and eat! I never ever thought that I would be one who would forget to eat, but it happened. It was important to only have a loose plan going into the day. There is no such thing as FOMO (fear of missing out) when at BEA. You are going to miss some things, but the experiences you do have will balance it all out. Plus, if you have pals who were there, you can exchange ARCs if you missed a drop! BookCon was a whole different animal. I’ll get to that soon.