I thought it might be fun to share my experiences this year at BookExpo America with all of you. I had debated going for the last several years and this year I just pulled the plug and decided to experience this event for myself. For those of you unfamiliar with BEA, it is the place where publishers converge and share all their new and exciting titles from adult to children to educational books. The event is for those "in the industry" so it is filled with book sellers, librarians and bloggers, basically anyone who buys and promotes books!
I began my adventure on Wednesday with a blogging conference that inspired me to think about how I can continue to provide interesting content, get over the blogger burnout and continue to provide you with a fresh and honest voice in an overcrowded world of books!
I also got a chance to talk with publishers and discuss the best way for bloggers to work with them. Sadly I think many bloggers look for a lot of free books from publishers, so way too much of the discussion was devoted to getting books as opposed to working together when a blogger loves a book, a real lost opportunity I think.
BEA opened it's doors on Wednesday afternoon, and I don't quite think I was quite ready for what was to come. A friend described it as Disneyland for book lovers and that is an apt description. As I walked from booth to booth publishers were simply handing me books that they were excited about and wanted to promote. The free books and tote bags were flying as I literally had to say no more!
That first day I knew several advanced reader copies of books I was interested in were being given out, so I scouted out those books. Little did I know that Shannon Hale and I would don squirrel ears as she and her husband kindly signed and advance copy of her new middle grade novel appropriately titled Squirrel Girl. Wish I had a picture of that one, but I was so shocked by the whole event it didn't occur to me to pull out my phone. Scholastic kindly gave me an advanced copy of Dog Man, the new series by Dav Pilkey out in August and several more publishers kindly passed along books I was interested in reading.
On Thursday the fun really began. This is when the author events seemed to reach their peak. I started with a baguette themed book signing with Mo Willems and his new picture book Nannette's Baguettes. They gave us such an early edition to review that it isn't even bound yet! I remembered to get pictures but I absolutely hate getting my picture taken so you will just have to imagine.
Adam Gitwitz, author of A Tale Dark and Grimm was a delight and offered an early copy of his new book The Inquisitor's Tale which features farting dragons in medieval France. I hope I love it as much as A Tale Dark and Grimm!
Jennifer Holmes was lovely as we talked about our California connection and she shared her new book Full of Beans, a companion novel to her Newbery Honor book Turtle in Paradise
Raina Telgemeier offered up her new graphic novel Ghosts, out in September. She was probably one of the most reserved authors I met but her talent speaks for itself.
I even met up with the publishers of Choose Your Own Adventure who are reprinting the classics and adding new titles to the series. How fun is that?
I received the new series from the author of the Mysterious Benedict Society as well as the new Miss Piggle Wiggle book and got another encounter with Shannon Hale who made dorky faces with me before she handed over a copy of the new Princess in Black out in November.
Between meeting Kwame Alexander and having him do an impromptu rap about his new picture book and chatting with Erin Colfer and Dan Santat who were funny and charming I was considering it a pretty full day.
I did take the time to get out of the convention hall and take in the Chicago Art Institute. Wow, I am so glad I did not let exhaustion get the better of me. It was absolutely inspiring and gave me the mojo to make it to Friday.
Again, I was extremely picky about the books I wanted, but ended up with an unexpected wealth of riches.
I started Friday at an author breakfast moderated by Jamie Lee Curtis. The picture makes it seems like it was a huge event since she is on a screen, but the truth is I got the times mixed up and arrived 15 minutes late. I had to sit in the back and it was hard to get a picture of the whole panel without people's breakfast plates in the way, so that was the best I could do.
The breakfast was very inspiring as Jamie shared her new book about discovering what you are made of, Dav Pilkey reminded parents to love their kids and let them read what makes them happy to make them better readers (a message I wholeheartedly agree with), Sabaa Tahir talked about facing her fears and Gene Luen Yang encouraged everyone to read outside their walls of comfort. Nice to know these intelligent and thoughtful folks are the ones creating the works your children can't put down!
The rest of the day was a blur of meetings on the trends in Middle Grade fiction and a review of the some of the best new books. Stay tuned, I will let you know if they reach the promise of their promoted greatness.
Of course I had to take a minute to talk with Jennifer Nielsen, who told me the character in her new book is the female version of Sage from The False Prince. Now that's exciting. I also got some copies of the new Tom Angleberger books, so we shall see if they live up to the promise of Orgami Yoda!
I ended the day with more books and a trip to Fedex to get all these books home!
I can't wait to let you know what's coming and if it will inspire your children. It all looks good on the outside, but you never know until you get into the meat of the story if it lives up to the hype. I am so excited to get into these books and share the ones that will keep your kids up nights.
Will I go next year?
I don't know. I am not a fan of publishers directing my book selections, it always makes me wary.
I also felt overwhelmed by the amount of people and the number of events.
While I met some amazing folks, the sea of faces was a lot to deal with.
I like free books, who doesn't? But I felt the give away became more important than the quality and the match with the recipient.
On the flip side, I got to meet some amazing authors and putting a face and personality to a name was a delight.
I also met some wonderful publishers who understood how to successfully work with bloggers to give you the reader better knowledge and access to great titles.
The librarians, teachers and bloggers I met were so delightful and fun it made the lines and events a chance to connect and learn so many new things. So, no decisions yet.
I will leave it a question mark!