BookExpo America is over now and I’ve finally finished unpacking my books. I’m settling in for a long summer of reading and it looks like it will be a good one based on what I’ve read so far. It’s a darn good thing I quit my day job and am now freelancing which gives me time to catch up on my reviewing and reading.
Having BEA in Los Angeles this year was a special treat for me. It had both pros and cons but no matter what, it remains my favorite event each year and one I eagerly look forward to.
No shipping meant I could pick up whatever I wanted without worrying about the cost of shipping it or those agonizing moments in line going through boxes and deciding what to leave and what to take. That was sheer joy. On the other hand, I missed my visit to New York and quite honestly, I prefer the Javits Convention Center. To me, it makes perfect sense. It goes straight across on two floors of convention hall making it easy to navigate and easy to get back and forth to shipping with piles of heavy books. The Los Angeles Convention Center (sorry L.A.) is a nightmare. Granted it’s huge and beautiful but why in God’s name does it meander so? The Children’s Book section was in the West Hall miles away it seemed from the shipping area. The panels were spread out all over the place and I missed several just trying to find them. The Main section was nice and the booths were easy to find but trying to get from there to the West Hall and the theatre was like visiting another country. At the end of each day, I was too exhausted to go socializing at parties and events. Instead, I went home and passed out with throbbing feet.
Another detriment to having BookExpo in L.A. for me meant I missed out on seeing publishing friends I know who live in New York and couldn’t make it out for the trip. For those of you who stayed in NYC this year, I missed you. I miss Times Square and shopping and oh God, I missed the food and the pizza. New York, I missed you!
BEA in Los Angeles also meant that my five-year old granddaughter Jasmine and my two-year old grandson Aiden got to come for a bit. Their mom and my photographer Marissa Ruiz, brought them for a couple of hours on Saturday. J & A got to meet Carl the dog, who was quite taken with Aiden and they played catch for a bit while we blocked the aisle. Jasmine was able to come with me to a Candlewick Press event in the theatre where the likes of Katherine Paterson, Jane Yolen, Kate DiCamillo and MT Anderson discussed their portions of the marvelous new book Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. Jane Yolen, one of my literary heroes read her piece for the book – a poem of an imagined conversation between John and Abigail Adams. Jasmine was entranced. The artwork for the book looks astounding and you’ll be seeing my review later.
First Book has a great new campaign to promote books. Posters of famous book characters lined the halls at BEA with the taglines, What if you had never met this explorer, this bunny, this mouse? It was fantastic.
BookExpo for Rachel meant a surprising meeting on Friday in the shipping area with her long-lost, never met before Australian cousin. We were trying to find out if we could find a dolly and the man in front of us turned around to answer Rachel and he turned out to be her cousin from the Australian branch of the family! That was wild.
I had a chance to meet Brittany Duncan, the publicist at Candlewick that keeps me up to date on everything Candlewick is doing. She’s just as lovely in person as she is in our email correspondence and it was a pleasure meeting her.
I had also gone to the previous Candlewick Press Dragonology event with Donald Kaplan, the son of our local booksellers Debbie and Jeremy Kaplan who were at BEA. The Kaplans own Read Books, a fine establishment of used books and new magazines. We spend lots of time there and it was fun to hang out with them at the show. Donald got to play the new Dragonology game for Nintendo Wii and I was quite taken with the animation and graphics on it. I learned of Monsterology, publication date of 8/12 and Spyology (10/28) and I can’t wait.
If I were still working for AWN, I’d be nagging them to write about that game and the announcement that was made that day that Universal had optioned the Dragonology books film rights. A Dragonology movie! We used to have this tally at the office of how many books I could call that would be optioned. I seem to have this uncanny sense of what will be picked up and Dragonology was one of my calls, along with Tale of Despereaux, Spiderwick, Eragon, Coraline, Skullduggery Pleasant and many others. I wonder if I could turn that into a job…and yes I know I should have dragged myself away from the books to go to the Books to Film panels.
I met new friends at BookExpo in Los Angeles too. I missed the Latino panels because I got lost in the books. There were some that really caught my eye and a few I went hunting like Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Corneila Funke’s long awaited Inkdeath. The convention center was packed and I often heard exclamations of people oohing and ahing over the books. I’m not the only book geek in town, which makes me very happy.
My roommate Rachel came along to photograph the event on Friday and quickly became a BEA fan. She was a joy to have around and often spotted things I missed. Her effervescence and joyful energy made it that much more fun. At one point I turned and asked Debbie Kaplan, “Where’s Rachel?” and she said, “Oh she’s back there with some guy. I think his name is Slash.” Sure enough, there was Rachel B chatting away in the HarperCollins booth to Slash of Guns ‘n Roses who was nice as nice can be. We both got pictures taken, although my face looks a little bizarrely twisted.
Rachel and I also met the marvelously talented team of Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart at the First Book booth and got the Peter Pan pop up and Megabeasts signed. Rachel works for GLAD, Inc. (The Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness) and it just popped into my head to ask if they had ever considered writing a pop-up book on signing. Turns out they have and that’s all I’m saying at this juncture other than I’m a long time fan of paper engineering and arts as well as a huge pop-up/mechanical book collector.
I missed Neil Gaiman who I would have dearly loved to speak with, Barbara Walters whom I admire greatly and Jamie Lee Curtis whom I had met at the Glad Gospel Brunch a couple of weeks beforehand. I met John Dean who signed his book on Barry Goldwater, Laura Numeroff, Elizabeth Blumel who was an absolute darling and more authors than I can count. I missed out on Susan Orlean’s (The Orchid Thief) first book for children and one I am dying to find. I missed Cory Doctorow, whom I greatly admire (sigh) and Cecil Castelucci, of whom I’m a great fan. She is local I hear, so maybe I’ll meet her one of these days. One of my biggest thrills was meeting Nikki Giovanni on Sunday. She is one of my favorite poets and to meet her was a great honor. A lovely, sweet and gracious lady she was too. Another special moment was meeting the very sweet Jessica Barksdale Inclan (featured on La Bloga by Daniel Olivas) whom I met through Event Mingle, the BEA social calendaring tool. Darn it! I just now realized I missed one of my favorite authors signing one of my all time favorite books….Christopher Moore and the special edition of Lamb which has to be one of the funniest books I ever read and completely twisted too. That hurts that I missed him. My idea of heaven - lunch with James Morrow (Only Begotten Daughter, Towing Jehovah) and Christopher Moore (Lamb, Bloodsucking Fiends, Island of the Sequined Love Nuns). Yeah, I know, I’m probably a little twisted too. Have you read Towing Jehovah? Oh. My. God. And Lamb? Oh please tell me you have…it’s absolutely wonderful and completely irreverent.
The books! The books were there in all their glory; big, beautiful stacks of them. There were so many that I missed and so many that I brought home. I can’t wait to get to reading and reviewing them all. Some of the books that made it home and onto my reading list are:
I Am Apache
Edward Hopper, Painter of Light and Shadow
The Toss of a Lemon
Sea of Poppies
The Enchantress of Florence
Too Many Toys
Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out (gorgeous)
Inkdeath (highly anticipated)
The White Mary
2666 (OMG Roberto Bolano!)
The Graveyard Book (highly anticipated)
I’m With the Band
River of Words
The Viewer (Shaun Tan!)
A Growling Place
The Runaway Dolls (oooh Selznic did the illustrations)
and many, many more.
One of the panels I did manage to make it to (late) was one on marketing and one of the panelists was Mark Sarvas of the Elegant Variation. There was a woman (didn’t catch her name) who started a company pushing literary events to big companies (sounds like a dream job to me) and it resonated as I knew exactly how she felt to be bursting with new ideas that would take a company to a new level and direction but be ignored because people are adverse to anything that is out of the box thinking and think you’re doing something wrong. Yeah, that’s one reason I quit my day job. (If you ever think of starting an L.A. branch of your company I want to work for you).
I also stopped by the Dark Horse booth, which was busy and fun. I stopped and spoke to Jeremy Atkins and met Dirk Wolf. I also noticed a particularly interesting book on cartoonists and animators that I’m terribly interested in. I’ll have to look into it.
Everywhere I went, people were doing the brisk, interesting business of books. Rights were being bought and sold, authors were signing, publishers were stacking rapidly decreasing piles of books, meetings were being held. Librarians, those wonderful heroes were everywhere loading up for their local libraries. I have an extra soft spot in my heart for librarians. When I was ten years old, we moved to a crappy little town called Cudahy or as we called it, Crudahy. I hated it and wanted nothing more than to get out of that town as fast as I could and never go back. There was one bright side. One day I found the local library that was attached to the park. I’d never been in a library before. I walked in and roamed amongst the stacks mesmerized but not knowing what to do. I was super shy too and would never even have asked. The librarian there found me and took a long time explaining the library, how to get a card and how it worked. I took my application for a library card home to my mother to sign and was back the next day. That librarian took me aside and talked to me long enough to figure out what she thought I’d like. I loved the book she handed me and it forever changed me. I became a book person overnight. I went to that little library every day, wrote book reports for the Summer Reading Program and read everything that I could get my hands on. It pains me know that libraries are in danger, that our tax money is more geared to war than literacy. That nameless librarian all those years ago changed my life, she touched me, and who knows how many countless other children’s lives were changed, made better, more expanded by the books she recommended. How many people’s lives have been touched by their local librarian? It makes me happy to see the librarians, so many of them at BookExpo. I always have the best time speaking with them and in each that I speak to is that unquenchable love of books and their desire to share them with the world within and without their libraries. Whatever would we do without them? Let’s hope we never have to find out.
HarperCollins was a fun booth to visit, as was Scholastic where I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Inkdeath, which I coveted. Penguin, Random House, Harry Abrams, McGraw Hill all were fun booths. At Taschen, Rachel and I were mesmerized by the beautiful art books. We opened The Big Penis Book, which was (not so surprisingly) about penises, lots of them and very big ones, very BIG. We were in shock and couldn’t stop turning the pages and exclaiming. A crowd had formed behind us and there was a lot of exclaiming and murmuring as we turned the pages. The books photography was beautiful, if bizarre and it certainly was a conversation piece. I didn’t know one could actually tie a penis into a knot. This is one coffee table book sure to entertain.
All in all, I’d say BookExpo, the City of Angels version was quite the show and I had the best time. According to the BookExpo America website BEA 2008 was a great success with over 37,000 registered attendees representing over 80 countries. Please do visit the BEA website and check out the podcasts of all the sessions I missed. There is also a touching tribute to Tim Russert and a podcast of his 2006 BEA appearance.
I look forward to it being in New York next year and maybe this time, I’ll finally make it to the Guggenheim.