Tuesday, May 24, 2011
BEA: Day 1
So, it's been three years since I last attended BEA, but I've probably been nearly 10 times over the years. I mention this, because this BEA feels... toned down. There are less people than I'm used to seeing. It's really nice not to have to fight your way through the crowds so much, but there's also a little less excitement in the air, somehow. The other things veterans of BEAs past have noted is the toll the economy has taken. I think exhibitor booths are less extravagant, and for sure I've never seen so few galleys being offered on the floor. It's bizarre! I guess the good news is that I have to make fewer visits to the shipping room, and my packages won't cost a fraction as much to ship home. In years past, the galleys would be piled high in every booth, but this year mostly they're being offered at limited signing events. And while it is always nice to meet the author and have a book or galley signed, this is very time consuming and you can't be in six places at one time. So, there's that.
I always go into BEA with a game plan. I know who's signing what, where. I've got highlighted schedules, priorities--the whole nine yards. I must be an idiot. Once you hit the show floor, all of that goes right out the window. Unexpected signings crop up. You run into friends. Lines take longer than planned. I accomplished very little of what I planned today. But it was still an awesome day! For every planned event or signing that I missed, an unplanned one took it's place. It's a fine trade-off. And for all the cut-backs mentioned above, no one will feel sorry for me when a full accounting of the week's books is made.
So, probably the absolute highlight of my day was one of those completely unplanned occurrences. I was walking the show floor, and I saw a not too large group of people watching some sort of demo. Looking up, I was like, That's Margaret Atwood. And, sure enough, it was. I started typing out this whole long story of how Margaret's publisher invited me to go up on the "stage" and interact with her, but I started to fall asleep while typing it. Suffice it to say that happened. Then some technical difficulties happened, which allowed me to have a little chat with this amazing lady I'd never met--or even seen speak before. And I got to lead off with my favorite opening: "Ms. Atwood, I wrote the #1 review for Year of the Flood on Amazon. It was a rave entitled, 'Margaret Atwood makes me want to stick my head in the sand.'" She cracked up. I cracked up Margaret Atwood. So, that was very, very cool.
Another highlight was getting a signed galley of Lev Grossman's The Magician King. I didn't even know that he was publishing a sequel to his awesome novel, The Magicians, until I saw him listed for a signing at the show. It was definitely one of the top books I was looking forward to acquiring, and I was thrilled to meet Lev for the first time. He's a chatter. His signing line took forever. But, of course, what that really means is that he's genuinely nice and friendly. Lev's long line sadly kept me from getting a signed copy of Diana Abu-Jaber's latest, but at least I was able to grab a galley, so I was very happy. Another highlight was getting a signed copy of Chuck Klosterman's sophomore novel. I loved Downtown Owl, so I can't wait to read it. And one more hot galley I acquired was from a familiar face from home. It was Danny Handler's (AKA Lemony Snicket's) first YA novel, entitled Why We Broke Up. I had a typically bizarre interaction with him. He's not my favorite person. He is funny, and the crowd does love him. Oh, and his publisher gave away my favorite BEA giveaway in many a year. It's a really nice magnet set. Thanks, Danny!
So, I did run into plenty of friends. Sophie Littlefield was signing her excellent zombie apocalypse, Aftertime, and was her usual gracious and friendly self. We may get together later this week. I also had a great chat with author T.J. (Tom) Waters, who was at the show demoing his Autography device I wrote about here. I got a much better demo today. OMG, it is truly, deeply cool what they can do! Side note, what a nice guy. I'm looking forward to seeing him at T-fest in a few weeks, and surely a few more times this week. I heard J.A. (Joe) Konrath was around, but we failed to connect today. But I did run into other authors, booksellers, and friends from every level of the publishing food chain. You never know who you'll run into, and it's a real treat. You feel like a member of a community among friends.
I never sat down today. I never ate. I worked. And now, as predicted, I really, really hurt all over. My feet are probably the worst, and so I did something I've never done before in my life. Once I left the Javits Center--hold on to your hat--I bought some Dr. Sholl's gel inserts. They're really helping! Perhaps tomorrow will be a little easier. Especially if I get a few hours sleep. I think, with this post, I've definitely proven that I don't know the meaning of the word "brief." :-}
Theater Postscript: Yes, I ran straight from the exhibit hall to the theater, grabbing a slice of pizza on the way. Tonight I saw the musical Catch Me If You Can. It was a great start to my week of theater. For starters, it kept me awake! I can not say enough good things about Norbert Leo Butz. I've seen him in so many shows now, and he never disappoints. And kudos to Aaron Tveit! He really deserved a Tony nod (more than Tom Wopat, if you ask me). He really carried the show. He's a triple-threat with charisma to spare, and you can take his money notes to the bank. What a voice! As for the show itself, it was enjoyable, but nothing I'd rave about. But that's me. I'm not big on populist musicals. I thought the story's framing device was a bit dorky, though I do enjoy actors breaking the fourth wall. The music was catchy (a left-handed compliment coming from me) and there were some genuinely clever lyrics. It was very enjoyable, truly. But no standing O.