Thursday, June 3, 2010

The BEA Blog

I've been slowly reviewing my trip to New York in pieces. (Here is the entry about Day one at the Teen Author Carnival. Here are some words of wisdom gleaned from the Children's Author Breakfast at BEA. And here are some general reflections on visiting New York City and what I love about it.) The trip was totally exhausting and overwhelming, so it's taken some time to process and recover (I've had this cold/allergies/exhaustion thing going on for a week now. My BEA hangover.) But my ultimate analysis of the experience is this:

It felt so good to be completely surrounded by book lovers for a week. I truly wish that the rest of the world were as passionate about reading as the folks at BEA because then maybe I would be able to make a living off of writing, lol!

So in case you missed my previous clarifications, BEA = Book Expo America. It's the premier North American publishing event where the publishers go to display (mostly) their fall releases and hock their wares to booksellers, librarians, and also get the word out about them via members of the press (lots o' bloggers) that attend.

I don't have a fall release and my books are not nearly big enough to warrant my publisher promoting them or setting me up to do a signing at BEA. However I wanted to go to see what BEA was all about, snag some free books, meet fellow authors and the bloggers I've come to know online in person, and just generally be surrounded by book lovers for a few days. I got a grant from the Illinois Art Council (which hopefully they will be able to pay. Right as I was leaving BEA, I got the sad news from them that they may not be able to because the state of Illinois is in such a budget hole, they are not paying out promised funds to organizations. I hate how the arts always suffer in these situations.), so I paid my admission and airfare with that. I stayed with my agent, the lovely Caren Johnson Estesen of Johnson Literary Agency. And then I started getting invited to participate in some events.

I was part of the (previously blogged about) Teen Author Carnival on Monday and I was on a panel with Melissa Marr, Jeri Smith-Ready, Michelle Jaffe, and Jennifer Donnelly about YA/Adult crossover on Wednesday afternoon at BEA and then part of a group signing at Books of Wonder on Wednesday night.

BEA technically started on Tuesday, but all I did that day was pick up my badge as the exhibitor floor was not open yet. Then I went out to lunch with a friend from high school and bummed around the Washington Square Park area and the Flatiron District with Jolene Siana, whom I have been (very slowly) working on a website with called Paper Cuts Zine that will focus on art and writing as a positive outlet for emotional struggles, as both Jolene and I struggled with depression and self-injury when we were younger. Jolene took some really rad photos of me, which I hope to have to post one day soon. I also found this fabulous tea shop called the Tea Spot near Washington Square Park and since tea is a huge passion of mine that was highly exciting.

Tuesday night, I went to the Class of 2K10's event at Books of Wonder. I attempted to take photos, but sadly most of my photos from BEA totally suck because whenever I don't use flash on my camera they blur terribly. But here is the Class of 2K10, some amazing YA and MG writers that you should absolutely check out.

Wednesday was my first really really early morning. 6 am. 5 am, my time. Sigh. So not good with mornings. But it was the Children's Author Breakfast (previously blogged about here) which was quite delightful. I also I ended up sitting by agent Kristin Nelson, which was a thrill because I love reading about her take on the publishing industry on her blog.

I wandered the floor for a bit before my panel. My panel on "Young Adult Authors Crossing Over" with Jennifer Donnelly, Michelle Jaffe, Melissa Marr, and Jeri Smith-Ready is up on Book Expo Cast and you can watch or download the whole thing here! One of the issues we talked about was shelving in bookstores and libraries when it comes to crossover authors or authors like me who are shelved sometimes in YA, sometimes in adult. Sadly, we did not come up with any real solutions, other than ummm ask your bookseller or librarian where to find the book?

After the panel, I hung out with Jeri Smith-Ready and Inara Scott briefly before heading off to have lunch with Jennifer Heddle, who edited both of my books at MTV Books. She and I discussed very important literary matters like Battlestar Galactica.... Seriously though, we did have an interesting conversation about what matters to us most in TV shows and both of us care a lot about character development and the TV writers staying true to them and rewarding us as viewers. And we ate at a delicious old school Italian restaurant called Don Giovanni.

Then I returned to BEA and wandered around, attempting to go to all of the signings and nab all the books I wanted. (Mostly successful, but I missed Holly Black's Unicorns vs. Zombies thing, sad about that.) Here are some blurry shots of what the chaos of the exhibitors floor and autograph signing area looked like:

Then Melissa Walker and I went off in search of a cab with librarian Marie Hansen, to get to our event at Books of Wonder. Trying to find a cab during a major heat wave in NYC is not fun. It's fortunate we didn't melt or I didn't collapse with all of my books. Sadly due to an ordering snafu, the store only had IWBYJR and not Ballads. Since I wasn't really prepared to read anything from IWBYJR and stupidly did not have my own copy of Ballads, I just babbled a bit about Ballads and read the first paragraph of IWBYJR since some of the kids there were pretty young and I was kind of iffy about reading much from it in front of them.

The highlight of doing this event was getting to be with my TFC sisters Melissa Walker and Linda Gerber. Sadly I did not get a photo with them or one of me reading. But I did get to pose with book bloggers Sarah & Khy:

My agent, Marie and I grabbed a quick bite to eat after the event, but then we hauled butt back to Queens because I had to get up early again for the Adult Author Breakfast.

I will admit now that the only reason I bought tickets for this is because I wanted to see Jon Stewart, who was the emcee of the event. Though I only got one very blurry, crappy photo of him:

The authors were John Grisham, who I don't read (though what he had to say about his writing process and research process was interesting), Condeleeza Rice, who politically I don't care for (though after she spoke about the pre-Bush years autobiography she has coming out, it made her almost likeable and Jon Stewart took the words right out of my mouth when he came back to the podium and jokingly shook his fist at her while saying through gritted teeth, "Don't make me like you!"), and Mary Roach, who I hadn't known about, but she was the most interesting of the bunch. She writes books to answer those questions you've always wondered about like "Where do astronauts go to the bathroom in space?" I found her the most entertaining aside from Mr. Stewart himself, who was totally hilarious, making jokes about how he'd heard that publishing was dead and thought maybe that meant he wouldn't have to get up so early to be at BEA. He also mocked some of the Q&A with the authors, which really needed to be mocked because seriously, you're going to ask John Grisham about self-publishing, c'mon fellow authors, this is a bookseller event, let the booksellers ask questions!

Speaking of booksellers, I had another good seating experience for this breakfast. I found myself in line and then sat with a bunch of women who work for the fabulous Blue Willow bookstore in Houston. I've heard nothing but amazing things about this store and had been sending them ARCs and bookmarks for my books, so it was awesome to just randomly bump into them and get to join them for the breakfast. I really do hope I make it to Houston to do an event at your store, ladies!

Honestly the best part of BEA was these little run-ins with people I'd never met in person before or rarely get to see. I had a little bit of time to chat with my TFC sister Alyson Noel, who I haven't seen since I was in LA in 2008 and we read together at Rock n Read. Melissa Marr and I wandered the floor together for a bit and caught up. I hung with Jeri Smith-Ready whenever I could and met Laura Bowers through her and she has to be one of the sweetest people on earth. Here we are together at the book blogger and author reception at the end of BEA on Thursday (Jeri is on the left, I am in the middle, Laura is on the right):

And speaking of book bloggers, I think my continual run-ins with them throughout BEA really was a highlight. I especially kept bumping into Erica, Sarah, Kristi, Chelsea, Khy, Mitali, Devyn and James, who are all super awesome and I loved chatting with and getting book recommendations from. Though sadly I didn't get many photos here is one from the book blogger reception on Thursday:

I was starstruck both by my fellow authors and by the bloggers. I told a few of the bloggers this and they always kind of looked at me like I was crazy, but they do impress me with their devotion to books and all they do to promote them. They are the ones who make me the formerly very insecure teenager and the still sometimes (more often than I'm proud of) insecure adult feel good about myself when they tell me how much they enjoyed my book. It puts me over the moon in ways that words really cannot describe. Ditto for the fellow authors and agents/other folks in publishing who didn't work with me on the books who complimented me. I really can't express how good that made me feel.

BEA had a way of making me feel both very special and very insignificant at the same time (soooooo many books!). It made realize the goals I had achieved (at least a few people have read and do seem to like my books!) and set my sights on new goals (I want to write books that sell well enough that I get to sign at BEA!)

Second to compliments on my books, I got compliments on my hair and my hair accessories, which was also exciting because I've been trying to do funky things with my hair since age fourteen and find the neatest barrettes. Cool barrettes are one of my favorite things to collect. Of course books are another favorite thing and I shipped two boxes of them back to myself from BEA and I promise to post pictures of those when I receive them.

I capped off my BEA experience with dinner with my agent and Elana Roth, the other agent at Johnson Literary Agency. I'd never met Elana in person, so that was fabulous. She's a Midwesterner like me, though she is from Detroit originally and therefore our hockey teams are rivals. I did get her to say go Blackhawks though, which was pretty exciting. But seriously, she is amazing and has great insight to publishing. I gleaned a lot of insider knowledge from listening to her and Caren talk. I'm so glad they work together. I feel lucky to have them both in my corner.

I spent my last morning in New York having breakfast with Caren and Barb Ferrer, my fellow MTV Books author. Barb is another one who has been an inspiration to me. I've followed her journey online and gained a lot of wisdom from her, so it was fun to have a chance to talk in person. She lives in Seattle, further reinforcing my need to move there.

Here I am with Barb:

And here are the two of us with my agent, Caren:

Sorry my blog was kinda scattered and my photos aren't that great, but it was a lot of fun and I encourage book lovers to get to a BEA and experience it if they can. Also, fellow authors and bloggers, please please please share your photos with me (you can email them to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com) and leave me links to your blog entries in the comments because I want to see other people's takes on the craziness.

I am still semi-sick and exhausted, but I walked away with a lot of great books, good knowledge, stronger friendships with people I mostly only talk to online, and most of all, amped up to push forward with my writing.... Which I'm off to do now!


Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I had a wonderful time too and enjoyed meeting you and listening to you at the Author Carnival.

Great post - I am really enjoying reading the different posts on BEA as everybody was able to see and experience things different from my posts and I keep thinking, "Oh - I should have done that!"

Scotti Cohn said...

Sounds like a fantastic experience, Stephanie! Sorry to hear you're having trouble getting your grant paid. What's up with that?

Liviania said...

Great report! I do hope that I can go to BEA one day.

(I hope you get them to pay your grant.)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Nice wrap up post. I'm so jealous you got to meet Jeri. I did meet bloggers Khy, Mitali, Sarah, etc. etc. It was great since I hadn't before and of course I saw Kristi, Erica, Chelsea, and Alicia AGAIN. That's always fun.

I def. want to go back and be able to see more and meet more people...esp. the non-BEA book events. Sound like a blast. :)


Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Hi Sheila, Glad you had a good time too and it was very nice to meet you! I love reading the variety of posts too!

Scotti, yeah um state promises money and then cannot pay it, very annoying,

Liviania, I hope you can go sometime too and yes, I very much hope they pay me back.

Lauren, I wish you me and Jeri could have hung out together :)Glad you had a good time though!