Thursday, May 26, 2011

BookExpo America 2011

This morning I awoke to the blaring alarm from my iPhone's Nightstand app and pulled up my sleep mask. Right beside my phone was a hotel ice bucket holding the bouquet of flowers my literary agent had given me. The noise of car horns and an ambulance drifted into the room from forty-four floors down-- Times Square. My legs felt like noodles from walking fifty-two blocks up Manhattan Island the day before, my television was obscured by stack upon stack of free new books I wasn't sure how I would carry home on the train, and I had a vague memory of meeting Margaret Atwood at a rooftop hotel party the previous evening.

I had a dream exactly like this once. I suspected this might be a repeat of it. But I had thrown out most of a banh mi sandwich in my trash can the day before, and the scent of pork paté had never been part of my writerly fantasies.

While on the train home, my editor-- stuck back at the ranch in Toronto-- sent me an email: "So... tell me about BEA!"

Here you go, Susan.

It began with me filling up my biggest Amtrak-approved suitcase with black clothing, business cards, and the most crucial items of all: three Iron Fey books belonging to my daughter and her best friend. As far as Daughter is concerned, the whole point of my career is that I get to rub shoulders with Julie Kagawa, and so I was being sent on a mission to New York to get these books signed. Sir yes sir.

So I got to New York. I took in the view from my hotel room and realized right away that my view of Daniel Radcliffe's giant "How To Succeed in Business" poster, combined with my proximity to Julie Kagawa and several good bakeries, would make my daughter cry with envy. The poor child. I sent the above photo to her phone as soon as school was out. In the meantime, I bought baked goods.

Shown: a "Crack Pie" from Momofuku Milk Bar, and a "Bouchon Ho-Ho" from Bouchon Bakery. (I ate the Crack Pie on Day 1 and saved the Ho-Ho for Day 3. I'm not that much of a pig.) Crack Pie, as it turns out, is pretty much like Shoofly Pie, with the main difference being the urbanization of the name. I think the Amish would sell more if they started calling it Crack Pie. I'll suggest it the next time I'm at the bakery in the Amish Market.

My first signing wasn't until Tuesday morning, so I spent Monday making a pilgrimage to a yakitori shop and then to Juvenex Spa. Juvenex is a Korean spa, and if you've never been to one of these places, they're pretty wild. They start you out in a sauna that's set into a stone igloo. After that you take a shower-- thankfully I was there during swimsuit hours-- and then get into a series of small pools. The first is super-cold and, after the sauna, sort of causes your brain to collapse. The second is like a hot bath and has lemons floating in it, making you feel, not unpleasantly, like an ingredient in a soup stock. The third is blazing hot and has a bag of ginseng floating in it. Once you have sufficiently boiled, you head over to the clay-lined medium-temperature sauna, where you lie on the floor and think about what you must have done right in a previous lifetime to have found yourself lying on a grass mat somewhere in Koreatown.

The next morning I walked over to the Javits Center. As soon as I walked in I saw a cosmic reminder of my purpose here in New York:

Knowing this was the Harlequin banner, I quickly scooted myself over to the stairs to see the other side:

Yessiree, there I am, high above the heads of everyone walking in and out of the Javits Center, including those belonging to the ninety-one agents who know me as "Dear Author." I felt like I could hold my head a little higher now. About forty feet up, to be specific.

I made my way over to the Harlequin booth to say hello. And that is when I was reminded of why my publisher is the bestest and most wonderfullest ever:

Hello indeed. This was definitely the best wall art at the entire conference. It put my Korean stone igloo to shame.

Once I was done admiring the artistic efforts of Harlequin's design staff, I headed over to the chute signing area. Now, let me help you out here. I didn't know what a chute signing was until I arrived at BookExpo. Basically, they have about twenty-five tables in a row, and line-forming equipment in front of each of them, and according to the schedule they seat the authors at their tables and allow people to come in and get their books signed. Simple. Here's the never-before-seen, behind-the-blue-curtains view of the authors-only area:

So it doesn't look like much, but when you know it's your books in one of those boxes, it is a thing of beauty. I signed books for an hour, really enjoyed meeting each person who came through, and then-- after scoring myself a free book or ten from the various publishers' tables-- left the conference for the day and took care of some important business.

First there was ramen.

Then there was the New York Public Library.

 Then came dinner at my cousins' house in Brooklyn, which I braved the subway to visit, and was amply rewarded with baked brie and my extremely cute and totally adorable little second-cousins-once-removed Rachel (above) and Nathan.

On Wednesday I arrived for my booth signing and opened up the BEA Show Daily to see-- what's this? A full-page ad for my book, with the first line of Chapter One at the very top?

Ya know, you work and you slave, and you revise and you agonize and you cry a lot, and you obsess and obsess, and you take in the rejections that some days feel like a brick wall collapsing right on your head, and all your friends commend your drive while privately thinking you're delusional, and after all that work, what's really the reward? A banner at BookExpo, a full-page ad in the Show Daily, the ENTIRE COVER of Publishers Weekly, and your agent pitching sub-rights. OH YEAH.

Even better-- at least from my daughter's point of view-- I managed to hunt down Julie Kagawa and get her to sign the books I'd been carting around, right before I slid into my seat at the Fresh Fiction table and commenced to sign books for about a hundred people. After I finished up my various professional responsibilities for the day, I headed back out to the city again and, long story short, bought the aforementioned banh mi sandwich from a midtown carry-out which shall remain nameless. Back at the hotel, I realized that stellar Yelp reviews cannot redeem the fact that I apparently can't stand pork paté.

No matter-- I needed to fit into my dress, anyway, for the BEA afterparty, which was held on the rooftop of a hotel on Fifth Avenue. My agent showed up and handed me a bouquet of flowers. I chatted with her, and with some of my favorite Harlequin people, and looked out over the lights of the city, and reflected that life simply could not get any better.

And then Margaret Atwood walked in.

And then I died of happiness.

Making this book happen was really, really hard. Not a little bit. Not pretty damn difficult. It was the most daunting thing I've ever done. And I've delivered a nine pound-ten ounce baby.

So many people-- so many writers-- will tell you that the odds of getting published are so long, and the quality of the material that makes it through can be so uneven, that really it's a shot in the dark. Here's my advice on that one.

Eat a lot of carrots.

And aim.

1 comment:

  1. Great experience, huh? And "networking?" That's going to help your writing career. Hey, you may even get an invite to Atwood's next cocktail party.

    I'm happy to see all your hard work pay off ...