On Monday I leave for BookExpo America. I used to have fantasies about going to BookExpo one day just to wander around and absorb the ambiance (plus a few free galleys). That never happened; in fact, I've never been to ANY sort of writer's conference, mainly because I was too busy writing and too broke from doing nothing but writing to consider spending money on my hobby. So there's a happy irony in the fact that my first conference is one where I will be doing two autographing sessions and a podcast recording for my publisher. Since I never bother reading the directions before I jump in and attempt to complete the project at hand, I guess this fits with my modus operandi. I just hope it goes better than the first time I tried to assemble an IKEA loft bed. Or the fifth time.
I'm very excited about this, but the details are coming in at such a pace that I can't really absorb them. First the book turned up on a "Big Books of BEA 2011" list; then I learned from a Library Journal column that it's going to have some sort of impressive print run; then people with a thousand followers started tweeting about my autographing sessions, sounding all excited, like my name was recognizable. I understand it's probably unbecoming for me to be such a wide-eyed naif about this sort of thing, but I can't fake otherwise. I'm still celebrating the fact that I got an agent. Seeing my name and signings listed on BEA's official website looks kind of like when you go to one of those storefronts at Six Flags and have your picture printed on a Sports Illustrated cover.
I've looked over the list of authors who will also be at BEA, mainly in hopes of scoring those aforementioned free galleys. I wish I knew what they were all doing this week to prepare. I feel like I'm missing something and wonder, not for the first time, where is the manual that they give you once you sign a book contract, which will surely explain this. So here is my own schedule for the past week, which I hope will help those of you who are working on getting published. Note: this is only a suggested list. Feel free to add your own items.
BOOK EXPO PREPARATION SCHEDULE
SUN, 15 MAY: Show up at church and realize the person scheduled to give the Children's Sermon didn't receive your email notifying her of that fact. Do it yourself, on the fly. Then immediately leave to teach Sunday school. Your own son is the biggest discipline problem in the class; spend remainder of the day supervising him cleaning the bathroom in penance. Trade off with your husband so you can attend pottery class with Daughter and help her make a Harry Potter goblet out of clay. Take up your husband on that offer for a date at the best taco joint in a ten-mile radius; get there and find out it's closed on Sundays. Retreat to a sandwich shop. Order the smallest version because you're trying not to get any chubbier before BEA, and eat it while listening to a horrendous cover of "Nothing Compares 2 U." Write nothing.
MON, 16 MAY: Email agent the first four chapters of your latest book with the message, "Ideally what I'd like to do is turn out a book that's as good as 'The Kingdom of Childhood.' At minimum what I want to do is not be a 'shitty second novel' statistic. So, you know, please edit with those goals in mind." Write for a while, then go to pick up the kids from school and observe that your pet beagles could drive better than many of these parents. Go out to buy new silverware with your husband. Come home and have a near-miss with setting the house on fire. Take the children out to the ice cream shop while Husband cleans up the dust from the fire extinguisher. After the ice cream run, stop at the convenience store to get milk and end up coming home with a stray dog. Spend the next hour tracking down the dog's owners. Write until 2 AM.
TUES, 17 MAY: Take Youngest Child to the organic market and Target. Come home and set up the new air purifier you are hoping will make the house smell less like beagle, then break into a bag of pita chips and eat until you morosely conclude that the "healthy food" you purchased has just caused you to ingest four days' worth of carbs within an hour. Take Daughter to orthodontist to get braces. Forget all about writing and stay up until three a.m. to finish reading "Room" by Emma Donoghue.
WED, 18 MAY: Help tearful Daughter put wax on her braces. Go to salon to get roots touched up as a pre-BEA professional responsibility. Answer email from phone while in the chair. Send call from Denver Best Friend to voice mail; send her a pic of yourself looking like hell instead. Come home, send Husband to get children, and take three-hour nap. Wake up unsure if the numbers on the clock are AM or PM. Notice Denver Best Friend has called again. Find that Daughter has walked through stinging nettles in the untended wilderness that used to be your raised garden bed back before you faced the fact that you need the time to write, not grow zucchini, and all your zucchini comes out crappy anyway. Spread baking soda paste on Daughter's rash. Finally return call from Denver Best Friend. Upon getting off the phone, go to the pharmacy to get hydrocortisone cream for Daughter. Realize, while in the store, that you put your "Pencey Prep Fencing Team" T-shirt back on inside-out. Come home, give daughter the cream, and write until 2 AM.
THURS, 19 MAY: Wake up to a friend having posted a link to your Facebook wall about "vajazzling." Have this jog your memory that you still need a dress for the post-BEA party, although genital decorations are not needed to the best of your knowledge. Check email. Discover the person who runs the baby-and-toddler program at church is not coming back in the Fall and it's your job to find a new person and set them up in that role at the exact same time your book is being released. As you're replying to this email, receive an email from your editor noting four issues the proofreader discovered in your upcoming book and asking you to make immediate decisions about how to fix them. This includes writing dialogue. NOW. Reply to email with brilliant corrections. Go to visit a friend, who bakes chocolate chip cookies from scratch while you talk to her about how race impacts characterization in English literature and commercial fiction. Go shopping for dress. Completely fail at this. Take call from Denver Best Friend while shopping and have an inappropriate-for-public conversation with her from the swimsuit section of Macy's. Come home with a $48 bra and a gallon of milk instead of a dress.
FRI, 20 MAY: Finally find a dress. Prepare for Sunday School. Take Middle Child to guitar lesson. Find husband's wedding ring which has been lost for months. Go out to baseball game with Baltimore Best Friend, Honorary Nephew, and Middle Son. Have an absolute blast.
SAT, 21 MAY: Note that the Rapture is not happening. Take kids to park. Take kids to Target. Take kids to Wendy's. Take kids to pool. Somewhere in there, patronize ice cream truck. Feel yourself caught in a quandry: turning down ice cream from an ice cream truck would mean that you're old, and choosing it based on calories is just boring and sad, but you're about to get even pudgier before BEA. Decide to take the pudge and enjoy a Candy Crunch Center bar with your kids. Read more of "Under the Banner of Heaven." Talk to Mom for a while. Go out to Chipotle with Awesome Male Friend and talk for 2 1/2 hours about politics and religion while eating tacos. Make a 10 PM trip to the grocery store. Realize you're not going to get any real writing done. Blog for an hour instead.
So, I think I'm ready. If I seem disorganized at BEA, it's not for lack of trying... just lack of a manual.