BEA is the biggest trade show in the industry. Bookended (ha-ha) by training and workshop days with IndieBound and the Independent Booksellers Consortium, you've got three days where all the heavy hitters and wannabes come to wheel, deal, and talk up their latest offerings - be they books, t-shirts, or software.
There are also special events around the city. From Random House Children's Books' party aboard an aircraft carrier, to breakfasts with authors, to cocktails at Ground Zero with Globe Pequot, there are dozens of things to choose from, often four or five a night. They used to feed us at these things, but industry belt-tightening means a scattering of appetizers and plenty of booze. This is the time for a lot of naturally bookish folks to cut loose in the big city; Booksellers Gone Wild.
I've stopped doing author "breakfasts." I can deal with a boxed wrap and a can of soda for lunch, but a pile of stale pastries in the center of a table and all the coffee you can drink does not a breakfast make. Sure, BEA "breakfasts" have the best book giveaways, but until they bring back bacon and eggs, or change the name to Coffee Author Chat, I'm done. They are not breakfasts. NOT! BREAK! FASTS!
If you're lucky enough to work for a major independent like Books & Books, the events come to you.
Norton invited me to a lovely dinner at Tarallucci e Vino with Diana Abu-Jaber. I just finished Birds of Paradise last night and it was damned fine, five stars, but more on that later. Apart from it being bookstore related, Diana and I couldn't remember when or how we met. I've always felt privileged to know her because she's a great writer and a nice person. I've also felt a kinship with her because she grew up in Syracuse and she takes heat for not looking Arab enough, while I grew up in Syracuse and take heat for not looking Indian (or "Native American" la-dee-freaking-da) enough. The meal and the company - Norton folks, Diana's agent, and some other booksellers - were delicious, and I hope that Birds of Paradise is a huge success.
My other big dinner was thrown by Harper Collins in a private space at the Savoy to celebrate Wildwood, a gorgeous, rollicking romp written by Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis. I'm only partway through but so far I'm loving it. I'm such a huge Decemberists fan that I recognized neither of them, and I keep combining their names into "Carson Meloy" when I talk about the book. But wine did flow, and good times and deliciousness were had by all.
Everyone at the dinner knew Becky - the Girl with the Pigeon Tattoo - and I couldn't help but feel that she should've had my seat. The folks from Harper introduced Betsy Bird as a future author, so we spent the whole time she sat next to me talking about her upcoming titles. When I got home, the magic of Google told me that Mrs. Bird is the most powerful children's book blogger on the planet ("You don't mean Fuse 8, do you?" Becky asked me. "Oh my God!"). If I was such a force, I'd announce it with every handshake. But that's me.
I figure doing a big three is good, so I'll mention the mighty Hillary Jordan's When She Woke. I realize now that while I've sung the praises of Mudbound in other places, my only mention at SwF&F is this squib. Criminal. So here's a segment from the opening chapters of Mudbound which shows you why you should read it:
When I think of the farm, I think of mud. Limning my husband's fingernails and encrusting the children's knees and hair. Sucking at my feet like a greedy newborn on the breast. Marching in boot-shaped patched across the plank floors of the house. There was no defeating it. The mud coated everything. I dreamed in brown.
Here's hoping When She Woke is huge.
Other memories of BEA include passing Flava Flav, meeting Laurent de Brunhoff, and Hellfire. You're not supposed to talk, tweet, blog, or take photographs at Hellfire, but I can't resist; Josh Ritter bought me Budweisers!
Don't believe me? Here's proof:
Thanks for reading.