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Monday, June 04, 2007

Top Ten Things I Learned at BEA 2007

Despite the fact that I said I wasn't going to go this year (and despite the fact that, as a result of that statement, my publisher did not arrange any book signings), I went to Book Expo America, otherwise known as BEA, last weekend.

BEA took place in NY this year, at the Javitz Center. I had not been to the Javitz Center since I took the NY Bar Exam in it some ten or more (okay, more) years ago. Walking in the door brought a rush of bar exam flashbacks - I have to go to the bathroom but I don't have tiiiiiimmmmmeee! - but I quickly quashed them (see, there's a bit of residual legalese) and strode deeper into Javitz's bowels.

I was only at BEA for 24 hours this year, but I learned many things that I figured my readers might enjoy knowing. So, here you go. Don't say I never gave you anything.

1) There's no such thing as a free book. Okay, that's not actually true: at BEA, like all book conferences, there are LOTS of free books. And candy and bookmarks and tote bags... BUT you have to carry it all, which is where you pay the price. My shoulders are now killing me, which suggests that being your own sherpa is perhaps not that wise. Hey, wait, that sounds like something else I learned...

2) Being your own sherpa is not wise. If you attend a book conference, bring one big bag (I highly recommend the gi-cundo tote I got from IKEA) and stop picking up free books when - or ideally, before - you lose feeling in your fingers.

3) If you don't already have a My Space page, it is too late. Apparently, all good writers have them already, so if you get one now you are not only coming to the party late, you are admitting to the highly attuned other My Spacers that you are a total poseur who is only jumping on the My Space bandwagon because some panel at BEA told you to (wait, let me understand this... did a panel on My Space just tell me why My Space is preemptively rejecting me?).

4) But, haha, you may just get the last laugh. Um, My Space? It just dawned on me that if there's a BEA panel about you, you may have officially jumped the shark. Which means that I just have to figure out what not-yet-invented website will be the trendsetting thang when my young adult novel comes out in early 2009.

5) No matter how much you read, it is not enough. Chagrined though I am to admit it, I now have to go back and read some of the books that came before the books I just picked up, like Grace Lin's Year of the Dog (Year of the Rat) and Charise Mericle Harper's Just Grace (Still Just Grace). Thank goodness I already read Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl (Love, Stargirl) and Judy Blume's The Pain and The Great One (Soupy Saturdays with The Pain and The Great One) or I would feel completely out of the loop.

6) Impatient though you might be with wordless books, the truly great ones are sublime. I am speaking of Sarah Varon's Robot Dreams. I cannot say enough about this amazing nearly wordless graphic novel. It is so funny, so perfect, so hauntingly sweet, it pains me. And I applaud Neal Porter for publishing it, as it is a book that so many publishers would just plain not get or not see the commercial point of.

7) $3.00 for water is highway robbery, no matter how you slice it.

8) Even if Markus Zusak wasn't so durned cute, he'd probably sell a couple zillion books. I'm apparently the last person on earth to read The Book Thief (Alison Morris recommended it to me over a year ago, mea culpa, Alison!) and so my expectations are quite unrealistic but even so it is off to a pretty good start.

9) Ditto Watt Key. Boys, if you want to impress the ladies but you don't have an Australian accent, try an Alabama one.

10) The best thing about book conferences is not books. Not even free books. It is book people, real book people. Call me a big sap, but I gotta say: all this shmoozing and awarding and book-plugging is fun, but the best moment was when James Howe accepted his E.B. White Award and talked about the simple joy of writing to a room full of people who nodded because they knew exactly what he was talking about. Which made all the craziness of needing to sell, sell, sell and put up pages on random websites in the hopes of "meeting" "friends" who might "buy" your book and all those hallmarks of the digital age. Made me just want to run home and get a, what are those things called? Oh, right, a pen. And take it and start writing.

Which I will do.


Just as soon as I finish typing this blog entry.

Oh, hey, before I forget, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards were just announced. Congrats to my pal Tobin (M.T. Anderson), whose novel Octavian Nothing took home an award (to add to its pile, notwithstanding the fact that many-including the author himself-aren't entirely convinced that this should be categorized as a "kids" rather than an adult book).

Although, as John Green stated this past weekend in his NYT Review of Laurie Halse Anderson (no relation to M.T. Anderson)'s new young adult novel, Twisted: So, no, this is not a book for children. Of course it isn’t. These days, hardly any worthwhile book on the young adult shelves is.

And another thing: go to pajamazon (my blog on offsprung.com) and check out my new banner. Cool, huh?

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