May 27th, 2010

Okay, first off, let me just say that I have no photos and am therefore officially lame. My digital camera died a few months ago and I’ve been using my iPhone ever since, which takes marginally crappy photos. I don’t want to buy a new crappy digital camera. I want to buy a fancy expensive digital camera. But I also want to buy a house, so, no big-ticket items. Therefore, no photos, therefore, lameness. But, hey, I’m a writer, I never claimed to be a Visual Artiste. Okay, now that we’ve cleared that up, on with the show.

So, as teased on my FB page earlier, my BEA experience started with a highjacking. Or maybe a kidnapping is a more appropriate term. I got out of the subway at 34th Street and 8th Ave and went to catch a bus, but the bus driver said the M34 (crosstown bus) was full—in my 14 years in NYC, this has never happened. But some official-looking dude in a suit, carrying a placard with the BEA logo on it said that a bus was leaving in five minutes and would get us there faster than the city bus. And it didn’t occur to me that it was weird that there was only one BEA shuttle for all the zillions of attendees, so I got on. It was one of those party busses, neon lights and cocktails, except minus the cocktails—another warning sign. At 10 a.m., we take off, and the official-looking dude turns out to be a “writer.” I use the quotes, which should be read a air quotes, because he seemed like more of a huckster or MBA type to me. The bus was not an official BEA bus. He’d chartered it as a way to pitch his book “How To Double Your Income in 180 Days.” Or maybe it was “How to Double Your Penis Size in 12 Hours.” I forget. It was that lame. It might not have been that lame. It might have been clever if it was a fast pitch, a well-tailored pitch, followed by a free book on the way out. But instead, it was a meandering pitch, and worse, the bus took a detour. Now, I don’t know about this guy but most of us had packed schedules for BEA and I was already late to meet my agent, and I’m never late, so I did not appreciate going 8 blocks out of my way in midtown traffic. But also, this was so not the guy’s target audience. Literary agents and indie booksellers and authors and various publishing folks? We double our incomes by selling more books and if he knew how to do that, he wouldn’t have had to trap us on this infomercial with wheels. There’s a lesson in this to all you budding authors: Know your audience before you pitch. Or bring the right bribes.  I mean if this guy had brought cupcakes or iced coffees….As was, I, being mortified at already being late, politely told the guy he was being disingenuous and asked to be let off the bus. A dozen people followed me. They were not happy.

Trauma behind me, I met up with Sarah and we roamed around. She knows everyone, and this year, I found I knew people, too. Going down the escalator was Francine Lucidon, the owner of The Voracious Reader and one of my favorite booksellers. And then there was Peter Brown, the author/illustrator of The Curious Garden, the gorgeous (and megasuccessful) picture book about a little boy named Liam who turns an urban wasteland into a green mecca (Liam, come visit my patio, please).  And then I bumped into so many YA peeps. The gorgeous Natalie Standiford who showed me the cover of her upcoming book The Sullivan Sisters (you can see it on her website!) and Courtney Sheinmel (my girl) and her sister Alyssa, whose book The Beautiful Between just came out (how hilarious is it that Courtney and Alyssa are both YA writers?). And I met Tara McCarthy Altebrando, who I’ve known via Facebook but never met, even though she’s a New Yorker, too.

Then it was time for lunch. This was very exciting because it was more reunions with booksellers—Debra Linn from Books & Books; Mary Lee Deerfield from Blue Willow—but also because I won an award. If I Stay was one of the 2010 Indies Choice Award Honor books, along with Libba Bray‘s Going Bovine, Scott Westerfeld‘s Leviathan, Laurie Halse Anderson‘s Wintergirls and Maggie Stievfater’s Shiver. And Suzanne Collins‘s Catching Fire won the Indie Choice YA Book of the Year! All the authors except Maggie were there so I got to meet Scott and Suzanne (who I totally fangirled!) and see Libba and Laurie and also Rebecca Stead (who won book of the year for middle-grade for When You Reach Me, one of my favorite books). I think the high point was a speech that Kate DiCamillo gave—she won an award for being the Most Engaging Author. I hope someone recorded it and puts it on YouTube because it was truly amazing. She recounted being given a book on Abe Lincoln (she was “in love” with Lincoln) and the children’s book A Cricket In Times Square as an 8-year-old and wondered at what bookseller would have made that leap that someone who loved Lincoln would also love a book about a cricket singing in the middle of NYC, but that those books changed her life because—and I can’t remember the kicker. It was something about finding your voice. All I know is I was crying. Clearly she deserved her award!

Then it was direct to the YA buzz panel, in which a handful of editors discuss their buzzy fall books. I really wanted to catch this because my editor was speaking about Matched, this unbelievably beautiful, haunting Brave New World-esque dystopian love story she has coming out from author Ally Condie in November. The room was packed. There was a giant screen flashing cover shots of the various books being buzzed—Matched, Rebecca Maizel’s Infinite Days, about a 500-year-old vampire girl who becomes mortal, Sophie Jordan’s Fireflight, about forbidden dragon love (dragons are the new vampires are the new angels?), Erin Bow’s Plain Kate, a new supposedly Harry Potter-worthy fantasy, and Kody Keplinger’s The DUFF (DUFF=Designated Ugly Fat Friend), which I’ve been hearing such great things about, because the book is amazing, not because Kody was 17 when she wrote it (she’s a wizened 18 now).

As the cover images flashed on the screen, so did a shot of my editor’s baby daughter, which was perplexing, until Julie began her spiel, which was all about how Matched came in while she was on maternity leave and she planned to read a few pages and then politely reject it but couldn’t stop reading. It turned out that babies are really good rests for Kindles, she said. All the books sounded great—though of the lot, it’s The DUFF I’m itching to read; I’m full up of fantasy right now, and Plain Kate, I’ll read with Willa—but Julie just blew me away. She was so smart and funny and wise and I was proud to be in her stable. Also, I scored an ARC of Matched, which I’ll be giving away in a contest Very Soon so stay tuned. After I got to meet Ally, who seemed so genuinely nice and blown away by what was going on. She was wearing this cute green shirt that perfectly “matched” the cover of her book and I asked if it was intentional and she laughed. “Of course. I had to get clothes,” she told me. “All I have are t-shirts.” From one soccer-mom author to another.

Post-panel, I went back upstairs and scored a few galleys, including Lauren Oliver‘s upcoming book, Delerium, which is about a futuristic society in which love is “cured” and the rebel girl who goes and falls in love. It sounds a little like Matched, though I doubt anything could be like Matched. I loved Before I Fall so I have faith in Lauren (who I also saw at the lunch, and who is awesome if unfairly tall, not to mention young to be that talented, but she’s nice, too, so we’ll forgive her for her Amazonian talents) to take me to wonderful and new places. And props to her for switching gears with her new book.

Then I visited with my Penguin people, a lot of whom have started to read Where She Went, so it was fun to get their reactions (I’m not saying a thing, but no one threw up on my shoes). It’s crazy to think that at next year’s BEA, it’ll be out.

Then it was 3:30 and I had to skedaddle home to get the kids. I took the city bus this time.

  1. Lovely recap.
    So fun seeing you. Creeper bus though? Not good.

  2. your kidnapping: INSANE! that is the weirdest and saddest and funniest and disturbingest thing i’ve heard in ages!

    so glad you had puke-free fun otherwise.

  3. Sounds like you had totally awesome time. We don’t have anything like this in NZ.

    I concur on the weird and creepy getting-there experience. Eeeek! Note to self: NEVER ever ever kidnap potential readers.

  4. Great seeing you at TAC, Heidi. At BEA, it was more of a glimpse over the shoulder. It was just THAT CRAZY. xx

  5. I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about the bus thing! That’s insane! Go you for calling him out on it!

    Re: the camera thing … I think you should buy a marginally crappy camera so you have one to document your gorgeous kids and their spunky fashion sense. But I’m a camera addict. If you don’t do this, I will do for you what I do for Amy: come over and take pictures of your children myself.

    xoxo, your girl

  6. Same thing happened to me! SAME BUS. Crazy! Did he show you the video? I told him I had no income to double. Unfortunately, we rode the whole way to Penn Station from BEA.

    Exciting story you got though, right?

  7. I am seriously sad that I did not see you at BEA! And I was there from 8am till 5pm!

    Bus dude sounds weird, but I’m glad you made it. Alive and safe. Yikes.

    Next time, I will hunt you down and say hello.

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