To say that my recap is a tad late would be an understatement. BUT I had such a fantastic time at Book Expo America 2016 last May that putting my experience into words seemed very daunting. I’ll give it a go, though!
Not too bad for 3 days on the convention floor! I got some titles that I was really looking forward to and I also found some interesting titles in the booths, including a non-fiction title. 20 arcs seems like a reasonable number as well, I was going for restraint and ability to actually read the books (we all know how overwhelming the TBR gets!). I’ve read 9 so far (and passed some of those onto friends/other bloggers).
I had never been to Chicago before so I was excited for the opportunity to visit a new city. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency attached to the McCormick Convention Center, which was amazing for the convenience alone. It took some stress away not having to worry about transportation to the venue. It was also really fun to have so many blogger friends in one spot, almost like being in a dorm! And the rooms were great. Nice to relax in after a long day on the floor.
I didn’t get to explore as much of Chicago as I would have liked but since I was there to experience Book Expo and meet friends, it’s par for the course. We did some sight seeing on Saturday…. when it was about 45 degrees outside haha! But Millenium Park and seeing The Bean was great, and I could have spent the whole DAY at the Art Institute of Chicago. I only saw a fraction of the art but what I saw was spectacular.
I didn’t have a very good experience at O’Hare Airport on either day, but generally speaking I love that BEA was in Chicago this year. The central location meant that more bloggers from around the country, including me, could attend, and I really liked McCormick Place. It was such a large space and never felt overcrowded to me, despite the large crowds. There was more room to manoever that I expected. I understand that less publishers were able to attend because of their New York base, so that’s a shame, but overall I was happy with the experience!
YOU GUYS. I GOT TO MEET SO MANY OF MY FRIENDS!!! Some of which I’ve been talking to on twitter and blogs for 3+ years, which is unbelievable. Of course I was nervous at first but from the moment I met Lindsey, Ashley, Dani, and Jessie at the airport, I felt like I had always known them. It was the best! Laura, Gillian and Gaby rounded out our hotel group (Boozy Lady Knights ftw!) and it was so great. In fact, the only friends I had met IRL before were Angie and Nikki last year at ALA. With everyone else there was even more squealing and hugging and “finally!”. I got to meet my coblogger Jess, my Game of Throws fantasy football ladies (including Mary, Amy, Danielle, and Wendy), Katie, Brittany, Alyssa, Meg, Ellice, soooo many others! New friends too. I felt like I was walking around my college campus bumping into people. It’s so much fun to be able to hear people’s voices and laughs in my head now.
Not to mention that both nights we had DISNEY SING ALONGS in the hotel room! Real. Live. Singing. OMG. We played Cards Against Humanity, went to the dine in AMC Theater in downtown Chicago twice to see Captain America: Civil War (I HAD TO SEE IT WITH MEG, I HAD TO) and Zootopia, ate lots of food, and just generally had a splendid time comparing books, waiting in lines, sharing books, talking, giggling. I was so sad to leave. At least Gillian was with me til the bitter end- literally my gate, her plane was leaving after mine haha.
Special Story Alert
It is no secret that I love The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater; it’s one of my favorite series and I’ve read it multiple times. I’ve never gotten the chance to meet Maggie unfortunately, and it seemed like it wouldn’t work out now either. Her bookstore event was too far out of the city for me to attend and I didn’t have a ticket to her signing. But fate (or serendipity! or Glendower himself!) was on my side: as I was waiting in line for something else, I saw Maggie tweet that she was reading tarot cards in the Scholastic booth! I immediately panicked and my friends screamed at me to run run run, go meet Maggie! I decided to take the chance; after all, she tweeted where she was so it wasn’t a secret, right? Imagine my surprise to find the Scholastic booth empty save for the employees, a few browsers, and Maggie Stiefvater reading tarot cards with a fellow author.
I lurked awkwardly for about 15 minutes, the Scholastic employee kindly smiling and saying it was fine when I asked if I was allowed to wait there. Wendy from Book Scents joined me and we twittered nervously, sneaking glances at Maggie. Finally, she noticed us and felt bad we had been waiting to talk to her! She was SO kind, so nice. I told her how much I loved her books, especially The Raven Cycle, how it was my favorite next to Harry Potter and that I loved The Raven King, etc etc. And she was very gracious and receptive to my rambling, and said that it meant a lot! Then she asked Wendy and me if we’d like a picture! It was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I admire her so much and getting to meet her out of the blue at BEA and tell her how much I love her writing was an absolute highlight for me.
Overall Book Expo Experience
I had a fantastic time at my first Book Expo America conference! I loved the convenience of staying in the conference hotel and it was easy to get the hang of the expo floor after a couple times around. My feet hurt in the best way at the end of each day!
My main complaint was about the line at the Harper booth; they were very strict at not allowing us to line up more than 15 minutes ahead of time but the problem was that by making us circle the expo floor, we ended up farther back in the line even though we were there before many others. It was poorly organized and a little frustrating; I didn’t find the employees were very friendly either when I tried to talk books with them. Otherwise, the line experiences were good, particularly at Penguin Random House and Disney Books. And the Wiley booth with their gif photo booth was very cool!
I enjoyed getting to speak with other book professionals and tried hard not to be too shy! The literary temporary tattoo booth was great fun. It was a great networking event, especially with regards to meeting debut authors and fellow bloggers. And I was so happy to finally get a chance to spend time with Sharon Cameron too, I love her books. I wish I got to speak to more publicists but I already can’t wait to go back to BEA!