09 June 2012

BEA, Baby! Part I

I have now been home one day from my stint at Book Expo America, and it's not quite been sufficient time to recover from the past week.  In other words, then, it was a typical BEA, full of fun and work in equally large measures! Now all I have to do is catch up from missing one week of work, get ready for my Perseus, PGW, and Simon & Schuster Fall 2012 buys, attend a staff party, do laundry, pack, and finalize the books I'll be taking along on vacation in t-minus-9 days.  But I digress--first, here's what happened last week in NYC:

Accommodation panic, for starters.  At first I procrastinated about finding a place to stay.  Then I lucked into a place to stay.  Then it fell through about one week before the show.  Then I checked online hotel prices and promptly fainted. I bided my time and booked my first night at Milford Plaza Hotel on the morning I left for New York.  It was a mixed bag. 
First room--heavy on the mildew

Nice to have two window shades

The second room with a smaller but cleaner bathroom

I stayed in two different rooms there, and the first one had a bigger bathroom and was more spacious in general, plus a nice view of the river from the 25th floor, but it had HUGE and NASTY mildew problems in the shower. The second room, on the 6th floor,  was a little larger and perfectly clean, but SO DAMN LOUD at night that I was awakened several times, even with earplugs.  I picked the Milford because it was on the complimentary BEA bus route and because the first night was only $139, but I doubt I'll stay there again.  I'm not so enamored of being awash in a sea of humanity that I'd want to be that close to Times Square again.  If you're dying to know more particulars about the hotel stay, you can find my review on TripAdvisor. 

L-R: Me (current), Marika (current), Emily (former), Joan (current), and Broche (former)
So...BEA.  Arrived late Monday morning, halfway through Richard Russo's plenary talk for indie booksellers, hosted by the ABA.  After that, we broke for lunch and bought remainders (known to civilians, perhaps, as bargain books), and posed for Odyssey staff photos along the way with current and former employees.  I miss Emily and Broche so much!

Monday night, Marika and I had a celebratory dinner--she had just signed with an agent for her first graphic novel that very morning!  She came with me to my hotel as I checked in and from there we walked around the neighborhood to find something we'd both enjoy.  We settled on Smyrna, a Turkish restaurant, where we hit paydirt, ordering a smattering of small plates that was each in its own way delicious: stuffed grape leaves (very different from the Greek style we both knew), a smoked eggplant salad very unlike anything we'd ever eaten, Borregi cigars stuffed with a Turkish feta-like cheese, and zucchini pancakes with dill & yogurt, which I think was our favorite of the dishes.

Tuesday morning was the first of a three-day marathon meeting with publishers from houses large & small.  Joan, Marika, and I did our best to woo the publicists and pitch our store in an effort to attract more authors to our store for events and to make sure that our little New England town doesn't get overlooked by all of the major media markets. 

Yay, Bellwether!
In between appointments, Joan and I made our way to the uptown stage to hear Barbara Kingsolver announce what new manuscript won the Bellwether Prize (now a PEN award).  Congratulations, Susan Nussbaum! Along with Kingsolver, we heard from Heidi Durrow and Hillary Jordan--I love them, and their books, too.

My husband's book is honored here: The Cheshire Cheese Cat
Then came the Celebration of Bookselling luncheon, where we heard lots of authors (who, not incidentally, were voted on by independent booksellers) speak for one minute about how much they love independent booksellers.  It was an odd combination of gratifying sincerity and slightly masturbatory fawning.  As far as I remember, only John Green acknowledged that awkwardness and made us laugh and proved why he is, in my opinion, the most engaging author for indies, second only to Ann Patchett...who showed her love by reciting the St. Crispin's day speech from Henry V.  I love that speech.  We few, we happy few, indeed! And if I happened to have tears in my eyes, what of it, I ask you? I kept hearing this haunting anthem from the Kenneth Branagh version of the film while she was up there. (Sorry, I don't know how to post a YouTube video here.  Help me, anyone?)

Meeting, meeting, meeting, and more meeting.  Then fun!  Sue from Milkweed invited me to Piadina Ristorante, one of her favorite eateries in the West Village, to where I foolishly decided to walk instead of taking public transportation.  Good thing I left the Javits at 5:00 to make the 6:00 dinner! I had a great time chatting with her about books, the state of publishing & bookselling, the beauty of the Berkshires, and the gentler joys of the midwest compared to our other homes (she and I are both native-born midwesterners, but Sue identifies as a New Yorker and I identify as a Southerner).

My image, but not actually the bar.  This was on the corridor wall of my hotel. Odd, no?
After leaving Sue and securing a place to stay for the night (I hadn't booked it before then because hotel prices were astronomical), I met up with some friends down on the Lower East Side: David, my terrific sales rep from Norton; Jennifer, one of the hippest booksellers I know;  and Steve, a publisher/bookseller from Norton/McNally Jackson, whose acquaintance I made that night. Destination: Schiller's Liquor Bar, where I drank a pleasant little gin-gingery concoction that made me want to belt out inappropriate lyrics to the tune of that Chim-Chiminy song from Mary Poppins.  Luckily for everybody, I managed to restrain myself.

Next up: Part Two!


  1. You always give such a front row seat for us wanna-bees. Thanks for taking me along for the week. Belle

  2. I love you back! Thanks Emily for coming by to say hello! I'm working on the new book--and would love to come back when it's out!

  3. Belle, one of these days you and I will tag-team the show and be unstoppable!

    Heidi, I'd love to have you back at the store. We might have to talk about permissible degrees of face-licking, though. ;)

  4. Looove to hear of your BEA adventures! (Not at all jealous. Ok, only a bit.) ALSO can I just say that I almost peed myself with excitement because, I totally stayed at the Milford Plaza the last time I went to NYC! I mean, admittedly we stayed there because it was about the cheapest hotel that wasn't out by one of the airports, but still, it was ok (plus, you know, it's New York and the hotel is the last thing I'm thinking about).

    I realise that really wasn't that interesting, but still- little connectiony things like that make me happy! :)

  5. Yayyy BEA summary! And AGH I want to meet you all. "You all" being the few book bloggers I like/respect who go to BEA.

    Ann Patchett is made of sunshine and rainbows.

  6. Awesome! I miss going to BEA.

  7. Sounds fabulous! (happy sigh) Loved reading about all your adventures.

  8. Mmmm...zucchini and dill pancakes. It's always so interesting to hear what the authors are like in person.

  9. Sounds like a great time :-) I hope I get to go next year!

  10. Ah, NYC boutique hotels: So quirky.
    Wish I'd been there to indulge in all the BEA intensity too.
    So glad to hear that John Green still rocks it: I finally got around to devouring The Fault In Our Stars, in part due to your trusted review. Loved.
    And congrats to your colleague on her up-and-coming graphic novel: How wonderful!
    Looking forward to part deux.


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