Yesterday I attended the final day of Book Expo America. It was my first time there - I was a total BEA virgin. To get in I'd registered as a "blogger". So my sense of truth in self-advertising leads me to put up a post about it. For those who don't know, BEA's the hugest American tradeshow for the publishing industry. Imagine packs of librarians milling about, sheepishly approaching often stylish booths filled with generally friendly publishing folks to ask for free books ("galleys" or "advance review copies" of new releases, in paperback form even those many of those books will be coming out soon in hardcover). But once these attendees get the hang of it, man, they load up those NPR and Whole Foods totebags like vegans at a farmer's market. It's actually much broader and more interesting than that. Lots of authors mix in through the schedule - signing free copies of their books with the understanding that an ounce of promotion here probably leads to many more sales eventually. The authors run the gamut. Embarrassments like Kirstie Alley get too much attention. Except when you try to take photos like I did - getting shuffled away by security seems especially out of place and downright lame there. I loved seeing Dan Rather. For 80-years-old, Dan the actual man's a tribute to tough west Texas breedin'. Jim Kelly (the former Buffalo Bills quarterback) turned out to provide an entirely fun interaction. I told him about the awesome biker bar I stayed at two nights ago outside Buffalo "with loads of Bills stuff in the apartment upstairs". To his absolute credit, Jim wanted to know who and where (Whiskey Hill Saloon in Cassadaga, NY). When he confessed that he didn't know that particular biker bar, I told him that he simply must pull off the NY Thruway at Dunkirk (exit 59) to check it out. I'd bet y'all a Romney he'll head that way at some point. And there were others. Steve Rinella was a relaxed and engaging guy in what can surely often be a monotonous situation. We had the benefit of having some rather serious things in common and he even offered up some source suggestions. Is that the norm at BEA? I have no idea, but I doubt it. Still if you walk through the doors ready to chat it up, some rather interesting results can shake out. Weirdness, too. Like the L. Ron Hubbard drone who approached me from their overpriced booth - featuring costumed pirates for posed pictures with willing skallywags. I suspect I will never forget the vaguely sweet but tortured "please save me" emptiness in her eyes. I can only imagine the weight of unseen, unknowable "education" bearing down on her from her overlords. And I'm not talking about the BEA staff. They seemed quite nice, actually.
Regardless, I was glad to take my galleys and head on down the road after that one day intro. I suspect the time will come when I head back. Willingly, once more. Anyone who works or wants to work as a writer should do so at least once, in my opinion. Jim Kelly signing or not.