Dispatch from BEA

This post comes from the midst of Book Expo America, publishing’s annual trade fair that is staged in the cavernous interior of New York’s Jacob Javits convention center, a glass and steel behemoth hunkered down beside the Hudson. The Javits Center looks a good deal like an airport, complete with footsore travelers,  overpriced food and wheeled luggage, (but without planes, TSA pat-downs or conveniently located bathrooms.)  In the exhibitors halls stretch several football fields worth of booths—some small, some sprawling and beautifully appointed–and all bent on giving stuff away:  books, galleys, catalogs, posters, blads, postcards, totebags,  pens, custom-made gingersnaps…

 Beneath this hive of activity is the  purgatory they call the food court and a complex warren of meeting rooms that are as impossible to find as they are windowless, but where all manner of interesting meetings and panel discussions are taking place. This year, I was determined to attend a few. I sat in on a panel hosted by the Women’s Media Group that explored success amidst the shifting landscape of the publishing industry, where I got to listen to a quintet of accomplished women discuss their career paths. I’d also promised myself that this year I would not return home laden with galleys and books I had no business taking, that I would adhere to a strict look-don’t-take policy.  Of course I broke this promise almost immediately.   But who can say no to so many beautifully packaged, cleverly positioned books?  I am counting the minutes until I can dive into the galley of Michel Faber’s new novel. I loved the Crimson Petal and the White and Under the Skin, and while I rarely think that speculative fiction is my cup of tea, I’m willing to admit my ideas about tea might be wrong.

 Jut a little while ago, I got a funny e-mail message from an editor friend who assiduously avoids BEA, wondering if I actually like attending.  And I do. I like BEA because it affords me an opportunity to see out-of-town editors with whom I’ve previously only corresponded, to reconnect with  old friends (and make new ones in the dependably long queue for the ladies room).  But I love BEA because it is a visual, immersive, and tangible manifestation of people whose lives revolve around reading.

One Response to Dispatch from BEA

  1. Lynn says:

    Nice post, Jessica. You made me feel as though I was almost there!

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