June 19, 2014 | Mollie Hawkins
BookExpo America taught me many things, dear reader, not only about books, but also about life. Particularly the astounding realization that people can be profoundly nuts.
I’ll start with what I will call the Polite Mobs.
See, the overall population of BEA consists of librarians, booksellers, book bloggers, and other publishing professionals, AKA: civilized human beings coming together to learn about … books. Books that haven’t been released yet, books being pimped out by the editors and authors, books that the publishers want to give you for free after the conference session is over … and that last part is what leads to complete bedlam.
This is what I remember from my first encounter with the Polite Mobs:
- Walking to the front of room to collect free books in casual manner, assuming that people would saunter casually to the front of the room and form nice little professional lines.
- Realizing I am an idiot for assuming people saunter casually at BEA.
- A mass of people pretending to form a line.
- A mass of bodies walking a little too swiftly towards table of free things, followed by …
- Elbows to the face.
What followed was a mixture of 50% awesome mixed with 50% Polite Mob People (PMP’s) staring blatantly at badges to see where you ranked on the BEA scale. Were you a VIP? A blogger? Or, like me, a low-rank librarian? It mattered. Business cards were passed around. We commiserated together (You hate this long-ass line to get this autograph? I hate this line, too! Let’s be friends for the next hour!).
Then there’s the fact that you never know who you might be sitting next to at BEA. Like the day I sat somewhat ungracefully (OK, totally ungracefully) on an inflatable couch, nearly launching a lady to the ceiling while she ate a cupcake. That lady turned out to be a NYT best-selling YA author. Or, that time I really needed to charge my phone, and the only normal plug in the Javits Center ended up being underneath a payphone where I shared sitting space with two literary agents.
And then sometimes the person you sit next to is a creep that takes a picture of you with his iPhone without asking (hint to creepers: turn off your flash first).
But I really meant it when I said that the other 50% of BEA is amazing, and the chance to learn about the book business/get ARCs/hobnob with fellow nerds, is truly what it’s all about. What an experience! And in New York City, of all places! If Woody Allen, David Lynch, and Quentin Tarantino made a movie together, it might look something like BookExpo America. I’m OK with it.
And now, I leave you with some of my favorite quotes from BEA, as heard from an assortment of strangers and authors:
- “Do I wear my cat shirt or my bird shirt?”
- “I mean, what we’re saying here is that it’s a conversation about a conversation…” (heard at the McSweeney’s table, naturally).
- “You wanna fight me, tell me I’m too old for a center part.”
- “I work for Lifetime Movie Network. Do you watch Lifetime? I want to ask Billy Idol to be on my show. It’s about ghosts.”
- “I’m terrified. You guys really know how to party at 7am.”
- “What a great panel of guys. I fucked all of them. But I still feel empowered.”