2012 BEA Yearbook Awards

The 2012 Book Expo of America (BEA) took place last week at the Javitz Center in NYC.  This was my third year attending.   I plan to intersperse BEA stories in posts about specific books in the months to come, but for now here are some highlights you might be interested in checking out on your own:

  • Best Blogger Best-ie – No surprises here.  Lori @TNBBC was my designated driver for BEA 2012, showing up at promptly 5:30 AM every morning with an extra DD Mocha Latte in the cup holder.  She was wonderful.  No.  Really.  SHE WAS WONDERFUL!  She kept us focused, made me attend events I totally would have missed out on otherwise, and was my touchstone throughout the entire conference.  At one point another blogger said to me – Every time I see you you’re together.  Which made me feel incredibly lucky.  Because even though we did in fact split up quite a bit – I’m fortunate to have a friend who is never boring, with whom I always have tons to discuss, and doesn’t take offense when I get cranky and give a low growl of warning.   Best of all:  she did an incredible re-cap of a bunch of stuff we did together which means I don’t have to!

Of course, she had some tough competition this year.  We spent a goodly amount of time with The Picky Girl, Amy Reads, Alex who reviews at Romance Books Forum and Sally from The Insatiable BookSluts.   These ladies (and their knowledge of Brooklyn ice cream parlors) took my BEA to the next level. *waves*

  • Favorite Small Presses – There’s no one winner in this category!  Being new to the translation/international lit market, I still get a thrill from quizzing publishers on their new releases.  Sadly a lot of the Indie publishers – who in my opinion lead the industry in making international authors and translations available to the rest of us – were not in attendance this year.  Europa, New Directions, Two Dollar Radio and PEN (obviously not a publisher, but too important to the category not to mention) didn’t have booths. Fortunately, the University presses were still there in full force, as were perennial favorites Soho, Soft Skull, Tin House, Red Hen and Other Presses.  Coach House, a Canadian Publisher I first encountered a few years ago at the Brooklyn Book Festival made their BEA debut this year as well.
  • Prettiest Book – University of Minnesota is distributing these stunning Univocal paperback letterpress editions of various philosophers.  The books displayed featured translations into English, amongst them philosophers who I believe are fairly contemporary (but don’t quote me on that).  Philosophy, I’m embarrassed to say, is a category I neglect.  But these beautiful books make me not care whether or not I understand what’s inside them.  And you can see the craftmanship that is put into each one in the video below.

Actually, University of Minnesota was a winner overall for me.  They’re also publishing an intriguing Japanese author – Kawamati Chiaki – who I’ll have more to say about in the weeks to come.

  • Most Likely To Win A Literary Award (Actually, I think it already has…) – Tin House has a French translation coming out in October – Beside the Sea by Véronique Olmi – which I’ll be moving to the front of my TBR queue.  At 119 pages I should have no problem fitting it in.  Here’s the publisher’s haunting description:

A single mother takes her two sons on a trip to the seaside.  They stay in a hotel, drink hot chocolate, and go to the carnival.  She wants to protect them from an uncaring and uncomprehending world.  She knows that it will be the last trip for her boys.

With language as captivating as the story that unfolds, Véronique Olmi creates an intimate portrait of madness and despair…

  • Person I’d Most Like to Have Coffee With – Che Guevara’s widow Aleida March has written a memoir with her daughter entitled Remembering Che:  My Life with Che Guevara.  It has taken over 10 years to convince her to tell her version of events.  The book marks the first time she is speaking publicly about her life with Che.  Aleida March is a fascinating person in her own right – she and her husband met as fellow guerrillas in the Cuban revolution.  Better yet, the book came out in April so there’s no need to wait for my review.
  • Book I Camped Out For – That would be Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Prisoner of Heaven.  By fangirl standards, it was in no way as hectic as I thought it would be. I was there 1-1/2 hours ahead of time, but the line didn’t start forming until a 1/2 hour before.  I love the cover… and while I know that each of these books can be read as a stand alone, I think I’ll need to go back and read the other two again to refresh my memory.  Poor me.
  • Most Likely to Be Overlooked –  Russia was the featured nation – which in typical BEA fashion wasn’t really ‘featured’.  There were panels to attend, but the actual booth was allllllll the way off to the side of the main floor, next to the e-readers.  (I passed by on my way to the McSweeney’s and Red Hen booths). Which is a shame, as Overlook Press put together a wonderful Anthology entitled READ RUSSIA! specifically, I think, for BEA (If anyone knows if there are  plans to sell it in stores please leave a comment).  There were stacks for the taking all around the Russia booths, but how many people knew about them?

The final verdict: BEA 2012 was a blast!  It’s always nice to be in the midst of bookish folk.

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11-ish Things I Learned at BEA 2011

In no particularly order –

  • The HarperCollins team is just as awesome in real life as they are in emails & on twitter. They publish great books AND they throw a hell of a party.  What more can you ask for?
  • Have you seen the vlog, Books Are My Boyfriends? If not, you need to!  Kit is exactly like that in real life. Super friendly, super upbeat and a lot of fun to be around.
  • Margaret Atwood’s agent, a  sweet woman who has worked with Ms. Atwood for decades, calls her “Peggy”.
  • If you get a tattoo of the Two Dollar Radio logo – which is a nifty, retro line drawing of a radio – they give you their entire collection of books for free. F-R-E-E. That’s their entire backlist, plus all the new books they publish as long as the company is in business. But you need to provide proof. Two Dollar Radio, you’ll be hearing from me soon…
  • Greg Olear, author of Totally KillerFather-Mucker (coming out in October) and Senior Editor at The Nervous Breakdown is almost as obsessed with Stephen Colbert as I am. He may disagree. We’ll be arm wrestling BEA 2012 to determine who loves Stephen more. That is, unless one of us can produce an actual restraining order with both Stephen and your name on it (might as well clarify the rules up front) before then.
  • Chuck Palahniuk may be the nicest person on the planet. Seriously. He signed 175 galleys of his new book (as reported by @andrewtshaffer), all personalized, had something nice to say to everyone, never stopped smiling AND posed for pictures. Don’t think that makes him nice?  Imagine how many times he probably had to listen to “The first rule of BEA…”

    "I'm so glad you loved CHOKE.... here, have a seed packet"
  • Speaking of lines. When Random House organizes a line, they ORGANIZE a line. And nobody f#@!$ with the Random House line…. *low and menacing voice*no-body.
  • You need to be following Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness & Anastasia from Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.  They’re amazing.  Kim is my go-to girl for Non-Fiction. Anastasia is a YA guru.
  • Less than 400 translations are published yearly in the U.S., including technical manuals. That’s right, the instructions for your cell phone and the pictograph telling you how to put together your IKEA LACK table are part of that number.
  • Romance authors get slightly offended when you tell them you don’t review romances, particularly if you mention your blog is named BookSexy Review.
  •  Levi Asher & I cornered Evil Wylie  (O.K., so he didn’t look all that cornered. In fact he looked quite comfortable, smiling and with a drink in hand. He even gave me a button.) and questioned him on why Simone de Beauvoir & Jean Paul Sartre made it into Andrew Shaffer’s new book on Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love. He makes a strong and convincing case on why they belong there, despite what those French Canadians say.
  • Levi Asher is now publishing the equivalent to small chapbooks on the Amazon Kindle. I just bought Why Ayn Rand is Wrong (& Why It Matters). His blog Literary Kicks is probably the oldest literary blog in the country and Levi is my personal blogger icon. If you are looking for a smart discussion of literature & philosophy (& who isn’t?) Litkicks is the place to be.
  • Did you hear about my amazing reunion with Lori from The Next Best Book Blog… all thanks to Book Expo 2011 & Random House?  That’s right, they’re not just “Bringing you the best in fiction, nonfiction & children’s books”... they’re bringing people together. (Hallmark, watch out!)
  • Rachel from A Home Between Pages and I had an incredibly awkward introduction/conversation at that same Random House party. But she eventually forgave me (I think).  In person, she is the Goddess of Snarkiness.  I will be following her like our parents followed The Grateful Dead.
  • The entire population of Iceland is now writing thrillers. Fortunately the entire population consists of only 318,452 people.
  • And, finally, I have seen the shy & elusive Reading Ape
from left to right: Books Are My Boyfriends, the fabulous Margaret Atwood & her lovely agent, The Next Best Book Blog (& Club, for you Goodreads fans), and BookSexy Review

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Top 10 BookSexy Tips on What To Do in NYC Outside of BEA

  1. Get yourself a copy of The New Yorker, New York Magazine or TimeOut New York – You can find them at any newstand.  These weekly magazines contain up to the minute info on what’s going on around town – descriptions of restaurants, current museum exhibits, readings at book shops, live music at small bars and clubs, theater  &  indie films (or films still in limited release).  A lot of the events are moderately priced or, even better, FREE!  Oh, and remember what I said in my last BEA post?  Get a subway map.  (Ask at the front desk of your hotel or the token booth at the station).
  2. Two of NYC’s best museums have a policy known as Suggested Donation – The Metropolitan Museum of Art & The Museum of Natural History.  They suggest that you pay $20.00, but you’ve the option to pay what you can afford (I usually give at least $5.00).   Most museums with fixed admission policies have (at the very least) a weekly or monthly night where admission is free.  So if there’s a specific museum/collection/exhibit you want to see, it’s worth visiting the museum’s website first.
  3. Best 3 NYC Book Shops – I’ve posted this before, but this is Book Blogger Con and it bears repeating.  My top 3 NYC bookshops are all within easy walking distance of each other.  Take the B-D-F trains (the ORANGE line) downtown to Broadway -Lafayette St. Station.  That will put you almost on the doorstep of The Housing Works Book Shop (126 Crosby Street).  Once you spend a few hours there, walk out the front door, turn right and make a left onto Prince Street.  Your next stop is McNally Jackson (52 Prince Street) – yes, it’s a less than 5 minute walk… and they’ve got one of those nifty Print-On-Demand machines!  When you’re done there, get back on Broadway and start walking uptown to 12th Street.    Last, but not least, is the world-famous Strand Book Store (828 Broadway) which boasts 18 miles of new, used & rare books.  You’ll be AMAZED by the reasonably priced treasures you’ll find.  And make sure you take the elevator upstairs to the Rare Book Room… it’s the place where good books (and lucky readers) go when they die.
  4. Avoid Brooklyn your first time visiting the Big Apple.  I know this is a controversial statement.  The reality is: if you don’t know where you’re going you’ll spend a lot of time wandering in circles.  If you’ve done Manhattan before and want to expand you’re horizons, then Brooklyn has a lot to offer.  Park Slope, Williamsburg & Dumbo have a lot of cute shops and restaurants to explore – and I’m dying to visit the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint.  Brooklyn also has a thriving Book Shop community.  But 1 week isn’t enough time if you’re not already familiar with the city.
  5. Central Park – Just Go!  If you can, get a map.  Central Park is the heart of NYC – it’s packed full of history, public art and people.  The Met and The Museum of Natural History flank it, so if you’re visiting either (and the weather is nice) give yourself a little extra time to walk around outside and enjoy.
  6. If you decide to visit the New York Public Library, take the tour.  Seriously – you can’t take out books so you might as well make the trip worth it.  They take you downstairs to “the stacks” and to the Map Room (so neat) and to all the areas no one thinks to go to (or that aren’t usually open to the public).   Bryant Park directly behind the museum – and is one of my favorite places in the city.  Buy a drink from a cart and put your feet up for a bit.  Watch the old guys playing bocci.  Nearby is the Central Children’s Room (20 W. 53rd St., between 5th & 6th Ave.) where you once could see Christopher Robin’s original Winnie-the-Pooh toys.  (They’ve since been moved to the Children’s Center at 42nd St. & 5th Ave. – still only a short walk away).
  7. I always recommend visiting the Pierpont Morgan Library and the Frick Collection.  BUT – if you aren’t interested in seeing Vermeers and don’t want to spend the money (no suggested donations policy at the former homes of robber barons) you can always head uptown to the Ralph Lauren Flagship Store (867 Madison Avenue), known as The Mansion.  It’s really housed in an old mansion… the entire old mansion, we’re not just talking one floor… built roughly in the same period as Morgan’s & Frick’s homes.  The architecture is beautiful – and the visual team for Ralph Lauren is amazing.  I can’t remember which floor the Home Collection is on, but if you visit The Mansion be sure to ask someone.  It’s worth seeing.  Think Disneyland – except instead of being in Mickey & Minnie’s world, you’ve wandered into Ralph & Ricky’s.
  8. The Highline is an old, abandoned elevated subway line that went wild.  Weeds and plants took it over, and New Yorkers (being New Yorkers) started wandering around up there.  In 2009 it opened to the public as a park, which runs from 20th Street to 34th Street nearby the West Side Highway.  On a weekend it’s insanely crowded, but I hear that on weekdays are less so…. at least by NYC standards.  They have a calendar of events on their website.  (And on Tuesday, May 24th they have stargazing).
  9. When I was in Paris last month I went to dinner with a friend.  Afterwards, at 2AM, she decided we were going to grab two bicycle and bike back home (they have racks all over Paris where you can rent a bike at one location using your credit card and leave it at another).  She pointed out all the sites as we went, even rode me up to the doors of Notre Dame Cathedral.  The point of my little anecdote?  Cities at night are magic.  So, if you’re not timid, I recommend visiting Times Square after dark.  Now – I’m always skeptical when I hear people make warnings about getting robbed/mugged in Manhattan.  I lived in the city for years without a problem.   Use common sense – like you would in any city – and you’ll be fine.  I also recommend taking a friend.  You’ll be amazed how many people are out and how bright the lights are!  (Oh… and  that guy on the box preaching for Nation of Islam has been there for as long as I can remember.  He’s practically a tourist attraction, himself).
  10. Start walking.  Discover something new.  This parts a little tricky… because the area around the Javits Center is a wasteland (no offense!).  I recommend heading in a few blocks to Lexington, Park, Broadway or 5th Avenue and start walking downtown.  Or head uptown towards Central Park.  Take a subway down to the Village or Soho and wander in circles…there’s plenty to see.  And don’t worry if you get lost. Stand at the curb and wave down a taxi.  They’ll have you back to where you started in no time at all.

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BookSexy BEA Survival Guide

Book Expo America (BEA) 2011 is happening at the end of the month and if you’re on Twitter there’s several hashtags going around with updates and excited chatter.  A small flurry of Tweeters at the hashtags #BEA11 & #BookExpo asked for some tips on what to bring, where to go, how to dress.  So, if you’re attending BEA this year, here’s my advice.

What to Wear

Dress nice, but be comfortable.  Avoid jeans & t-shirts.  Think business casual.  But the most important thing to remember is to wear something that you’re comfortable & confident in.  Because you’re going to be walking up to and starting conversations with a lot of strangers.  For me, that means heels for at least the first day, when I’m visiting the various publishers’ booths.  I know most people say to wear comfortable shoes…  and I make sure mine are well broken in (I’m not recommending stilettos!). My reason? I’m 5′-4″.  I like the extra height heels give me the ability to see over the crowds.  It’s probably not the most sensible thing in the world, but it works for me.  Find what works for you.

What to Bring to the Javits Center

Travel light.  The tragic truth is (something I learned the first time I moved):  books are heavy.  The Javits Center is huge.  You’re going to do a lot of walking so you don’t want to be weighed down anymore than necessary.  So stick to the basics.   Pre-print the schedule of events and autographing authors. Highlight the ones you want to see.  Bring a pen (I like fine point Sharpies), a small pad (Moleskines Rock!), and business cards (LOTS of business cards).  I try to throw a few granola bars into my bag, as well, since I forget to stop to eat when I’m busy.  And try to bring a SmartPhone.

The SmartPhone. 

If you have a SmartPhone prep it beforehand.  Get an app for your blog & email (eliminates the need to lug around your laptop or netbook).  Set up a Twitter account if you don’t have one already and follow the hashtags.  If you can sync your Google Calendar to your phone, do it – it’s a great way to set reminders for where you want to be, when.  Clear your photos – make sure you have enough room in your memory for new photos and that your flash is on.  Bring your charger.  (If you’re a blogger you get access to the Press Lounge, which provides a spot to plug-in and re-charge).  And don’t forget to download a NYC Subway Map app…it helps.  Even native New Yorkers use the subway maps.  And having it will come in handy for my next post in this series (there will be 3 posts total), which will list my Top 10 BookSexy Tips on What To Do Outside of BEA.

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2010 Book Expo Adventures

My first day at the BEA I learned a valuable lesson – eat breakfast! As my blood sugar plummeted I began a conversation with a woman in the press room, during which I: 1. mis-pronounced vegetarian; 2. confused David Foster Wallace with Dave Eggers; and 3. proceeded to confuse them both with Jonathan Safran Foers.

Of course I gave her my name and card. I am now officially one of those people who is interviewed on the street and says incredibly stupid things.  That’s O.K. – I’ll own it.

Other than that humbling experience, BEA was AWESOME.  Imagine Comicon or a Star Trek convention for bookworms – a mix of celebrity signings, buyers, sellers, independent presses, big publishing houses, librarians, bloggers, published authors, writers hoping to be published… and one lone guy selling magnetic beads that form a cube (don’t ask because I can’t answer).

Unexpectedly I spent quite a bit of time browsing the booths in the Digital Book Zone on my first day.  One of the more interesting things I came across was Symtio – a format for selling digital & audio books in stores.  It’s  a small, 4″ x 6″ plastic card with cover art on the front; a description of the book and a download code are printed on the back.  In theory, the card can be purchased from a bookshop or received as a galley from a publisher (Harper Collins gave the ebook cards out at their booth in lieu of traditional “book” galleys – at least for some titles).  You can take the card home and go to a website to enter the code (sort of like the iTunes cards from Starbucks).  The entire book will download onto a digital reader or audio device.  It’s a great idea for publishers sending out galleys, small & indie bookshops not affiliated with a digital reader that want a stake in the e- and audio book market…  and convenient for readers like me who still enjoy going into small bookshops to browse.

One disappointment though – Symtio can not be used with an Amazon Kindle.  The fact is, not much is compatible with the Kindle.  Google’s new online bookstore – Google Books – won’t work either.  The Kindle is “proprietary”, several people explained to me.  Even moreso than the Nook, which seems to allow slightly more flexibility (one gentleman from B&N told me, “you can do it, we just make you work for it”).  This, along with the bad press associated with Amazon over the last year, makes me wonder whether the Kindle is destined to go the way of Betamax simply because they don’t play well with others.

So I was forced to try Symtio out on my computer (it works with Windows or Mac) – and I have to say it was pretty fabulous.  It’s necessary to subscribe to Adobe Digital Editions when using a computer, but that only took a moment.  The download was almost instantaneous.  The book on the screen looks great and the interface is simple to use (much easier than an e-reader interface).  Overall, I was very happy with the whole experience and I hope to see more of Symtio in the future.

The Digital Book Zone, predictably, showcased tons of new e-readers.  None of which particularly blew me away.  There was an e-reader that opened like a laptop turned on its side – with a digital ink screen on one side and a computer screen on the other.  There were also several readers, similar to the Kindle or Sony Reader, that used a touch screen and stylus rather than a scroll wheel.  Nothing particularly revolutionary.

There also didn’t seem to be much new in the audiobook category, other than the Symtio cards and PLAYAWAY (which I’d seen before).  PLAYAWAY is a  mp3 player that holds a single, pre-loaded audiobook.  It allows you to bookmark, fast forward, rewind, skip between chapters, – just like a normal mp3 player or iPod.  The company seems to be targeting libraries, and I’d love to see them in my local branch replacing the current cd cases shoved messily onto the shelves.

The rest of my time at BEA was spent exploring  the various publisher’s booths and meeting all my amazing fellow bloggers attending the Book Bloggers Convention – which was by far my favorite part of the week (expect to see BookSexy’s blogroll expand over the next few days).  Before I attended I thought that Book Expo was strictly about the books, and maybe it is (don’t worry, there will be more about those in the weeks and months to come).  But for me, meeting the people in the industry, seeing their enthusiasm and passion for the books they’re publishing, marketing, reviewing and writing is an experience I’m glad I didn’t miss.  So I’d like to put up a special thanks to My Friend Amy, Galleysmith, Maw Books, Linus’s Blanket, MotherReader, The Book Lady’s Blog, and Hey Lady! Whacha Readin’? for all the hard work they did organizing the 2010 Book Bloggers Convention.   Thank you! Thank you! And thank you ladies again!

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