BEA! Yay!

The Book Expo of America is a massive book convention that makes booksellers like me squeal with joy. Authors, publishers, and editors come together to trade secrets and meet fans. It’s a three day event that is taking place this week, from May 25th-27th. I was lucky enough to get a free pass from Borders and anticipate going on Wednesday with my best of companions, Anastasia and Coleen.

Here’s the event hours for Wednesday:

Wednesday, May 26

8:00 am – 9:30 am Children’s Book and Author Breakfast
8:00 am – 6:00 pm Press Room Hours
8:30 am – 5:30 pm “Big Ideas at BEA” Conference
9:00 am – 6:00 pm Exhibit Hall
9:00 am – 6:00 pm Exhibitor Meeting Rooms
9:00 am – 6:00 pm International Rights & Business Center
10:00 am – 5:00 pm Author Stages
10:30 am – 12:00 noon Speed Dating with Children’s Authors (For booksellers only.)
12:00 noon – 2:00 pm ABA’s Celebration of Bookselling Luncheon
2:00 pm – 3:15 pm BEA Young Adults Editor’s Buzz
7:00 pm – 10:00 pm BEA Tweetup at Powerhouse Books, 37 Main St., Brooklyn, NY

So what am I excited to do? Just about everything! Here’s a listing of the events I’m hoping to attend:

You’re Reading That!?! Crossover YA/Adult Readers Come of Age 10:00 AM- 11:00 AM; Room 1E16

Pretty much one of the most intriguing concepts of the Young Adult genre is how many adults are reading it now. The main issues is how to stay connected to teens and still appeal to the older demographic, the big buyers of the genre.

Hot Book Club Titles for Fall 10:00 AM- 11:00 AM; Room 1E17

How am I going to make it to this event when I’ll be at the first one? Easy, I ask one of my companions to cover it. This is going to be the first time that I have guest writers share their input concerning aspects of events. I just can’t be everywhere! The matter of who covers this is going to be a surprise. This event has to be covered so I can make sure you guys know what to be on the look out coming fall.

Dystopian Fiction 10:30 AM-11:30 AM; Uptown Stage

Basically a talk featuring Ally Condie, Adam Dunn, Lesley Hague, and Sigrid Nunez. They’ll be talking about their forays into the not quite perfect utopias created in their novels.

Paranormal Fiction for Teens: From Vampires to Werewolves to Zombies and Shape Shifters 11:00 AM-11:50 AM; Downtown Stage

It’s no secret that I adore the fantasy aspect of Young Adult, it practically saturates the genre. Richelle Mead, Andrea Cremer, Holly Black, and Ivy Devlin will talk about their experiences writing fantasy for teens.

YA Authors Crossing Over 11:00AM-11:50AM; Midtown Stage

Connecting to the first event I listed, this will talk about the authors that crossover between adult and young adult fiction. Melissa Marr, Jennifer Donnelly, Stephanie Kuhnert, Michele Jaffe, and Jeri Smith-Ready will all be there to share what they think about the topic.

Nonfiction for Kids & Teens 11:00 AM-12:00PM; Room 1E14

Not quite sure if this is definitely going to make it for me, but I think nonfiction for kids and teens is very important; there’s not a lot. This panel will talk about hot titles for kids nonfiction and how to market better in stores and libraries.

BEA (Young Adult) Editors Buzz 2:00 PM-3:15 PM; Room 1E15

Editors will come together in a panel and discuss what’s coming out this Fall and their take on the new books and authors being released.

Steam Punk 3:00 PM-3:50 PM; Midtown Stage

One of the hottest new themes in media, steam punk is intriguing and captures the hearts of readers as well as gamers. Cherie Priest, Felix Gilman, and Catherynne M. Valente will talk about steam punk as a whole and in their own novels.

The Emerging Publishing Landscape: Where do Book Developers Fit In? 3:30 PM-4:30 PM; Room 1E16

This panel will discuss something we rarely think about as readers and book sellers, packaging. This panel will talk about the necessity to produce books faster and in a more economical fashion and how that is going to affect jobs and roles in the book developing world.

Full schedule, right? I’m not even finished yet! There are still all the authors I hope to meet!

Tony DiTerlizzi 10:00 AM-11:00 AM; Location: Booth 3940

Will sign: Mr. Toppit … ARC

Cornelia Funke 11:30 AM-12:30 PM; Location: Booth 3751

Will sign: ARC

Ridley Pearson 1:00 PM-2:00 PM; Location: Table 17

Will sign: Kingdom Keepers III… Book

Ticket required!

James Patterson 2:00 PM-3:00 PM; Location: Booth 3751

Will sign: Witch & Wizard… ARC

Lemony Snicket 2:00 PM-3:00 PM; Location: Table 16

Will sign: 13 Words … Broadside

Ticket required!

Holly Black 3:00 PM-4:00 PM; Location: Table 17

Will sign: Zombies vs. Unicorns … ARC

Rick Riordan 3:00 PM-4:00 PM; Location: Table 24

Will sign: The Kane Chronicles: …. Book

Ticket required!

Melissa Marr 4:00 PM-5:00 PM; Location: Table 18

Will sign: Radiant Shadows … Book

So if you’re going to be at the Book Expo of America, leave me a comment! Maybe we’ll run into each other.

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What a Coincidence; Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a stunning portrayal of teen angst, not for the sake of angst. Rich characters that are beginning in completely different places meet and come away changed. The style of writing is nonconformist, losing punctuation and capitalization in even-numbered chapters as well as squishing together dialogue in the odd numbers. It explored themes and struggles that many authors touch on, but never fully embrace. The depression struggle, the hope and prayer that someone out there can love you or appreciate you, straight/gay friendships that don’t fall into the straight-chick-gay-guy combo. I fell in love with this book from chapter 1. John Green as a start was a brilliant choice; had they began with David Levithan’s much darker Grayson, it would have set a different tone for the rest of the novel. I definitely think this novel is a must-read for teens. Beautifully dark, sometimes sweet and always honest, the Will Graysons reminded me of when I was a teen (all those years ago), when it was so hard to connect with others and let them connect with me. I came away from this novel not with tears, but with a smile.

Peter Norton Symphony Space let in a flow of librarians, young readers, and inquisitive minds such as my own and my sidekick also known as my boyfriend. Peppy girls with ironic t-shirts and choppy haircuts clutched books written by the authors they waited so anxiously to see.

In line, I met a youth holding onto a tattered but obviously loved copy of Looking for Alaska. I asked if I could see it and he happily let me. He was hyper skinny with glasses, I felt that if he played an instrument it would be something underrated, like the oboe. His friend came up from the front of the line, claiming tickets from the will-call. Not so skinny, but definitely just as devoted to John Green. Skinny-with-glasses gave me his blog, which I planned to link, but there was a typo in what he wrote. So if he comments and gives me the correct link, I will happily share.

The entrance contained a table with books to buy. I could have repurchased Naomi & Eli’s No Kiss List, a book I lost to a close friend. I chose to hope for its return instead. I also regretted not bringing along my copy of Boy Meets Boy, which always fills me with hope when I read it.

The crowd is composed of more female readers, but I was really glad to see some teen boys around because they really like the authors, rather than being forced to attend by a girlfriend. The couple beside me were exactly like that. She sat with manicured and spastic hands and an iPhone with an app for being hip. Her boyfriend wore a trendy blazer and glasses he probably didn’t need hooked on his shirt front. He waved around an iPhone, too.

Two chairs adorn the stage, a table between with clear plastic cups serving as centerpieces. A bottle of water sits beneath the table, waiting to be emptied. The longer we sit, the more the talking cascades into a crescendo and repeats. The excitement is a low buzz that charges the air we breathe.

Lights dim, an excited hush. An explosion of whoops and applause as three figures stride out onto stage. A small woman introduced herself as Kathy Minton, the director of Symphony Space. She begged that we don’t take flash photography so Green and Levithan stood for one big photo opportunity.

Green began by reading an excerpt from chapter 15, in which his Will Grayson goes to Jane’s house to ask her a question about Schroedinger’s cat. Levithan picked up with an excerpt from chapter 2, in which his Will Grayson expresses his anger towards the idiocies of the internet. They remind me of their Will Graysons, so vastly different but bound together by something wonderful. Green fidgets like a nervous habit, rubbing his curly hair and looking down at his shoes. Levithan remains cool and relaxed. It comforts me as a public speaker that they stumble over their own words at least once. Their readings are filled with what makes the Will Grayson characters unique; sarcasm, fear, anger, and hesitant love. Their work is filled with humor and the crowd loves every second of it. I am enraptured as they bring to life these wonderful Graysons and their hearts.Their conversation began with lighthearted laughter and joking around.

John Green initiated questioning, asking David Levithan to take the lead in explaining where Will Grayson, Will Grayson came from. From there we heard quirky stories about true mishaps (from confusing self proclaimed oafish Levithan for graceful dancer Levinthal, to every 1 out of 8 people being named John Green, and the argument over whether trolls are really people. I think they are, too Mr. Green). Green and Levithan explained the X shaped narrative. “The characters would start in very different places, […] they meet in the very middle of the novel and they sort of go their separate ways but having sort of switched some things in their lives as a result of that meeting.”

Levithan was also prompted to talk about coincidence, having explored the idea in his previous novels and doing so to a very heavy extent in this particular one. When asked if the universe connected people or if people did the connecting on their own, Levithan confirmed his faith in the latter.  “I don’t feel that all of this has been choreographed.” I feel his attitude showed heavily in the novel. The characters were not created to become part of each other. They were created to be themselves and just so happened to move through each other’s lives and left behind an effect.David Levithan and John Green

Another topic they discussed was having a kinship with those that share your name. Are you bound to uphold the personal sacred beliefs of everyone in the world that claims your same name? Does that really create something special between you? In a way it does. There’s something oddly exciting about meeting someone and being able to say “Hey, I answer to that, too.” How often do we meet people that share our name? Sure we google ourselves and see thousands of entries (as John Green complained about, but he said it became easier within the past couple of years), but how often do we come face to face with someone so unlike ourselves yet similar enough to share our name? It’s that slight chance, that off beat coincidence that turns us on our head. In the end, it comes back to Shakespeare. What is really in a name?

As part of the event, Green and Levithan decided to hold a writing experiment. We were given the following prompt: Write a scene where two characters with the same name meet. You are to pick their name, the day they will meet and the place. Oh, and we got five minutes. There were a lot of references to Starbucks coffee chains and a lot of contrasting ideas. Some great writing sprang from the five minutes. I heard about a trekkie and a very non-trekkie sharing a name and being at the same convention, a coffee buyer and coffee maker on opposite ends of the mood spectrum, Juilia and Guilia, as well as something about whales. Here’s what I cranked out:

Luna White stood outside Alabaster Books thinking about whether or not she should go in. The glass door opened and a breeze of cool air carried the dusty book smell out to her. She caught sight of herself in the window. Fingerprints smudged where her eyes should be. She took a breath and went in against her better judgment.

I really shouldn’t buy another–T.H WHITE! She stopped her thought as she studied the hold hardback.

Book of Merlyn, first printing. Found it hiding between a set of glassware up in New Paltz.” Luna turned to see a girl standing behind her wearing a nametag upside down. Her hair was asymmetrical and so were her clothes.

“What’s your name?” Luna asked, squinting to read the upside down letters.

“Oh,” the girl looked down and adjusted her nametag so the upright letters read Luna.

I had only five minutes and half an idea what to do, give me a break. Some of the writers read aloud, getting feedback from Green and Levithan (both apparently love the Starbucks references). There was a broad range of writers, from younger teens to older ones, from boys to girls. From talented writers to, well, not so much. It was still a great chance to see how different our five minute scenes came out. We all had a different way to see the scene and different ways for characters to react.

After the project concluded, the Q&A with the audience began. Green and Levithan revealed that some characters weren’t exactly based on actual people but actual friendships. The punctuation of the novel was a very big thing for me to find out about. It was so peculiar to me that there would be no capitalization at all, nor would there be conventional dialogue punctuation. Levithan explained it as a way to delineate the character from reality. His life was an internet chat, he wished so much that real life conversations would take on the same sense of IMs, blurring the lines of conversation. It showed innovation to think of punctuation in that way. As writers and as students we are trained to use punctuation very strictly, to see it all fall away in a novel does very interesting things with the way the reader views not only the events, but the narrator relaying these events.

As always, someone asks for advice on behalf of young writers everywhere. “Give yourself permission to [mess] up.” Levithan (kind of) said. He and Green continued to tell the audience that it was about writing for the sake of writing, not for the sake of being published. It wasn’t about having a product that people can buy off the shelf, but having a product for yourself to call completed and be proud of.

Questioning hit the usual bases; what books inspired you to write? (Catcher in the Rye for Green, because the vividness of pain was more real than anyone he actually knew, and Dinner at Homesick Restaurant for Levithan, because it helped him to see the use of magical realism and the meaning in everyday life). How did you handle writing each other’s characters? (quite simply, they trusted each other).

Levithan & GreenAfter the questioning ended, it was time to let the magic of the intimate Symphony Space end. We came togther to see into the minds of men that opened their hearts to us through their novel. When the lights came up, they left the stage with our applause ushering them out. We were escorted out into the broad sunshine. A new line formed so that we could wait ever so patiently to have our sacred tomes signed by our heroes. My handsome sidekick was so impressed with John Green in all his geeky glory, he immediately purchased Paper Towns so he could better experience what Green is all about. I was just as excited because now I can just borrow it from him. Waiting in line, we were harassed with post-it notes with our names scrawled on them, where to put them, how to fold in the flaps of our book jackets, and so on. It was all worth it for finally getting up to that table and being able to tell these amazing guys how much of an influence they are.

Find out more about John Green’s vlog by clicking here. As for David Levithan, click here for his web site. Their books are available at all major booksellers (Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon).

Happy Reading!

EDIT: Skinny-With-Glasses exists! His name is Martin and his blog is here. He’s rather witty and nerdy all at once. His movie reviews are pretty enticing.