Book Expo America is an exciting and exhausting experience. It’s an event where professional development and fandom intersect. You get a chance to learn about upcoming titles for your collection, hear creators talk about their craft, network with other professionals, and tell your favorite authors how much you love their books.
I began my whirlwind Wednesday at BEA at the Children’s Book and Author Breakfast, where authors Walter Dean Myers, Chris Colfer, John Green, Lois Lowry, and Kadir Nelson gave insight into the process of authorship and spoke about why books and reading are so important to the human experience. It was a big room with a full audience, and I think every one of us felt like the authors were speaking to us each personally. I won’t dwell too much on the breakfast as its funny and moving details were already covered by Jessica Miller in her earlier post, but it kicked off the day with a sense of community. The people who attend BEA are book people, a familiar and welcoming tribe.
Afterwards I went to wait in line for John Green, who was signing copies of The Fault in Our Stars in the autographing area. I am intimidated by my admiration for John Green–I have possibly read Paper Towns upwards of five times–but even when you’re in the grips of fandom, authors are kind. I got to thank him for the work that he does, and, seeing that I was a librarian, he thanked me for the work that I do.
The next author I sought out was Jonathan Maberry, whose series about zombie apocalypse survivor Benny Imura is a favorite among my library’s teens. Maberry had a big smile and a Hawaiian shirt that were simultaneously incongruous and totally appropriate for a horror writer. He signed a book for one of my teens and we chatted for a minute about the series. He gave out his card to everyone who came to see him and said he would be happy to do a Skype visit for my library sometime. I am absolutely going to take him up on this, probably at some point in the fall after the next of Benny’s adventures, Flesh & Bone, comes out in September.
After getting autographs, I headed over to the Downtown Stage, an area set up in one corner where authors give short interviews promoting their books, to attend a panel on Middle Grade Comics. Noah Van Sciver, Raina Telgemeier, Mark Siegel, and Zack Giallongo discussed their upcoming releases and a bit about the work process of the comic creator. I enjoyed their organic descriptions of feeling out how the panels fill the page and how they make decisions about color vs. black and white in their comics. Black and white is atmospheric. Color is expensive, but it really draws in the younger audience. You can read more about this panel and see pictures at The Daily Hey Now. Look for The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln from Van Sciver, Drama from Telgemeier, Sailor Twain from Siegel, and Broxo from Giallongo, this fall.
I ran into Zack Giallongo again later. It turns out that Braden Lamb, who did the coloring on Broxo, is the brother of one of my college friends, so I had that as a reason to say hello. We ended up discussing appropriateness in middle grade comics right there in the carpeted thoroughfare. He talked a bit more about the collaborative process of working with a publisher. There’s a lot of violence easily permitted in the realm of middle grade, but when it comes to any kind of nudity, even suggested nudity in a bathing scene, things are a bit more strict. What I found interesting was that according to Giallongo, his editor never said, “You can’t show that,” about a naked silhouetted Broxo leaping into a lake; instead Giallongo was told “If you show this you’ll sell X copies, if you don’t you’ll sell Y copies,” with Y being the bigger number. I was interested in the thought that authors collaborate with editors and publishers to determine which conversations are the ones they want parents and kids having about their books. Sometimes an image is important to the telling, sometimes it would serve only to keep a book away from readers.
Towards the end of the day, Holly Black was signing paperback copies of Welcome to Bordertown with Ellen Kushner, tucked in the back of the exhibit hall at the Science Fiction Writers of America table. Having heard about this late addition to the day’s events on Twitter, I was there early and greeted by Sarah Beth Durst. Her new book, Vessel, set in an intriguing desert landscape, comes out in September. I complimented Black on her Curse Workers trilogy and heard from Kushner that some of the old out-of-print Bordertown collections that inspired the current one will be in print again soon.
Finally, I wandered back by the autograph area to get signatures and books from Rachel Cohn, whose new book, Beta, begins a dystopian series about teen clones, and Julie Kagawa, who brings us a fresh vampire concept in The Immortal Rules.
By that point my bag was getting pretty full, and it was time to catch the bus back to Massachusetts. I left the exhibit hall feeling satisfied with my pile of books, excited about a fall full of intriguing releases, and fortified by spending time with the community of book people.
— Erin Daly, currently reading the ARC of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, which the folks at the Scholastic booth were kind enough to give her even though she missed the author’s appearance