Teens Take on BEA

book con logoLast Saturday, members of my library’s Teen Advisory Group (TAG) joined me at Book Con, the public side of Book Expo America (BEA) in New York. It was… quite an experience.

BEA is the USA’s premiere book publishing conference. It is where publishers and authors, book sellers and librarians connect. Last spring, some of the teens in TAG joined me as we wandered about the exhibit aisles of the 2013 BEA, talking to publishers, meeting authors, and sometimes getting free books.  It was a tremendously exciting outing for the teens. We met R.L. Stine, Scott Westerfeld, Raina Telgemeier, and Brandon Mull. The teens were also excited to meet authors they loved when they were small, such as Jan Brett and Patricia Polacco. The publishers marketing representatives were wonderful to the teens. They offered them Advanced Reading Copies of hot new titles, and asked the teens questions about what they enjoyed reading and what they looked for in books and book covers. The teens felt that their opinions were being heard and taken seriously; they loved getting sneak peeks at books that their friends wouldn’t being seeing until the fall; and they were beyond excited to meet authors in the flesh – they treated R.L. Stine like a rock star.

Our group selfie at Book Con 2014
Our group selfie at Book Con 2014

This year, BEA opened up their convention to the public on Saturday, called it Book Con, and rather underestimated how popular it would be. They sold 10,000 tickets to Book Con. Since the public would be at the convention at the same time as the businesses (publishers and authors and booksellers), the people attending Book Con were confined to one small part of the convention center. This made for chaotic but cheerful crowds. My teens and I were able to visit Hachette’s booth and get advanced reading copies of Printz Award winning author Paolo Bacigalupi’s new book, The Doubt Factory.

They met Timmy Failure author Stephan Pastis. They stood in line for a photo op with Grumpy Cat, and tried to meet actor Cary Elwes (who just wrote a book about his time making The Princess Bride movie) but the line was so long, they threw in the towel.

Several of my teens heard Veronica Roth in conversation with Alex London. They found the Divergent author to be “really interesting” and “so young!” When they couldn’t get autographing tickets for Cassandra Clare, they consoled themselves by watching her on a panel with Holly Black and Maggie Stiefvater. Several of my teens were wearing T-shirts bearing the words “Okay? Okay.” from The Fault in Our Stars, and they found themselves to be among hundred of teens wearing the same shirt. They found themselves near Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee, but not actually at his panel (he walked past them).

The teens sent me text messages throughout the day showing that they were keeping their senses of humor and having fun:

It’s a blast! So many cool books!

They have people guarding the BEA show floor like sentries.

We are getting swallowed up by the crowd!

But despite the astonishing crowds, the TAG folks had a good time. They loved seeing “behind the scenes” of the publishing business, talking to the marketing people, getting lots of swag (like key chains, flashlights, and Grumpy Cat masks), and soaking up the excitement that was just buzzing throughout the convention center. Where else can you go to find 10,000 people all super excited about reading? It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, and the TAG and I are already planning on how to better conquer it next year

~Geri Diorio, currently reading The Quick by Lauren Owen