Thoughts From Places: BookCon 2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

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Sunday, May 31st 2015. Javits Center, NYC

I found out about BookCon when Maureen Johnson tweeted that she would be signing on the second day of the convention. There was no way I was going to miss meeting my hero. About an hour later I had bought an Adult Sunday badge and a Megabus ticket to NYC.

I got on the Megabus Saturday night at 10pm and got to NYC at 8am (an hour late because a couple people got off in Syracuse when they weren’t supposed to and we had to go back for them. Lesson learned). Doors to the Queue Hall of Javits Center opened at 8am. I got there at about 8:30, was handed a lanyard and an Epic Reads tote bag, then went straight to the WORD bookstore to buy a copy of Royal Wedding and From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess for Meg Cabot to sign later (her signing required purchase at the store), and then into the Show Floor line that was already at least 150 people deep. BookCon started at 10am and when those doors opened there was a flood of people streaming in for a day of books and fun.

I started my day at BookCon with the First in Line Red Carpet Event & Author Breakfast held by Penguin Random House. After waiting in a very long line for 45 minutes that was relocated several times and wrapped around various booths and through lots of different doors, I made it to the red carpet. My hand was stamped and I was allowed into the curtained off area. I was immediately handed a tote bag and a silver sharpie. The bag said “I read ____ before you” wherein we were asked to fill in the blank using the sharpie. I wrote 13 Little Blue Envelopes. Next I was given a copy of All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. I then met both of those authors! I also received a copy of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars and an ARC of Illuminae. While I am grateful to Penguin for holding this event, the whole time I couldn’t help but feeling like I was being herded through it as if I was cattle. I think it was poorly organized. The idea was that this event would last from 10-11:30am and that the first 500 people in line would be let in. I was probably about 200th or so in line and at 10:30 a man came around saying that the chances of people that far back in the line meeting any author was slim. How they expected to have 500 people go through this event in an hour and a half, when they didn’t actually start letting people in until about 10:15 is beyond me. I got in at 10:45 and E. Lockhart had already left (which was sad for me because she was the reason I went to the event at all). However, it was a unique idea and perhaps next year they will improve it.

My BookCon haul

The next event I was planning to attend, Sarah J. Maas’s signing was already full, so I wandered around the show floor for a little while. It was here that the size of the Con was fully drilled into my head. On a piece of paper I had written the booth numbers of the publishers that I definitely didn’t want to miss. 18 booths in total and barely any of them were close together. If I ever go to another BookCon or anything involving booths I’m writing my notes in order of booth number instead of alphabetically. I searched out about half of them, then accidentally stumbled upon a couple others. It was during this aimless wandering that I was able to get advanced copies of The Diary of a Mad Brownie by Bruce Coville and Another Day by David Levithan. I was handed a copy of Outlander by some random person and I somehow was able to snag a Shadowhunters poster and tote bag. At about 11:30 though I went back to Penguin Random House’s booth to get in line for the MAIN EVENT A.K.A. MAUREEN JOHNSON’S SIGNING!!

Set the scene: I am so excited I may jump out of my own skin. I am sitting in the line, flipping through my worn and annotated copy of 13 Little Blue Envelopes. This is the book that inspired me to travel, that is one of the few books that I think changed my life, and the book that I take on every trip. I come across a passage in the book that describes the main character, Ginny’s backpack as a huge and green. I look down at my own backpack that fits that exact description and I start to laugh hysterically. I am about 10 minutes away from meeting my hero and I’m losing it. The line starts moving and I am bouncing up and down trying to get a glimpse of Maureen Johnson. Then I see her and all thought leaves my head for about 10 seconds. Then, like a tidal wave hitting the shore, a series of basic thoughts, such as “Oh” and “Whoa” and “MAUREEN JOHNSON!” enter my head.

Me and Maureen Johnson
When it was my turn the first thing Maureen did was STARE at me and my shirt, which was a picture of Maureen staring above the word STARE (which you can buy here). I handed her my book, she opened it to the title page, and shook her head when she saw what Hank Green had done to it last month (he crossed out her name, wrote his own, then hanklerfished it). I told her that I had spent last night on a bus from Buffalo so that I could meet her. I tweeted that to her a couple weeks ago and she responded. She remembered that tweet! She thanked me for coming all that way and asked if we had good chicken wings. However, before I could answer she was noticed something. As we were talking she had been flipping through my book and saw the writing, coloring, and photos. She was astounded and I guess pleased. She asked if she could take a picture of it! She took a picture of the page that I pasted a print out of The Bar at the Folies-Bergere by Manet on, a very important painting to the plot of the book. The girl who was standing behind me agreed to take our picture together and then I went to leave, but Maureen was still talking to me about my copy of her book. I felt a little bad because I didn’t want to hog her time. I think she realized this too and she thanked me again and I thanked her, then left.

I walked away from the table, took out my phone, noticed that the hand holding it was shaking rather violently, dialed my mom, and started to cry. I could not believe what had just happened. I still cannot believe that I finally met Maureen Johnson and that she kind of knew who I was. I wandered around in a bit of a daze for a little while after that encounter. At one point I saw James Patterson walking around the show floor and barely noticed. I decided to make my way down to the Queue Hall to get in line for Meg Cabot’s signing, even though it didn’t start for another hour and a half. After what happened with the Maas signing I didn’t want to miss it. Besides, after meeting Maureen I needed to sit down and reflect a little bit.

Me and Meg Cabot
Meeting Meg Cabot was another dream of mine. I credit Meg as being the author who got me into Young Adult Literature with her Princess Diaries series and into book blogging when I won an advance copy of Abandon (when I met her I told her the former. She said “I love to hear that! Thanks!”).  I thought it was appropriate that the book she signed was the first adult book of the series Royal Wedding since I am now an adult like Princess Mia. The crown I am wearing in the photo was given to me by one of her helpers. Almost everyone in the line was wearing a cardboard crown very proudly.

After meeting Meg Cabot I took to wandering again. However, this time I had a goal in mind. I was going to try to find Maureen Johnson and talk to her again. I failed, but I did score an ARC of Libba Bray’s Lair of Dreams, as well as the first volume of The Golden Compass graphic novel. I also at one point thought I was going crazy when I hear the Sloth from Ice Age talking. Turns out John Leguizamo was doing a panel at the time and I am not crazy (which is always a relief to realize). I went to the Lithograph booth and got a temporary tattoo of a line from Cinderella put on my arm. Throughout the two days of BookCon the story of Cinderella was basically walking around on the arms of everyone who visited the booth. I also went on the hunt for as many free bookmarks as I could possibly find to add to my ever growing collection (I got 25 in total). By that time I was becoming truly exhausted so I went to get into the line for Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York.

Brandon Stanton
I was really looking forward to this panel because I had missed out on his signing earlier in the day. I love HONY and one day I hope to do something similar in Buffalo, but I didn’t go for tips on how to do my own thing I just wanted to see the man behind such a powerful and humbling project. I didn’t know what to expect of him, but it wasn’t what I eventually saw. He looked comfortable on stage, but also a tad shy. He was extremely friendly and eager to answer questions. I am so glad I got the chance to see him speak. If you haven’t checked out Humans of New York you really should.

Overall, my experience at BookCon was as amazing as it was utterly exhausting. I was also sore for a couple days after due to all the books I was lugging around! BookCon 2016 is being held in Chicago, I hope many of my readers will get the chance to go!