Last week, I had a whirlwind few days in New York City at BookExpo America. I hadn’t ever been to BEA before, and it was a really great experience.
I took an afternoon flight out of Salt Lake City on Tuesday, and got into NYC close to midnight. My publicist, Lauren, had arranged for a car to pick me up, which was really nice of her. My driver was a pretty cool guy. The company he works for does a lot of driving for Scholastic, and he actually once drove J. K Rowling. (I wondered if she had by chance had an owl with her, and if her presence in the back seat had bestowed on his car the ability to fly.)
We’d just barely left the airport when I received a call from Lauren. There had been a problem with my hotel reservation, but she’d sorted it out and booked me into a different, nicer place. Now, this is what’s amazing about my publicist. She was up at midnight, double and triple-checking my hotel reservation, fixing my reservation, making sure I was okay and generally taking care of anything that needed taking care of. I’ve enjoyed working with her and getting to know her better, and she’s great at what she does. So thanks, Lauren.
I pretty much crashed right away that night, and Wednesday morning my editor, Lisa Sandell, took me out for breakfast. It was really nice to see her again, and afterward we went to the Javits Center and did some walking around the BEA floor. Many publishers were handing out tote bags emblazoned with the covers of their forthcoming titles. In an act of sheer optimism, I took each and every bag that was offered with the expectation that I would fill them up with buzzed and coveted ARCs. But for most of the time, there weren’t any ARCs to be had. And I was just a dude walking around with a bunch of empty bags. People actually commented (“So, you like bags?”) and I just had to say, “Um. Yeah.”
One half of the Scholastic booth, borrowed from Scholastic's BEA Flickr stream
But I did pick up quite a few ARCs from the Scholastic booth, most of them both coveted and buzzed. And I got to meet several fabulous and enthusiastic Scholastic sales reps, including Roz (who I’d met in California last year), Nikki and her husband, Bryan (who I believe are currently experiencing the joys and little messes of a new puppy), and Sue.
That afternoon, Lisa took the stage for the Middle Grade Editor’s Buzz Forum (Publishers Weekly did a write-up on the event here, and despite what it says, from where I was sitting, and judging by all the people who didn’t have chairs, it was standing-room-only.)
Lisa is the third person from the left. And there's a glimpse of the cover of Icefall, too.
Lisa did a wonderful job, if I might brag about her for a moment. She was articulate, and eloquent, and funny, and putting aside the fact that she was talking about my book, I was proud to say, “She’s my editor.” (Thanks to my friend, Joanna Volpe, for the photo.)
Then I had a signing, and the turn-out was great. We actually went over-time, and they had to close the line and turn people away, which I felt a little bad about. But it was exciting to meet so many book-lovers and fans.
After the signing I went for an early dinner with Lisa and David Levithan. Over the course of our conversation, I was able to determine that David does, in fact, sleep. Given his astounding productivity, it was an open question prior to meeting him. Though, I still don’t know how much he sleeps. But we had a really nice time, and I only put my foot in my mouth once during the meal. Figuratively, not literally.
Following dinner, I went back to my hotel room and crashed pretty early. BEA is draining.
The next morning, Thursday, I returned to the Javits Center for my author panel with Lisa McMann (The Unwanteds) and N.D. Wilson (The Dragon’s Tooth). Ron Hogan, SF reviewer for Shelf Awareness, did a really great job moderating. He asked some good questions, and my fellow panelists had interesting and thought-provoking answers. The experience was a lot of fun.
Lisa McMann, me, N.D. Wilson, and Ron Hogan; Photo credit: Shelf Awareness
That same day I had a one of those crazy, out-of-the-blue moments that you never see coming. I was at the Scholastic booth talking with Lauren about a bunch of cool books coming out, when I looked up and saw Kevin Sorbo walking by. Yes, Hercules, himself.
Mr. Sorbo was at BEA promoting a new inspirational memoir he’s written about his life and his experience with a severe illness.
Now, I was a fan of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. It was something of a guilty pleasure, and considering that it was one of the most popular shows in the world at the time, I think it was a lot of people’s guilty pleasure.
So when I saw Kevin Sorbo, I took the opportunity to talk with him. When he asked what I’d written, I pointed at Icefall and said, “It’s a Viking novel.”
He looked at me and said, “I’m 100% Norwegian.”
“My book takes place in ancient Norway,” I said.
“What age is it written for?” he asked.
“Ages 8 to 12,” I said.
“My 9-year-old is an avid reader,” he said.
At which point, Lauren came over with a book and asked if Mr. Sorbo would like me to sign it for his son. Which he did. So I did.
Another surreal publishing moment, that was. Back when I was watching Hercules on TV, I never would have imagined that one day I’d be signing a book for Kevin Sorbo’s son. I have to say, these surreal moments are sure a lot of fun.
Later that afternoon, I got to have lunch with Lisa and my agent, Stephen Fraser. Steve is always such a gentleman – he brought a flower for Lisa – and we had a very nice time. We talked about some future projects, some challenges I’d like to take on next, book-wise. I feel so supported and encouraged with these two in my corner.
After lunch, Lisa and I went to the recording studio to meet with Paul Gagne and Cheryl Smith, who are working on the audiobook for Icefall. I’d hoped to also get a chance to meet the actress reading the book, but she’d had a schedule change and had already finished and gone back home. But I was able to sit down and record some bonus material for the audiobook that included a reading from the Poetic Edda. The funny thing is, even though I’d used all kinds of Nordic names and words while writing Icefall, I had no idea how to actually pronounce any of them. But thanks to help from Professor Sandra Straubhaar, and a last minute phone call with Jessica Day George, I was able to muddle through.
Following the recording, I went for one last delicious dinner with Lisa. We went to Ed’s Chowder House, and part-way through the meal Lisa’s husband, Liel, was able to join us. Good company and good food, and it was sad to say goodbye at the end. They’ve both become great friends.
I got into a cab. It was late, and I was tired, and I had planned on calling it a night, but during the cab ride I realized that the Kidlit Drink Night was at a place just a few blocks from my hotel. So I decided to stop in, and I’m glad I did because it gave me the chance to catch up with my friend, Kate Milford.
After that, I really did call it a night. Got up early the next morning and went to the airport, only to discover that my plane was delayed. But James Dashner and I were on the same flight, so we chatted for a bit prior to boarding (his BEA report is here, if you’re interested). I took my seat, which as it turned out was about as close to First Class as a passenger can get without actually being in First Class. In fact, if I stretched out my legs, which I was blessedly able to do, my feet were in first class. So while the rest of me was cramped and uncomfortable, my feet rode in luxury.
And now I’m home, and the school year just ended today, and I’m ready to dig in and write a book.
Thanks to all the great folks at Scholastic who took such good care of me, and helped make my first BEA such a great experience.