June 10, 2012 by Heidi
As you know, I spent this last week braving the hustle and bustle of BEA. Essentially, BEA is a venue where hundreds of introverted bibliophiles with high anxiety are shoved into a comparatively small space to rub shoulders and attempt not to have panic attacks when they see their favorite authors, bloggers, and books, and attempt to withhold a modicum of dignity while fangirling all over them. At least that was my experience. But as we all know, I am extremely awkward and anxious in crowds. Did I succeed? The world may never know, but I’m pretty happy with the whole experience, fool or no.
This being my first BEA, I was of course overwhelmed by the seemingly endless possibilities to occupy my time, while simultaneously not knowing what to do with myself. I entered upon opening Tuesday morning to witness insanity. There seemed to be a veritable mob at the Disney-Hyperion booth (I came back about 20 minutes later an got everything other than False Memory without having to bite or even shove anyone), tote bags were instantly full, and within 5 minutes people had grabbed more books than I brought home all week. I’ll say this, my eyes grew three sizes that day.
Tuesday also marked the day of me being a complete wimp that was too afraid to walk up and say hi to people I recognized. Like Anna (Anna Reads) who I stood directly behind for at least 10 minutes in line. After bucking up that evening, I never saw her again. But that’s okay, because I did still meet people! Anna from The Book Smugglers recognized me (see, I knew that post would do me some good) and came and said hi, which pretty much had me stammering. I don’t often fangirl about other bloggers, I just tell them strait up if I think they’re awesome, but Ana and Thea are honestly my blogging heroes. They were the first book blog I ever read long before I started blogging myself, and I still read it every day. I respect their writing, professionalism, and relationships with the community so much, it never occurred to me that they might know who I am. Not only that, I got to meet Thea as well, and they are both so incredibly friendly, open, and wonderful I’m no longer too intimidated to talk to them!
Now that I’ve proceeded to fangirl a bit more on my blog (I really am shameless), let me assure you that they were not the only wonderful bloggers I got to meet. I was so excited to meet and spend a little time with Angie (Angieville), Holly (Book Harbinger), Janice (Janicu’s Book Blog), Kristen (Fantasy Cafe), April and Allison (Good Books and Good Wine), Amy (Tripping Over Books), and Tarra (Hobbitsies). I really wish that I’d gotten to spend more time with all of these lovely ladies, and it felt like somewhat of a comedy of errors trying to track most of them down. Janice and I stood in at least three of the same lines on Tuesday and Wednesday before finally connecting at Orbit (we particularly needed to meet as we share a friend irl, and not knowing one another seemed silly). Holly, Angie, and I stared at each other dumbly not believing that the Katherine Marsh line was so short before I was like ‘oh hey, it’s you guys!’. I was so glad I got to talk to them a bit more on Thursday before heading out!
Of course, the best part was getting to spend each day hanging out with my bookish soulmate and friend, Alyssa from Books Take You Places. Alyssa and I went to grad school together, but as we only took online classes together, this was our first chance to actually meet in real life! This girl is awesome, and it was like we’d known each other for years and were pretty much meant to be friends.
And what would BEA be without the B? Well…a conference with very little direction I would imagine, but let’s talk about the books, or really, the authors! I’ve only ever met one big name author before. I was pretty much the boss of Young Authors in Wyoming (a yearly short-story writing competition for school-aged kids), and one year at state Avi was there. So I can slap you with a signed copy of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, but that’s about as far as my author-Heidi contact had gone. I was even more nervous to meet authors than other bloggers. Authors to me have always been kind of ephemeral. They’re these untouchable beings that are out there somewhere in the mists creating things I love, but surely they don’t exist in corporeal form here in the real world.
My perspective on authors has, of course, been changing somewhat since I started blogging. I’ve had contact with various authors via e-mail and Twitter, and I still get the vapors every time an author acknowledges my existence. I’m happy to report that every single author I spent even a small amount of time with at BEA was wonderful. Every one was friendly, genuinely excited to be there meeting fans, and grateful for our enthusiasm. My most pleasant, fun, and genuine interactions were with Cat Valente, Maureen Johnson, and Victoria Schwab. I can honestly admit I was bowled over by Cat Valente as she was the first author I really spoke to at BEA. I had it in my head that because her writing is so incredibly intelligent and literary and, well, marvelous, that finding anything to say to her would be an unattainable goal. That wasn’t the case whatsoever! She was so pretty and open and friendly, I came away stunned at how easy it was to talk to her. It certainly set a good precedent for the week!
I realize that this has been a bit long, and mostly involved fangirling about all of the wonderful people I had the opportunity to meet this week. I hope it doesn’t come across as braggy, I’m really just excited, so I hope you’ll forgive me. I was so overwhelmed and caught up, I didn’t make it to any special panels or events, but I’m already resolved to next year! I’d love to attend the children’s author breakfast in particular. I’m also thoroughly resolved, now that I know I can talk to bloggers and authors because they are real people, that I will head into the city for more events, such as those at NYPL or Book of Wonders. Turns out it’s not so scary after all!