I'd never attended a 'con' before although I've always wanted to - and may still yet - attend ComicCon. The other times I've been to BEA and its related events, I've gone from somewhat of an insider's perspective. I'm an writer, with one book out so far (Back Kicks And Broken Promises), and I've gone to BEA attend workshops, network, and to learn about the business. This year, however, my schedule didn't allow me to take the three days off from my day job to attend BEA in earnest so I decided to go as a fan and attend BookCon. After all, what lover of words and book wouldn't want to? And, who knows? One day I might be on the other side, signing autographs or speaking as part of a panel, so I might as well make sure I know how my readers might feel. Ha ha!
Well, a few days post event, I have to say it was well worth it. It was crowded, there were long lines (I didn't get into the chat between Alex London (Proxy, Guardian) and Veronica Roth (The Divergent series) but I did get to attend the Stan Lee (Marvel Comics, Zodiac) interview and the dystopian panel with Veronica Roth, Marie Lu (The Legend series), Danielle Paige (Dorothy Must Die) and Alaya Dawn Johnson (The Summer Prince). From both sessions, I walked away with free teasers - a galley sample of Lu's upcoming The Young Elites and a teaser booklet of Roth's Four series and a signed galley sample of Lee's upcoming novel, Zodiac.
In addition to these two fan-targeted sessions, I also attended a couple of less fan and, perhaps, more industry-type sessions. The first one I went to was a discussion with an esteemed panel of authors that included two of my favourites, Matt de la Peña (The Living, Mexican WhiteBoy), who I refer to as 'my mentor' after having taken three workshops with him and for his major influence in guiding my hand as I wrote Back Kicks, and Grace Lin (Dumpling Days). It was called We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a campaign spearheaded by Asian American author Ellen Oh (Warrior, Prophecy). In a nutshell, the panel discussed the need and ways to get books written, published and distributed to our youth of colour with story lines and protagonists that better represent them and that allow other (read: not of colour) children - and adults - to learn about and understand the other side of the ethnic colour spectrum. As an Asian American author, I was naturally pulled to this panel. And, I am fully behind Oh's campaign and will do whatever I can to support it. I do believe WNDB is planning its first event in Washington, DC for 2016.
The second non-fan centred panel I attended was a discussion with two publishers who specialise in putting out books for minority readers - Cinco Puntos and Just Us Books. Both publishers seem to specialise in books for Hispanic and African American readers but I'm sure, with a good story, they'd consider books by and for other ethnic groups. What was interesting to learn at this session, though, was that more than half the books by and about minorities come from indie or small presses like Cinco Puntos and Just Us. It's about time the big houses get on the diversity train. Lee And Low is another publisher focusing on diverse books, particularly for children, and its imprint Tu Books focuses on science fiction and fantasy.
In addition to the above panels, I roamed the show floor and picked up some galleys. Partly because I was green in how things worked, but also because I didn't want to pick things up indiscriminately (which part of me regrets), I didn't get some of the free totes and other swag and books the hordes of fellow attendees got. Next time, I'm going to have to be more aggressive and barge my way through. I've never done a Black Friday 2am shopping spree but the way the crowds stormed in I can imagine it's very similar. Of the books on hand, and one of the freebies I regret missing, the one that seemed to be the most pushed (I base this on seeing placards and posters for it just about everywhere I turned) was E. Lockhart's We Were Liars. Next time, the instant I feel an inkling for a book, for whatever reason, I'll snap it up or queue up and bring it home.
So, will I go again? Yeah, if I'm not attending BEA proper or off in another city doing a book signing of my own books, Back Kicks or the one I'm finishing writing now. Hmm. Haha. For those of you who were there - and of the masses who were there the majority appeared to be women and girls ranging from about 12 to 40 - I hope you had as much fun as I did.