BEA was crawling with authors, and they were gracious toward us mortals.
It was fantastic.
At BEA, there are 3 types of author experiences:
Observation: Listening to author interviews & panel discussions
Interaction (organized): Book signings
Interaction (random): Encountering an author in the wild
The first two are super common. The third happens through pure serendipity.
Dude, I got the trifecta.
Here’s how it went down…
Author panel: Women of Fiction (Robyn Carr, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Gayle Forman)
I’m completely convinced that the best way to experience BEA is to become some amazing person’s wingman. I got to hang out with Katie of Words for Worms
(that lady knows the books) and Marisa of The Daily Dosage
(that lady knows the publishers)*, and one of them had this event on her radar.
So Robyn Carr and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are my two favorite romance authors. Actually, they might be the only romance writers I really read. Anyway, they had the Big Names on this panel.
And of course, they were warm and witty and altogether lovely. And Robyn Carr gave one of the finest definitions I’ve heard of the difference between women’s fiction and romance:
Romance is about finding perfect love. Women’s fiction is about a woman finding herself.
I really like that.
And then Robyn Carr signed books and talked with us, and I’m pretty sure I overshared.
Here’s me and Robyn Carr. (I’m the overexcited nutjob. Anyone else think she looks scared? I have that effect.)
Author interview: Amor Towles
Sometimes, when authors are interviewed, they tell secrets.
Such as this: In his new book A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles completely invented the scene in which the electrical grid is powered up in segments throughout the city. (I totally can’t wait to read this book, and only partly because it takes place in a luxury hotel. But mostly because Rules of Civility rocked my world.)
This can be scary, my friends.
Authors. I know they’re people just like us, but seriously: scary.
I tend to either be dumbstruck or I ramble. There’s never any normal.
So, thank you, authors of BEA 2016, for your kind forbearance.
My favorite book signing experience was when Jane Hamilton — such a gracious and lovely human! — signed a copy of The Excellent Lombards. I adore her books, and I like her every bit as much. Since she is a remarkably nice person, we had a normal human conversation (though it lasted too long for her assistant, who started hustling the line along. Sorry, Katie! I’m still feeling bad about that.) Years ago, Jane Hamilton had spoken at the library where I worked, and we were reminiscing, I was gushing, it was maybe a little weird on my part.
Encountering an author in the wild
So here we’ve got the wild card: the random author encounter in an unexpected place.
And it happened only because I am the world’s worst navigator. (On Day 1 of BEA, anyone else get on a bus heading in the wrong direction, resulting in a 70-minute detour? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Not to brag or anything, but I’m seriously talented at getting myself lost.)
So heading home, heavy laden with books, I was concerned that I was gonna repeat that snafu.
I was meandering around in search of the bus stop, when a man asked if I needed some help.
We ended up walking to the El station, which was nearer than I’d realized. I asked him what brought him to BEA, and he said he was a journalist.
We talked books.
Then he said something that made me realize he was also an author, and I asked his name.
I had been directionally rescued by a bestselling, award-winning mystery author.
I did a mild freak-out, then calmed down and requested photographic evidence of this episode (because that’s normal behavior; see “authors freak me out,” above).
He was most kind.
So here’s what we all can learn from this experience:
At BEA, not only are there authors all over the exhibit floor, but they’re also unleashed on the wider world to wander at will. You May Encounter Them In The Wild.
Charles Finch: not only an excellent writer, but also a thoroughly nice human being
The random author encounter: pure serendipity
So I know when we think of BEA, we think: books.
But I gotta say: it’s all about the people.
The book bloggers who are now friends in real life, the librarians who swapped stories and tips, the authors who withstood the onslaught of our nervous admiration, and back again to the bloggers and librarians who understand exactly what we mean when we say, “I met [famous author person] and it was amazing, even though I made a complete fool of myself. I think I’m gonna go hide somewhere now.”
We’re right there with ya.
*and also Julie of JulzReads, but I think she was off on one of her marathon autographing sprees that made us all marvel