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BEA Survival Guide
Angst from the 08 Book Expo
Jun 12, 2008
June 10, 2008
Ah Los Angeles, you have a downtown blanketed in Detour and Road-closed signs. You have fabulous, inexpensive late-evening Japanese noodle joints, and commuter lanes that mysteriously and capriciously segregate from the other lanes, leaving you terrified you’ll never reach the exit ramp across eleventy-seven lanes of roaring traffic. Most importantly, you have the honor of hosting this year’s annual Book Expo America (BEA to those in the know).
I have just returned from pimping my new book, Potluck Survival Guide: Care and Feeding of the Athletic Supporter at BEA. Daughter Emily expertly aided and abetted me in this shameless activity. We arrived with suitcases full of black clothes and left with enough FREE BOOKS! to warrant extra luggage and a trip to the chiropractor.
BEA is the mother lode for book-lovers, the Pagoda of Many Delights. It filled two enormous convention halls with book people of every stripe: publishers, writers, printers, distributors – any one remotely involved with the production of books. Many of these lovely people brought FREE BOOKS! they gave away to anyone willing to lug them around. And if they weren’t giving away FREE BOOKS!, they had cool book bags they were handing out like water to the parched. Other loot included t-shirts, cupcakes, wine and beer with a delightful wedge of cheese, aprons, wine cozies, aprons, advance chapters of books, and did I mention FREE BOOKS! ? Emily and I vowed we would be sensible in our collection of FREE BOOKS!, but those good intentions lasted approximately 37 minutes. Actually, that is not true. It was more like 12 minutes. We looked like pack mules by the end of the day.
In addition to FREE BOOKS!, BEA had a galaxy of stars for the gazing – everyone from TV personalities to political commentators. We saw Barbara Walters signing hundreds of her best-seller. She was tiny, vibrant, dressed in white and looking really terrific (i.e. well-preserved). I was prevented from taking a cell phone picture of her by the polite but determined assistants stalking the area around her signing booth.
Among the other stars signing and schmoozing were William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ty Pennington, Dr. Ruth (really really short - close to being a midget without actually being a midget), Carmindy, Victoria Rowell, and my personal favorite, Dave Barry. Ray Bradbury was a no-show.
The day I had my book signing, I shared the hour and a nearby table with Salman Rushdie and his bodyguards, who outdid Barbara’s assistants in the diligence department. (Is it not strange that this man, marked and hunted by his enemies, has a last name that breaks down into “rush” and “die”?) Never in my wildest fantasies of signing books for adoring fans would I dream of sharing space with such a luminary. It is indeed a strange world we live in. But then again, it was LA.
BEA could have/should have been sponsored by Starbucks and Comfort Shoes, Inc. Half our time was spent standing in long, snaking lines of desperate people needing a non-fat latte (double shot, please), and the other half was spent hoofing it between the two giant halls. The passageways between the two halls were so long they actually had a massage station set up halfway through (where I witnessed one guy stretched out on a table while another guy walked on his back. I thought I was a little stressed; clearly, I was outranked.) We trudged that trail of tears between the two halls repeatedly, and the distance increased in proportion to the soreness of my feet trapped in “cute” shoes. I wished for a pair of roller skates in basic black.
My first of several memorable moments at BEA was seeing my book in print for the first time. The stress of weeks of tedious proofing and rushing around with my hair on fire to get everything finished in time for the Expo faded away as I held my very own shiny, new (heavy!) book. A proud mama, I counted its fingers and toes, praying I wouldn’t find an overlooked typo. I didn’t. I considered setting up an adoption procedure to interview anyone who wanted the book to make sure they would give it a good home. Time to get hold of myself: I would be giving this baby away at the signing table tomorrow. I opted instead to go stand in line for a celebratory Starbucks.
Actually, it was Emily who stood in line. It is good to be queen.
Next time: Will anyone (other than people I know well or have paid) show up for my book signing?