This past week, I ventured forth from my comfy Pacific Northwest cave to go to New York for what is commonly known as New York Book Week, the centerpiece of which is Book Expo America, the ginormous trade show that draws all sorts of publishing and bookish people from around the world. In addition to the convention floor itself with its booths upon booths and swag out the wazoo, there are panels and seminars and signings and get-togethers and parties galore. And then there are all the other satellite events: the panels and seminars and signings and get-togethers and parties galore that abound outside the auspices of BEA, proper, but are still considered a part of Book Week.
It's wild and magical and kind of overwhelming, but if you ever have the opportunity to go, you really should. While it's a brave new world out there with all of the different publishing options that are presenting themselves, New York is still unarguably the center of the publishing world, plus, it's New York! No other city like it. [Disclaimer: I was born in the city even though I've never really lived there for any appreciable length of time. So I have a definite affinity for it.]
Mind you, I say this even as I acknowledge that prior to going this last week, I really didn't want to go. I was tired, more than a little burnt out, and feeling rather dog-in-the-mangerish about my future in publishing and really, what did I have to offer on any of these panels I was going to be on? Plus, every piece of clothing I owned made me look fat. But, I am a professional, not to mention, absurdly responsible, so I packed my professional clothes, shoes, and Spanx, and made my way east.
Boy, am I glad I did. That was easily one of the best weeks I've ever had, professionally speaking. I kicked off my week by participating in Teen Author Carnival, a series of panels and a signing held at one of the New York City branch libraries. Oh my stars and garters, I was floored. It was standing room only for all the panels, not to mention the panel I was on included the likes of Melissa Walker, Gayle Foreman, and David Levithan, and was moderated by none other than Ellen Hopkins. By all accounts, I acquitted myself well, which is to say, I didn't make a flaming idiot of myself.
Thursday, I participated in a signing at BEA, in the Romance Writers of America booth. First thing that blew my mind? People were lining up for my signing fifteen minutes ahead of the scheduled time. Second thing that blew my mind? I was out of books in twenty minutes. *pauses to boggle*
Friday, I was a participant at the Backspace Writers Conference. Backspace is a multi-genre writing community I've been part of for several years that is comprised of everything from beginners to New York Times Bestsellers and is as warm and supportive a community as I've ever belonged to. They will also kick your ass in shape and let you know what's what. I appreciate that.
Oh, and to kind of top off my week, WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE, erm, sort of won 1st Place, Young Adult Novel, English Language, at the Thirteenth Annual International Latino Book Awards..
To say I was shocked would be putting it mildly. And what made it even sweeter was that my editor, my agent, and my mom were all there to see me win an award I never expected to take home. It was the first time my mother has ever gotten to see me in author mode, so it was definitely a lovely moment.
The upshot of all of this, other than to exhaust you with the report of my frantic week, is to say, as much as I didn't initially want to go, I'm beyond grateful that I did. Yes, the validation from the award was very nice, but even more so was the energy I received from being around so many of my peers, so many energetic, smart, creative people who, when you say, "Well, yeah, I had to wake up and write some of this down so the voices in my head would shut up and let me get back to sleep," totally understand rather than backing away slowly and dialing Mental Health Services.
There's just something so inspiring about being amongst your tribe and never will your tribe be quite so large as it is at BEA or one of the other major trade shows or conferences. And if the show is held in New York, then the energy is magnified because you're there—where it all happens.
Yes, it's a brave new world out there and who knows what publishing will look like in a year or five or ten, but for now, New York continues to hold the energy and if you can harness some of that fire and life to keep you going when things are tough, I suggest giving it a go.