Yesterday, after all my hard work, I treated myself to Book Expo America's trade show. . . and boy, are my feet tired. I had planned to stay until about 4 p.m., but by 2:15 I was exhausted and gave up. I'd seen everything I needed to and headed home. For once, by the way, I remembered to bring my camera, but I really didn't see anything worth photographing so, once again, no pix.
Once I got to the L.A. Convention Center (which took me longer than expected because I got lost when I followed a sign reading "Civic Center" instead of waiting for one marked "Convention Center." I hate downtown L.A.), I raced to the autographing area in the West Hall. I joined a long line of people waiting to see Robert Crais. I've been a fan of his for years and have met him on numerous occasions, so I feel entitled to call him "Bob." When I finally got up to the desk he recognized me immediately, although he couldn't remember my first name, mangled my last name, and told the publicist working with him that I ran the mystery reading group at some far-flung Borders location. I gently set him straight and we chatted for a few minutes more while he signed a copy of his latest Elvis Cole novel for me ("Shandon -- Great to misremember you! Hugs, Robert Crais"). As I walked past the crowd of people still waiting to get their books signed, I felt many of them looking at me intently. Were they impressed that I know Bob Crais well enough to have a conversation with him, or were they irritated because I slowed down the line? I prefer to believe the former.
I had one more place to dash to before I could begin my orderly up-and-down-the-aisles examination of various publishers' wares, and that was at the Process Media booth back in the South Hall. I wanted to meet Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, authors of The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City. (I'm not sure I've made it abundantly clear, but I am a total sucker for stories of people who write about self-sufficiency or chuck their city lives to go live in the country. My other big score along those lines yesterday was an ARC of Jenna Woginrich's Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life. Inventing such a life for myself may be purely aspirational, but I do have a deep, heartfelt desire to someday move to a small, isolated cabin and do as much for Sean and myself as possible.) Kelly and Erik seemed pleased with my gardening efforts and reminded me that in SoCal we're lucky to be able to grow food year-round. I would have liked to talk with them a while longer, but I sensed the line of people behind me growing restless so I moved on.
Nothing too exciting happened to me. I was supposed to be traversing the trade show floor with a co-worker, but she had overslept so I was on my own most of the day. I ran into my boss around noon and we had lunch together while she filled me in on some gossipy things she'd heard over the last few days. One of them was that the big, supersecret party of BEA occurred at Prince's house; I sensed that she was a bit miffed at not being invited. I found out that the Olsen twins had presented their forthcoming book, some picture-heavy coffee table thing, at a nightclub on Sunset a couple of evenings before. Our children's book buyer attended that event, also kept quite hush-hush, and was both bored and bewildered by the goings-on; she left as soon as was politely possible. I was also among the first to learn that Martha Stewart will be autographing at our store in the fall.
My favorite booths were those run by Workman Books and their affiliates (Storey Publications, Black Dog & Leventhal, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, etc.) and Chronicle Books. I like the books these publishers produce, both in terms of content and packaging, and I like the way they presented them in their booths. Their displays were clean and eye-catching. Some of the booths, I noticed, had ultra-plush carpeting, which was a relief to my poor, barking dogs. It seemed to be the consensus of my boss and a number of publishers' sales reps, however, that the purpose of the thick carpeting was not to soothe tired feet but, rather, to slow people down as they passed through the booths. Yeah, I could see that, but I still appreciated the cushiness beneath my toes.
I decided to pass on seeing both Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, but I did spot a couple of other celebs. There was a huge autographing line in the John Wiley booth that perplexed me -- Wiley publishes mostly cookbooks and computer books, the authors of which usually don't draw such big crowds. I walked past the line to say hi to our sales rep, Trina, and saw who the fuss was all about: Hugh Hefner, signing his memoir. Later, walking back to my car, I passed Tommy Chong, arriving for his mid-afternoon signing session; he already looked beat. Out on the sales floor, I dodged anybody dressed as a pirate (rumored to be working for the Dianetics contingent) and a woman in what seemed to be a Moses costume, carrying a hand-lettered placard that read, "The Rapture Is Coming. . . and it's only $12.99." Shamefully, I must admit that I hung out a little too long in the Tokyo Pop booth, hoping to score some free Pocky, eventually leaving empty-handed when I realized I'd probably have to chat intelligently about graphic novels before I could take a package sans guilt. A man dressed as a butler offered me a copy of The Official Filthy Rich Handbook from a silver tray. Only one book was forced on me, and I ask you, how could I say no to a man sitting all by himself at an autographing table, promoting his memoir about his brother's death and his own addiction? Besides free books, the giveaways this year were surprisingly unenticing, though I did take a "go green" window cling at the Lonely Planet booth. I entered every drawing I saw, dropping my card in innumerable boxes, bowls and piggy banks. Nearly all the big players were giving away iPods (though, snobby me, I turned up my nose at a Shuffle offered in one booth), as well as various all-expenses-paid vacations and original artwork. My favorite drawings -- meaning the ones that make me laugh -- are the ones that promise "all the books in this booth!" That means the publisher doesn't want to pack everything up and haul it away, so they will generously offer to let you do so. I had my picture taken with a terracotta Chinese warrior, which was exciting until I realized it was just a prop from the new Mummy movie. Hell, I already own some props from the first Mummy movie!
Overall, BEA was fun, but 9:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. was all I could handle. And for the record, Norman, I did wear a skirt to the trade show, so you can start your "When was the last time Shandon wore a dress?" meter now. For the record, yesterday was the first time in 2008.