This past weekend I had the fortune to attend BEA as a power reader, for my first time. If you don’t know what BEA is, it is the book Expo of America where many literary exhibitors come together to showcase upcoming products, books, and why their company is the best, quite honestly.

At the Javitz Center in Manhattan, the venue was huge. I have never been to a convention before, let alone a convention as big as this. Sure, I have been to fairs and festivals, like the Brooklyn Book Festival, that is also big. But, nothing prepared me for the enormity of this event. Nor, the amount of people. As many as there were, because the space was so huge it never felt crowded. Sure, some booths were a lot more popular, depending on how nationally known the publishing company is, but there was never a time I felt cornered or claustrophobic. There was always enough to go around.

After getting lost, heading just to check in, I found my way to wait online for an 8 AM author breakfast featuring heavyweights political powerhouse Chris Matthews from Hard Ball with Chris Matthews, Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding, Outlander creator, Diana Gabaldon, and a senator writing his first memoir as a graphic novel, March. Although I didn’t know much about each of the author’s, I have become fans of Fielding and Gabaldon.

Diana Gabaldon stole the show, for me. She was funny from the moment she stepped up to the podium. A former scientist and professor with a masters and P.H.D. in a scientific field, she joked about her beginnings. Although she always wanted to be a novelist, she explained how she didn’t know how or where to start. So, instead she chose the path of science that was more clean cut. Her first memorable quote was when she talked about one college class she used to teach on human anatomy to get the sleeping footballer plays up. “..put a wool sock on that cock before you get caught.” or something like that. No matter the correct wording, I never laughed that hard so early in the morning. Her humor was just so spot on. She also had the best answer to how she became an author after working in the science field. “It was easy, I just wrote a book.”

Helen fielding was just as memorable with her disarming humor. With her British accent, she impressed me with her sincerity and her definite humor. She never sought out to create Bridget Jones. And, definitely not to write a novel, let alone three about her. I didn’t realize Bridget Jones first incarnation was in a British newspaper as an anonymous column. In her new Bridget Jones novel, Mad about the Boy, Helen Fielding joked that with her previous two Jones novels, there was no such thing as online dating. Now, the internet has brought dating to a whole new level. Two anecdotes she told about online dating came from a young woman who works at her hair salon. The woman spoke about her misadventures with only I can picture a great nonchalant waves of her hand. The woman in question made an online profile and when her ex spotted her, she decided to create a fake person, playing on what he liked in a woman. Standing him up, she suddenly felt sad for the girl she created when he marked he was no longer single. To top that, the woman also told Fielding how after a date with a man she liked, the first thing she heard from him after the date was by the way of a group text announcing the birth of his child with his wife. The way Helen Fielding told these stories was a hilarious and entertaining. The way she ended the talk, though, was what made me laugh the most. When people come up to her declaring they are Bridget Jones incarnate, Fielding said she felt like the Pope (mockingly bowing like the Pope) and would say go on, as if initiating confession. Leaving with a smile, and with three free books found on my seat and mu Macmillan goodie bag, I was ready to head to into the exhibitor hall, not sure what to expect.
After waiting in line for a brief second, I entered a huge room that I instantly felt lost in. With my backpack and tote bag, I tried to balance myself weaving in and out of the booths. As this was my first experience with such an event like this, I didn’t realize that all the massive amount of copies of a single book meant they were free for the taking until shortly after. Forget being locked in a candy story, this was my Heaven, my candy store. Half the time my mouth was open, just amazed at all the booths.
Every step I made, I was just so happy. So happy, in fact, I almost had to ship a box full of goodies home (even though I lived 40 minutes away, public transportation is a killer!). Wherever I went, authors were signing free, unreleased, copies of their books and chatting with even the biggest fan. I got a decent amount of my books signed, finding new authors and books to jump into. At so many turns, there were constantly people advertising the current signing in their booth.
Of course I stopped by the major publishing booths, such as Random House, Penguin, Simon and Schuester, and Macmillan, there were plenty of smaller companies to stop at offering new books to check out. One of my favorites, sourcebooks, that offered both fiction and ya books not to be missed. There was, of course, a couple indie booths, indie bestsellers giving away lots of swag and two books. Quirk books gave out the cutest tote bag, along with a signing by the author of miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Too much happened at BEA to really put all of it into coherent words and sentences. I had a blast and look forward to going again next year; much more prepared I hope. I had three huge bags filled with over twenty-five books and freebies. The money I shelled out was worth it for all the books I got in return. Only 361 days left for next year’s. The countdown is already on!

Have a great night everyone!