Four days after The Big Selection Day, I hopped a bus down to NYC for a quick trip to BEA. It was probably an ill-advised trip – yeah, strung-out Jessica, why NOT take a solo jaunt down to the city that doesn’t sleep to attend the craziest book conference available? Ahem. Anyway, I tried to make it as quick and painless as possible, spending one day at SLJ’s Day of Dialog and another on the floor at BEA proper.
I started off my trip with a long, briskly paced walk through Central Park with my cousin the 19-year-old super model. I’ve been to NYC bunches of times but never actually made it to Central Park before? ?? Anyway, we caught up and I took pictures like a dirty rotten tourist and we visited Alice, and then I went back to my hotel room and collapsed.
I attended SLJ’s Day of Dialog last year and my previous praise still stands. It’s a fun little event. Brian Selznick started the morning with his keynote address. He posited his last three books – The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck, and the upcoming The Marvels – as a thematic trilogy about the triumph of the story – of triumph over chaos. Is there anything that intrigues and delights me more than a “thematic trilogy?” Possibly not. I promptly began kicking myself for not having read ANY OF THESE THREE BOOKS. Don’t worry – I started reading Hugo two days ago. It’s really good.
The next panel focused on environmental issues in books for children, and featured Paul Fleischman, Louis Sachar, April Pulley Sayre, and Anita Silvey. I want to pause for a moment and try to express how excited my inner 9-year-old was to be in the same room as Louis Sachar. And he even talked about Wayside School and There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom!! WHAT. WHAAAAT. Okay. Anyway. The panelists talked about why they write or illustrate various environmental issues, how they tailor their content to inspire and engage a young audience (rather than scare the crap out of them), and why it’s so dang important. They also talked about how writing about the earth and environment for children is tied intimately to ideas of history and a shared humanity – the “presence of the past,” as a panelist put it so eloquently. Learning about the physical world and how it has changed and will change is also learning about one’s place in the world. It’s not all reduce-reuse-recycle – it’s about community, connectedness, and social responsibility.
The panel on middle school fiction was heavy on the entertainment and the kidlit celeb factor. Lisa Graff! Rebecca Stead! Tim Federle! Luke Reynolds! Rita Garcia-Williams! Embarrassing middle school stories were shared and jokes were had. The more serious discussion, however, reminded me of all of the things I love-love-love about middle school lit – middle school years are about forming identity, saying goodbye to childhood, gaining new levels of awareness, and struggling to understand yourself and to be seen for who you really are. Great middle school books let their protagonists muddle around with these questions, even if the answers are messy and half-formed.
I took fewer notes at the afternoon sessions, as is natural. A. S. King gave this drop-dead astounding luncheon talk about feminism in her life, in her work, and in the world around us. There’s a recap article over on SLJ – still hoping that the full-text or a recording of this one will be made public. Patrick Ness razzled and dazzled all over the YA panel. Publishers pitched their Fall 2015 books, and the last panel of the day went distressingly long. And then, the Big Announcement. I was nervous and so happy. There was some hooting and hollering in the audience, and then wine.
I hit BEA proper the next day, but the results were much less exciting. I popped into the YA editor’s buzz panel (Everything Everything looks like the definitive Big Fall Title, FYI) and a panel on ebooks in library collections. I checked in on the state of Hoopla ebooks. I tried to get publishers to talk to me about this little presidential ebook campaign you may have heard of, but it seems everyone is in just as much limbo as we are. I sat down for a quick minute at an adult fic panel moderated by Jami Attenberg (who I kind of adore), accidentally walked into a VIP networking event (where I proceeded to network with a reference librarian… who works in my building), and then I hopped on the bus to go home.
My not-so-secret reason for attending: I wanted to take the chance to study the fine art of Panel Moderation. Because I am going to be called to the task this coming October. Gulp. Gag. Panic Panic Panic. I took notes! Because that’s the only strategic operative I have in my arsenal. If you’re going to be in the Boston area in October, you should definitely come to this really great event (*cough* it’sbetterthanDayofDialog *cough*) Even if I’m a panicked heaving mess, it will probably be pretty good.
Heaven help me.