Daily Archives: June 1, 2010

Post BEA: What I Learned

After the whirlwind of events, meeting people, networking, and experiencing New York City in all its chaotic glory, I thought I would spend a few minutes sharing the highlights and telling you a bit about what I learned about the whole experience. For those of you who did NOT make it to NYC for the BEA and Book Blogger Convention, I hope you’ll get to go next year…and perhaps my thoughts will help you maximize your time there!

Sore Feet

Remember all those helpful posts pre-BEA about wearing comfortable shoes? Well, that was excellent advice. Despite having a great pair of walking sneakers with cushion and support, I still experienced sore and swollen feet and legs. The concrete in New York is very hard on one’s feet and even with public transportation, there is a ton of walking involved if you want to get out and see the sites. Every evening Kip and I returned back to the hotel in agony. Soaking my feet in cold water and just getting off them for a few hours helped…but I will always remember New York for the pain in my feet!

Hotel Selection

I was very, very glad that we spent the extra money to find a hotel close to the Javits Center. We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton near Times Square (on W40th Street) and the hotel and their staff were excellent. It was very clean, the bed was probably the most comfortable I’ve slept in, and there was a hotel restaurant which served great coffee and full breakfast. We were 1.5 blocks away from a post office – which was awesome because it saved us a lot of money to ship books media mail (vs. FedEx offered at the BEA). The walk to the Javits was only 15 minutes. We were also within easy walking (one block) to the subway and just a few blocks from Times Square.

There were a couple of downsides, however…

  • We were only two doors away from a Probation office and had I been a female walking alone at night back to my hotel, I would have been a little nervous given some of the shady, criminal looking types lurking around. Luckily, Kip is over six feet tall and carries the attitude of law enforcement (he is an ex-deputy), so we didn’t have any reason to fear!
  • Noise. The level of noise near Times Square is unbelievable. It is constant and includes traffic, horns, police sirens (the police in Times Square were constantly screaming down the street with lights and sirens to ensure a “presence”), and chatter from the thousands of people who navigate the area.

Planning My Schedule

Although I had a very in depth schedule written out, I still did not get to do everything I would have liked to do. One of the things I did not plan for was rest time. Believe me, you need some down time to rejuvenate. I spent a fair amount of time wandering aimlessly or standing in lines…and I didn’t make it to one panel discussion at the BEA which was disappointing. Part of the reason for this was that I felt completely unprepared for the sheer numbers of people and activities. Having a schedule DID help me stay on track to get some books which I might otherwise have missed…and also to keep straight the activities in the evenings and some of the BBC organized events (like the publishing house tours).

I was really happy someone had recommended picking up the daily magazine for the BEA. I did this each morning and found books and events going on that I would have otherwise missed. Some things were added (that did not appear on the BEA site) and some things were changed or deleted.

The Volume of Books Available

This has not been exaggerated. The BEA is a mecca for book lovers. There are thousands of books to tempt you. I tried to be selective, but I still came home with probably more than 50 books (I haven’t really counted them and my box of books won’t be here until later this week so this is an estimate). I jokingly referred to Kip as my “personal Sherpa” since he was kind enough to wear a gigantic backpack and carry all the books I kept picking up. But, if you don’t have a Sherpa, you will need to figure out how to transport the books you pick up. Rolling bags are not allowed on the exhibition floor, but they can be checked…and had I not had a helper, I would have checked my carry-on suitcase and filled it throughout the day. There was also the option of keeping a box at FedEx and filling it to ship.

What I Would do Differently (or the same) Next Time:

  • I am definitely glad I attended the publishing house tours – and I would recommend other bloggers take advantage of these next year if they are offered. It was amazing meeting the publicists and editors and talking to them about the role of bloggers in the marketing of books. We also got some great books that were not available at the BEA.
  • Only stand in lines for autographs of authors you truly want to meet. Mostly, I did this – but I found myself distracted by the in-booth signings which I stumbled across and couldn’t resist. Most publishers will give you a copy of the book without the autograph if you ask (at the in-booth signings). Next time I would plan on researching the new titles from the publishers BEFORE getting to the BEA and then contacting them for those titles to be mailed…rather than stand in line to get them.
  • Go to the panel discussions. I didn’t do this…even though I had planned to…and I feel like I missed out on some great information.
  • Make an effort to contact other bloggers and meet them. This was, by far, the best part of the experience for me. I met many, many bloggers … and missed a few too. If I were to do anything differently, it would be to do even more of this.
  • Make an effort to meet the publicists you work with…again, one of the favorite parts of BEA for me was meeting the fabulous industry professionals who were very happy to talk to me and introduce me to other people in their organization. I also got to meet some of my favorite authors by connecting first with the publicist.
  • Schedule rest time and don’t over schedule. This was a big mistake I made. I burned myself out in the first three days, and then struggled to catch up on my rest. I was exhausted by Thursday morning. I over scheduled and then found I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I should have made the hard choices BEFORE I arrived. Now I know better.

What Surprised Me

  • How friendly New Yorkers were…people are very happy to help uncomplicate the maze which is the subway system; or give directions. The postal worker who helped me pack off my books to California was so nice and friendly, I wish I had gotten her name so I could tell her supervisor how great she was.
  • How much impact bloggers are having on the publishing industry. Publishers are starting to see bloggers as the new marketing for books – and they are really eager to work with us. This came across loud and clear everywhere we went at both the BEA and BBC. Bloggers are going to have to re-think how they accept books, the expectations for reviews, and the relationships they foster with authors. If you think we are inundated now with review requests, just wait – my prediction is this is only going to get bigger. Personally, I would prefer to work directly with publicists vs. getting books from authors…to me it is the more professional way to go, and allows us to keep our objectivity and integrity. Just something to think about.
  • Bloggers in person are exactly like they are on line. The people whose blogs I have loved and read were just like I thought they would be – wonderful, friendly, smart, interesting…I guess I should not have been surprised!

My Overall Impression:

AWESOME!

Completed: New York Challenge

Many thanks to Jill at Fizzy Thoughts who hosted this fun challenge which coincided with the BEA and BBC.

I actually ended up reading two books to complete the challenge: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin AND Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Interesting that they were both written by Irish authors! I preferred McCann’s sprawling, multi-layered novel over Toibin’s linear narrative with a single point of view.

To get links to reviews, visit this post.

Thanks, Jill!

Tinkers – Book Review

He tinkered. Tin pots, wrought iron. Solder melted and cupped in a clay dam. Quicksilver patchwork. Occasionally, a pot hammered back flat, the tinkle of tin sibilant, tiny beneath the lid of the boreal forest. Tinkerbird, coppersmith, but mostly a brush and mop drummer. – from Tinkers, page 12 –

George Washington Crosby is eight days from death on the opening page of Tinkers – he is hallucinating and remembering, he is pondering his life and the life of his father. George has spent his life fixing clocks – and time plays a crucial role in this novel about fathers and sons, and connections with others. While George lays dying from cancer, he reflects on the small things which have made up his life, including the house he has lovingly built and the intricate details of clock repair.

Read the names etched onto the works: Ezra Bloxham – 1794; Geo. E. Tiggs – 1832; Thos. Flatchbart – 1912. Lift the darkened works from the case. Lower them into ammonia. Lift them out, nose burning, eyes watering, and see them shine and star through your tears. File the teeth. Punch the bushings. Load the spring. Fix the clock. Add your name. – from Tinkers, page 15 –

But Tinkers is not just George’s story…it is the story of three interconnected generations of men: George’s father Howard (an epileptic), and Howard’s father who suffered from dementia. Narrated alternatively between these three points of view, the story is nonlinear.

Howard is a dreamer and a tinker, a man who relishes the beauty of nature and spends whole days picking wildflowers and constructing art from twigs and grass. His seizures come when he least expects them, and eventually tear apart his fragile marriage. George’s memories of Howard are of a father often mysteriously late coming home, and one frightening episode of Howard seizing at Christmas dinner.

Howard’s father is a minister whose slow descent into dementia confuses his son who describes his father as ‘a strange, gentle man.‘ Howard’s loss of his father mirrors George’s loss of Howard.

Harding’s prose is like reading a long, narrative poem. Beautifully constructed sentences and stories within stories characterize Tinkers. Often the story feels like water in a river – rippled, unpredictable, dipping around corners and eddying around obstructions…and so, Harding’s use of water as a symbol in the novella seems appropriate.

The overriding themes of Harding’s Pulitzer Prize winning effort are that of time passing, the dreams of men, and the passage from life to death.

What of miniature boats constructed of birch bark and fallen leaves, launched onto cold water clear as air? How many fleets were pushed out toward the middles of ponds or sent down autumn brooks, holding treasures of acorns, or black feathers, or a puzzled mantis? Let those grassy crafts be listed alongside the iron hulls that cleave the sea, for they are all improvisations built from the daydreams of men, and all will perish, whether from ocean siege or October breeze. – from Tinkers, page 78 –

I enjoyed this slim book whose size belies the depth of the prose. This is a beautiful story which reads more like a meditation than a novel. Full of lyrical phrases, it is not always an easy book to understand, and yet it is a deeply satisfying read.

Readers who are not intimidated by literary novels which use symbolism and metaphor liberally to explore deeper issues, will want to read Tinkers. This is a novel which left me thinking about the characters long after I turned the final page.

Highly recommended.