For 3 whole days, Javits Convention Center in New York, New York, that angular, light-filled building, was packed with brilliant booksellers whose brains swim in letters and words, authors who make it all possible, and the wily publishers and publicists who bring us all together.
For 3 whole days, crowds of people bounce off each other, swollen bags swaying precariously on one shoulder, ducking in and out of small groups comparing books and goodies, cell phones held close for note taking, tiny bloggers tipped to one side to stay balanced.
We stop on a dime when the person ahead suddenly turns and veers up an aisle to the next author signing at Macmillan, our hands burning and red from the weight of books and all that paper pulling on canvas handles. And still we prowl for the leftovers of one of the on-the-hour signings or galley giveaways, emotions swinging from joy to disappointment: joy for a copy of Maggie Stiefvater’s Dream Thieves, disappointment at the locust-like crowds hovering over a counter as her Spirit Animals books disappear, positively gone in 10 seconds, nothing but hands and butts left as people still push to get to the front.
Lines snaked across booths and off into the distance as bloggers, booksellers, librarians, world rights traders, all waited for a moment with Brandon Sanderson, Chuck Palahniuk, Amy Tan, Judy Schachner, Jan Brett. Clots of people surrounded by bags, updating twitter and facebook, sit for the hour-long waits to turn tickets into memories.
For 3 whole days, I felt blessed for being a bookseller. I saw my favorite authors and my favorite publishers and caught up with bookseller friends from across the country. We met at Books of Wonder for wine and cheese and authors, at the Children’s Silent Art Auction (the funds raised go to ABFFE), at the Random House cocktail parties with views of Central Park, and on the hike across the Highline to an underground bar where Little, Brown Books for Young Readers was hosting a party with MORE of my favorite authors.
Let me just whisper how amazing it was to actually meet Cynthia Voigt and Patricia Maclachlan; how nice it was to catch up with Kevin Henkes and Jonathan Stroud; how fun it was to stand in line with author Marilyn Singer (Mirror, Mirror) to say hello to Kevin Henkes. We shared drinks that Daniel Handler and Holly Black and Jerry Pinkney invented in a low-ceilinged, one-fan bar on a very hot evening.
For 3 whole days, new books, ideas, and people flowed into my hands and into my head and onto my rolodex. We watched authors talk about their books, howling with laughter with Chelsea Handler way too early in the morning, sat in on how to write for teenage boys with the best boy book writers out there, and learned about the Common Core Curriculum. Where else will you hear serious discussion about the art of fart humor? Only while listening to a panel with Kevin Emerson, Jack Gantos and John Scieszka.
For 3 whole days, we’d haul our heavy bags back to the hotel, and, with a bottle of something sweating on the bedside table, we’d slide the innards onto the bed. Like Halloween for grown-ups, we sort our swag into the best and the least, the hardcovers and the ARCs, recycling and saving all those sidelines fliers and notes, testing the tschotskes and pens and tattoos, carefully putting all the collected business cards in a place we’ll remember, and then flop back and call for another early wake-up.
The food was expensive and the water fountains were few. There was a lot of walking from one end of Javits to the other, up stairs and down escalators, few restrooms always located just about opposite wherever you are. There were swollen feet, blisters on shoulders, calluses forming in the webs between thumb and finger, and the constant decision about whether you can make this event on that side before it ends. There was pushing and a lot of muttering when someone didn’t realize that the line ended way over there. And there was a 39.00 per box handling fee to send all those prizes home. It wasn’t all fabulous, but I know why I go to The Show.
Waking in the morning, alone in a king-sized bed, there where the pillow should be, are the books I’ll pack to read on the plane, replacing what I should read with what I want to read: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo, and The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes. In my head, I am already planning author events and book reviews, what to share with which customer, looking forward to becoming more efficient at social media, and have vowed to read at least the first 5 pages of each of the books coming home to rest, the ones traveling westward in their very expensive square, brown nests.
René Kirkpatrick has been primarily a children’s bookseller most of her career and recently became an owner of Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island in WA. Her blog, Notes from the Bedside Table, has recommendations for all ages.