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Bewitched by BEA

What a thrilling whirlwind of literary bliss. There was nothing that could have prepared me for the stunning experience of Book Expo America. The opportunity to be in the mix with all the publishers I have such respect for and such fervent desire to be a part of and the incredibly talented authors who have had such a formative impact on me as a reader and writer is one that I cannot quite find the words to do justice to. I was swept away in a delicious haze of exquisite literary induced rush. For three days I walked around in the most glorious heightened state of what can only be described as euphoria. Anyone who shares my burning passion for this industry can understand that my language is not hyperbolic but rather decidedly apropos.

The literary gods seemed to be always in my favor. While volunteering at BEA I had the most surreal experience of meeting some of my favorite authors. I am not the type of person who gets starstruck, but with authors that’s a completely different story. It takes everything in me to maintain composure and speak intelligently, rather than let show the flustered, tongue-tied, and giddy person beneath that veil. Of course with some authors there could be no such façade. Helen Fielding, Bill Bryson, and Elizabeth Gilbert were the three authors that left me stumbling over my words. It’s crazy to be able to say that I have met each of them.

I stood in line waiting to meet Helen Fielding with this bubbling feeling that was a mixture of bursting elation, anxiety, and disbelief. She was so kind and gracious and as funny as her charmingly endearing character Bridget. After gushing about how much I loved her books (which she’s certainly heard countless times) I was caught completely off guard by a camera crew from The Today Show.  They had overheard how excited I was to meet her and how much I loved her books and wanted to interview me for the launch of her third book. I am certain that I fumbled through every question still buzzing on the high from meeting Helen, but I can only hope that I made some sort of sense. My interview is going to be featured on The Today Show in October for the launch of Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy! I am going to be actively searching for the date it airs. I still can’t quite believe it happened.

After my amazing luck with meeting Helen Fielding and being selected for an interview I didn’t think it could get much better. There was more literary excitement to be had. I later had the good fortune to get a free ticket to the exclusive Author’s Tea sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association featuring a panel of author’s, including one of my favorites, Bill Bryson. I had been hoping to get the opportunity to stand in the back of the event, but actually was able to go into the tea as a guest, get an ARC of Bryson’s latest novel, One Summer, and meet him as well. I had a lovely conversation with him about my love for England and his uproariously humorous Notes from a Small Island. As a fellow Anglophile, it was the icing on an already decadently rich cake.

The final day of BEA held still more literary bliss. I attended the Author Breakfast and got the opportunity to hear Helen Fielding speak about her experience creating the character of Bridget Jones and about the themes of Mad About the Boy. I met her for the second time and to my sheer delight she remembered me! We had a really nice chat in which I was much more composed than the first day and was actually able to speak intelligently to her. It was such an amazing experience to get to speak to one of my favorite authors as if we were friends (in my mind we are now of course).

Later in the day I met the final author on my wish list, Elizabeth Gilbert, at a conference about the importance of book clubs to the reading experience. I was intrigued to hear about her latest novel, The Signature of All Things, and am anxious for its release in October. I was so pleased to hear that she actually holds a book club with her fans on Facebook and they are currently reading Jane Eyre. I am quite embarrassed to say that I have yet to read this classic, but I purchased the new Penguin Drop Caps edition at BEA and plan to begin reading it as soon as possible. With my SPI program starting on Monday it is unlikely that I will be able to make the June 8th book club discussion with Elizabeth and the book club members, but it is high time I add this classic to my list of “read books.” Elizabeth was so engaging and personable and was even kind enough to give me some advice about how to grow my own writing to cross the precarious bridge from short stories to novels. She gave me hope that one day I too might be able to say that I have completed the extraordinary feat of writing a novel of my very own.

My experience at BEA can only be described as exquisite perfection. I was overwhelmed by how incredibly lucky I was to be at an event that spoke to the two most fervent desires of my heart: to be a part of the publishing industry, and to one day be able to call myself an author. It fueled my hope that there is a spot in this industry for me and that I am on the right path. Since arriving in New York  everything has fallen beautifully into place. I have never in my life felt more certain that I am on the cusp of achieving what I have wanted for so very long. I can feel the heartbeat of publishing pulsing through the city and mine beating along in time.

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