BEA Recollections

Josie Leavitt - May 31, 2010

My BEA experience this year is somewhat different than in the past.  My stint in the emergency room two weeks ago (see What to Read in an Emergency for full details) made me take BEA a lot more slowly than in years past.
The first day I got to the Javits Center later than normal. I had to pick up my electric scooter first, a sad necessity this year, but a really fun one: bright red with a real back-up horn and a headlight. I was all set for cruising the floor.  One comment I have to make about finding myself in a wheelchair is how people look, or more accurately, don’t look at me.  People looked past me all day and it was disconcerting. I had real empathy for folks who are confined to wheelchairs as people just didn’t notice me at all.  Wheelchair or not, I will not be denied my coffee.
My first session was the Children’s Bookselling Roundtable that Elizabeth Bluemle and I moderated. While the discussions at each of the 11 tables was lively, the group share found everyone suddenly shy. This was a little frustrating for me as I only sat in on the co-op discussion and would have liked to hear from every table. I did learn that one store has developed a rate sheet for every part of her store for getting co-op. A front counter display for week? $50. Front window for three weeks? $300. What I loved about this approach is it’s smart. It treats the  whole store as the valuable selling space it is.
After struggling to get a cab (4 pm is taxi shift change and it’s a near impossibility), I made my way to the ABC Not-a-Dinner and (Mostly) Silent Auction at the Edison Ballroom. I loved this venue  — very art deco and lovely, perhaps a wee bit small for the throngs of children’s booksellers, publishers, author and illustrators who happily filled the two levels of the ballroom.
Michael Buckley was the  emcee for the evening and he did an admirable job considering there was a lot of crowd noise to contend to speak over. He sang a lovely rendition of “I’ve Been Everywhere Man,” mentioning every bookstore he’s ever been to. I was thrilled when he included the Flying Pig, as I’m sure all the other stores were when they heard their names.
David Wiesner was the keynote speaker. I always love it when illustrators show slides from when they were kids. David showed one slide of himself painting at an easel with two art instruction books by his feet. There was a loveliness to that image will stay with me. I must confess, David Wiesner is one of my favorite illustrators and Sector 7 continues to delight me. The process of making art and story fascinates me; I loved learning that he makes models for characters he’s drawing. David’s new book, Art and Max, looks to be another visually arresting story about art.
The E.B. White Read Aloud awards were announced with flair by Elizabeth Bluemle, ABC President and Valerie Koehler, ABC Vice President. What made these awards really special was, much like the Academy Awards, there was a fun moment of  “the envelope please,” as the winners remained secret until announced. The award for younger readers went to Peter Brown for The Curious Garden. The winner of the older read aloud award was none other than Kate Messner (who shops at the Flying Pig!) for her middle grade novel, The Brilliant Fall of Gianni Z.
After the awards presentation, the bidding began in earnest for the amazing art that ringed the room. While this year’s event had more style than last year’s, it was awfully hard to see all the art because of the throngs of people. Last year, the room of art was easier to walk around and view. I placed a bid or two for some pieces, but didn’t get them. Judging from the dollar amounts I saw on the bid sheets, this was a good night for ABC.
Wednesday was the show floor. I tried to get there early  as the scooter did make it hard to navigate the aisles. I felt like the end of every aisle was like merging on a California highway, just too many people. I  saw as much as I could and tried not to take too many galleys or catalogs, although the scooter’s basket made it a lot easier to load up on things.
That night I was lucky enough to have a dinner with the lovely folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt with David Wiesner at Mesa Grill. While David was too far away to speak to, I enjoyed the riotous company of the HMH staffers who had me in stitches the whole dinner. And this is where BEA ended for me. Shortly after getting home from the dinner, I found myself heading for an emergency room because of some complications from my earlier hospital stay. I can happily report that everything is more than fine with my health. I have been deeply touched by everyone’s concern, and I can’t wait for next year when I’ll be scooter-less on the show floor and can really zoom around.
I must say, the folks at Beth Israel Hospital were great. The emergency room was packed, so Elizabeth and I didn’t make it back to the hotel until 6 am. I missed her author signing Thursday at 9 am (I heard it was great), the ABC annual meeting (informative, but sparsely attended) and the author tea, which I always love.
This BEA was a bad blur for me. I felt like I barely connected with anyone and that was such a disappointment for me. I missed my bookseller friends and I missed the chance to really talk to publishers. One thing I’ve learned, though, is just how much I love BEA.
And I can’t wait for next year.

4 thoughts on “BEA Recollections

  1. Rux Martin

    Josie, I really hope you’re feeling better and hope you got to keep your little red scooter! –rux

  2. Melissa Young

    hope you are feeling much better now. We had a colleague in a scooter this year and it was impossible for her to get around. Hopefully next year the floor won’t be as crowded…and you won’t be in a scooter!


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