Walking with My Head Up

Josie Leavitt - May 20, 2009

I’m not sure what rock I’ve been living under this month, but it was a shock to me when I looked at the calendar and realized that BEA is just a week away. I’ve made my plane and hotel reservations, and have secured the free badges from the ABA for the show. But I realized tonight I’ve done precious little else, like actually plan how I’m going to use my time in NYC. So, I endeavored to change that last tonight.

I started at the BEA website, which is chock full of information. The first thing that struck me was apparently in BEA-land, I’m not too late in planning, as Early Bird registration continues through May 26th. This kind of has me wondering if attendance will be down, as I thought early birds were in fact early, not three days before the show. I am hoping that everyone has taken advantage of the free badges ABA gave out this year to member stores. That saved us $180, which was about what our airfare cost, so that worked out great. The website wasn’t clear if there were any free badges left, but it’s certainly worth a call to the ABA if you still need to register.

What I loved about the website was the My Show Planner. This is an area that let’s you literally map the show floor according to which publishers or vendors you want to see. There is a drop-down category list with all the vendors listed: want to look for giftwrap? no problem — all the vendors who sell gift wrap are listed. Click the ones you want to visit and a 3D map shows you where they are on the floor, and creates a list for you. I’m seriously hoping that this means I won’t be toting around that five-pound book that lists every vendor at the Javits Center. I can spend hours on the show floor roaming around from one publisher to the next with no clear plan. This year I hope to change that with this handy website, as I can plan an intelligent route through the show floor. I can’t wait to see if it actually works.

Another thing that struck me as a sign of the harsh economic times was how small the Children’s Pavilion appears. There are actually still many booths available (the map shows everything on the show floor) and it just looks tiny. Most of the big publishers seem to have their presence on the main floor only and not downstairs. This saddens me a little that we can’t have all the kids’ things on one floor, and it means I’ll have to spend more time on the main show floor which is usually very crowded.

The next part of the Map Your Show is a calendar function that can synch to Outlook. This is just a very handy calendar. I started putting in my events. If I do everything I’m supposed to, I’ll have about two hours for the floor per day. Thursday is a day of education which always inspires me to try something new when I get back home. Friday is full of great events. There’s the Children’s Breakfast from 8-9:30, hosted by Julie Andrews with Meg Cabot, Tomie dePaola, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal, then the ABC annual meeting from 10:30-11:30, then at 1:45 there’s the Tea with Children’s Authors with a list of truly stellar authors too long to list. (Go to the ABC website for a complete listing of all the activities planned.) Then there’s the Not-A-Dinner at 6:45 p.m. hosted by Shannon Hale with Katherine Paterson, one of the most amazing speakers, ever, and Mike Lupica. It all promises to be a great evening.   I’m already tired and exhilarated and it’s only Friday.

Saturday continues at a simliar pace. There’s the adult breakfast at 8 a.m. and then at 9:45 Elizabeth will be signing at the Candlewick booth for an hour. This is my favorite part of BEA. I don’t often accompany Elizabeth when she does author events, so this is great fun for me. I’m also the designated photographer, so I have more to do than stand around beaming. Sunday is a travel day, so no show floor for me.

BEA is always hectic, fun and exhausting. It’s great to catch with colleagues from all over the country. I love talking about the business of bookselling, so it’s always energizing to see everyone again.

So, if you’ve been putting off planning your time at BEA, hop to it, because a week from now we’ll all be in NYC. And hopefully this year, I will be roaming around a little less aimlessly than usual.

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