Although Book Expo America is a lot about books, for me (as an only slightly-connected publishing industry person) it’s also a chance to see many of my bookish friends. Book bloggers really are my tribe, so seeing them is always a highlight of the trip. In generally chronological order, here are some highlights of the conference that were not entirely to do with books:
1. Surviving the Chicago L for Book Riot Happy Hour on Tuesday night!
Every year, the Book Riot crew gets together for a “family dinner” to hang out and have some fun. This year the dinner was at a bar called Headquarters in downtown Chicago — a bit of a hike from the Hyatt near McCormick Place, the conference center. Despite pouring rain and a lot of anxiety about navigating public transit, I made it to the bar and had a lot of fun meeting other contributors and seeing old friends.
2. Lunch on Tuesday before the show started!
Florinda (The 3R’s Blog) is my blogging BFF and my usual BEA roommate. We get along really well, and I love getting to hang out with her. We grabbed lunch in the cafeteria of McCormick Place on Tuesday and managed to meet up with Julie (Julz Reads), Marisa (The Daily Dosage) and Katie (Words for Worms) for lunch. There was a lot of squealing.
3. Meandering the show floor with Julie!
The first hour or so on the show floor Wednesday afternoon is pretty chaotic. Publishers often do some big galley giveaways right away, so it can be a crowd to get in. Julie and I had a couple of the same books we were looking for, so we walked together for a bit. Then we heard that Hatchette was giving out copies of Emma Donoghue’s new book, The Wonder, so we scooted back over and managed to snag the last two galleys that were sitting on a floor. Score!
4. Book Blogger Happy Hour!
Book Blogger Happy Hour, another event Julie helped spearhead, was a huge success! About 20 of us ended up at a bar a short walk from McCormick place where we had dinner and drinks. I honestly can’t even remember who all was there, but I was excited to get this picture with Julie and Katie (thanks for letting me steal it off Facebook, Julie).
5. Interviewing Leigh Bardugo!
Through Book Riot, I got the chance to interview Leigh Bardugo, author of one of my favorite fantasy series, The Grisha Trilogy. She’s also written a pair of books — Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom — set in the same world with different characters. I’ll have more from that interview up on Book Riot soon.
One of the true highlights of the trip was spending so much time with three of my best blogging friends, Florinda, Candace and Sheila. They’ve all been blogging about as long as I have, so we’ve been friends for years. We started out Thursday with breakfast at The Spoke & Bird (so good!) and ended with dinner at Lou Malnati’s for Chicago-style deep dish pizza. It was so great!
7. Walking along the Lakeshore Trail after dinner!
After a couple of days of rain, Thursday ended up being just gorgeous. After dinner, the four of us decided to walk back to our hotel (about two miles) along the lake shore in Chicago. It was a beautiful night, with lots of stops to take pictures and explore. When we got back to the hotel, we celebrated with a drink before heading off to bed.
8. Snagging two big biographies of famous ladies!
There were two big biographies I learned about when we got to the show, one of Shirley Jackson and the other of Queen Victoria. I managed to get one of the last galleys of the Shirley Jackson biography when I talked to an editor at the booth — apparently they had a couple squirreled away and he felt like it was ok to give me one. I also camped out in front of the Penguin Random House book with several other bloggers to get the Victoria biography when it was dropped in a giveaway. It’s a little silly to do that just for a book, but it was a lot of fun.
9. Jeff O’Neal and the rest of the Rioters!
By late Friday morning I was pretty beat and not really sure what I wanted to be doing. As I was standing in line at Starbucks, I ran into Jeff, one of the co-founders of Book Riot who recruited me to write for the site when it first started in 2011. It was so great to talk with him, wander the show floor a bit, and make plans to hang out when I’m in Portland later this summer. And of course it was so great to see many of the other Book Rioters around the floor — Rebecca, Amanda, Alice, Rachel, Cassandra, Aram, Greg, Jessica and a bunch more I’m missing.
10. Meeting so many of my other favorite bloggers!
I hesitate to even start a list because I am SURE I am going to miss someone awesome and I am too lazy to pull out my business cards, but… I was so excited to meet Alice, Kerry, Julienne, Jenna, Shaina, Stacey, Shannon, Catherine, Annie, Melissa, Caitie… book bloggers are my people, and I am so excited to have met all of them and more.