As noted in a previous post, BookExpo America — the annual publishing/bookselling convention-marathon-extravaganza — is in NYC this week. I’m not there, but thanks to social networking (this blog, FB, Twitter), I have a pretty good idea what’s happening, and I’m not totally exhausted with sore feet and sensory overload.
Armchair BEA was set up especially for bloggers who can’t make it to the Big Apple, and we’re checking in from all over the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia.
When I started blogging about books in January 2010, I found myself part of a huge global community of readers and writers. I had gone out on disability from the Orlando Sentinel in 2005 after 20 years as book critic, and while I was out of the loop, publishing, bookselling and reviewing underwent dramatic changes. As print outlets dried up and/or died, many journalists turned to the Internet to communicate about books and other arts and entertainment topics that had become marginalized in print.
In the blogosphere, we found ourselves in the company of librarians, teachers, authors, publishers, booksellers and enthusiastic readers. My to-do list includes compiling a more comprehensive blog roll of the varied blogs I read on a fairly regular basis, including Ti’s Book Chatter, Sandy’s You’ve Gotta Read This (both of whom have been faithful, encouraging readers of this blog since the beginning), and so many others I’ve discovered.
When I’m not reading books, I’m reading about books at Shelf Awareness and Galley Cat and media web sites, such as the Guardian UK, Washington Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune, New Yorker, NPR. Everywhere there are links to more sites and e-newsletters, many of them aimed at special interests. I just discovered Alice Marvels for teen fiction. Many authors blog on their own at their site’s — my pal Mary Kay Andrews — or in small groups, such as Jungle Red, Lipstick Chronicles, the Naked Dead.
Most publishers now have digital marketing specialists and offer amazing blogs and newsletters. Check out Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Macmillan, John F. Blair, Random House, Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, Melville House, you name it. Sometimes, there are contests and giveaways on publishers Facebook pages. (Thank you, Avon Books for the classic romance paperbacks!)
Oh, and there are great sites for book clubs, and great bookstore sites, such as Powell’s and SIBA (southeastern Independent Booksellers Alliance). Do you know about the social network group, Goodreads? I need to update my list of books read and add new friends.
Reading and writing used to be my job. Now it’s a hobby. I loved BEA, and its predecessor, ABA, because it was the one time of year when I actually saw people with whom I talked to on the phone or had e-mail conversations. I had the chance to interview some of my favorite writers. We talked about their books and other authors’ books. How cool to discover that the late, great David Halberstam shared my enthusiasm for Alan Furst’s historical novels? To have my picture taken with Neil Gaiman. To chat with Alice Munro at a party and sit next to Russell Banks at lunch. To catch up with Laura Lippman and listen to Richard Ford read. To hear Pat Conroy and Kate DiCamillo wow audiences with heartfelt speeches. To rock out to the Rock Bottom Remainders, whose members included Stephen King, Dave Barry and Amy Tan. At the 2003 BEA in LA, I assumed my Caroline Cousins identity to sign copies of Fiddle Dee Death at the Blair booth.
Whoa. That was then. I was younger and healthier. This is now, and well, I need a nap. Thank you, Armchair BEA for offering a comfortable way to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.