This year’s BookExpo America (a.k.a. BEA) convention was held in Chicago. Some authors think the convention is too big, too overwhelming, too crazy to enjoy. But when Capstone invited me to sign copies of Baker’s Magic in their booth, I was thrilled to go. Not only that, my son Ben was invited by his employer, Fordham Press, to work in their booth, so we could share a hotel room and flight (and he could carry my heavy bag!).
I made the mistake of thinking that Midway Airport would be easier and less crowded than the notorious O’Hare. And of believing that people who rave about Southwest Airlines were correct. I won’t inflict details — suffice it to say that Midway and Southwest were on the national news every night this weekend being castigated for the way they handled passenger overload and security lines.
Airports aside, the two days we spent in Chicago were wonderful. Our hotel had a fabulous view of downtown (and of their own beehives on the 9th floor rooftop, whose honey they infuse into their house beer). We had a near-lethal martini to celebrate our arrival and went in search of deep-dish pizza, which I had promised Ben, an Arthur-Avenue pizza snob, that he would love. And love it he did, though he refused to call it pizza. “Pizza-esque casserole,” he allowed.
I checked in with the Capstone folk on Thursday and then wandered around wide-eyed, amazed at the masses of people toting their swag or lined up to see romance and YA authors. I stopped by to see how Ben was doing at his booth, and then I signed books at the Capstone booth for an hour — 250 books, according to the Capstoners! I only know that my hand ached afterward, and that I spoke to more people in an hour than I usually do in a year.
The experience became a little bizarre when someone with a guitar starred tuning up next to us and then broke into a rousing and extremely loud rendition of “Footloose,” with convention-goers clapping, cheering, and singing along. It turned out to be the Kenny half of Loggins and Messina, promoting his new children’s book. The surreality grew when the Capstone folk donned Batman pajamas and popped champagne to celebrate their new book, Bedtime for Batman. If I’d known this was what BEA was like, I would have gone when it was in New York!
Capstone took its local and visiting authors out to dinner afterward, and we ate delicious Italian food and got to know one another. My publisher’s generosity more than made up for the mile-long lines at the airport the next day. Thanks so much to April, Shannon, Sheila, and the other Capstoners and to all the librarians, booksellers, and readers who stood in line for Baker’s Magic. Let’s do it again sometime (but not from Midway)!