As you probably know (especially if you follow me on literally any form of social media) I am currently in Chicago for BEA 2016! This is third time in the city and my first time ever at BEA. I’ve been aware of the convention for years and I’ve always wanted to go but never had a reason (i.e. a blog) until now. I was incredibly nervous before I got into the city, because everything about this is completely uncharted territory for me: a giant convention, meeting professionals, seeing Internet bookish friends for the first time. But now that the first day is over, I can safely say that 1) I had literally nothing to worry about and 2) today I had more fun than I have in a long, long time.
Today technically wasn’t the first day of BEA but of the BEA Bloggers Conference, which I was invited to to speak on a panel with Jesse (theReader), Ursula Uriarte, and Tiffany. Ursula and I represented the Bookstagram community, Ursula also spoke for the bloggers along with Tiffany, and Jesse for the BookTubers. We discussed how we each talk about books on our respective platforms, the different ways we utilize our different platforms, how each community interacts one another within the community and with others. I thought it went really well, I was pretty happy with my answers (I think I got one laugh out of the audience) (I talked about my bed comforter) and I think we had an interesting discussion about the ‘Bookternet’ and how it’s an ever growing and changing beast. But like, a nice and happy and passionate beast with a good taste in books.
After my panel, my Bookstagram friends Mara, Alex, and Adam, and I went to lunch and at 1:00 the main floor opened for the day. This was what I was really looking forward to: all of the publishers gathered in one giant airplane-hanger-sized room with books and goodies and the opportunity to speak with them and network. We all just wandered around for a while, soaking it all in. It was pretty surreal for all of us to be there because we’re all BEA newbies. It’s something we’ve always heard of and always wanted to go to. You’re probably part of this reading community, you understand how big of a deal BEA is.
I spoke to a few women who worked at different publishing houses and handed out some business cards, which was pretty cool to do for the first time. I even had some people walk up to me, knowing who I am, and asked for my card. So cool.
Like I said before, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect on the floor so we just drifted around for a while. Then, we found out publishers started giving out ARC’s today. We went a liiiittle crazy (okay, I did) with getting advanced copies. Sometimes there are huge ARC drops, like the EpicReads and Fierce Reads ones were a really big deal with super long lines, but sometimes when you pass a booth someone will just thrust a book into your face and you feel like you have to take it (okay, I felt like I had to take them). There are a few I got that I’m really excited about, like The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon and Blood For Blood by Ryan Graudin. There are going to be a lot more ARC drops and author signings tomorrow, so I need to make sure I’m prepared for all of that.
The Blogger’s Conference badge came with a really nice private room for us with a little after party hosted by Penguin Random House with special games with ARC prizes, giveaways, and Jennifer Niven signed ARC’s of her upcoming release Holding Up the Universe. I also got a couple more ARC’s at that little event, so thanks to Penguin Random House for hosting!
After the day ended at 5:00, I went back to my hotel room to drop off my books and I met my friends back in the lobby to head to the Bean (or Cloud Gate in Millennium Park) for the Bookternet meet up. We got there a little late and I forgot to take pictures there (whoops) but it was nice to meet other bookish Internet people outside of the conference where it was far less hectic. I was reunited with my fave Whitney from WittyNovels. Then us four Bookstagrammers decided to walk to Navy Pier because Mara wanted to see the ferris wheel for Divergent reasons. The walk there was supposed to be 1.4 miles, but I’m pretty sure we accidentally made it a lot longer. It was pretty amazing getting closer to the Pier because it has been reeeeaaally foggy this week in the city and the ferris wheel was totally covered up except for a little bit showing at the bottom. It was very dystopian-looking, which was fitting.
The walk there might have been the most fun I had all day. Really, guys, meeting your Internet friends in real life is better than you probably think it is. I’m really shy and introverted and I haven’t known these people (irl) for 48 hours but they’re already some of my favorite people and we have a great little group going and I love us so much.
SO. First day here in Chicago was a huge success. I can’t wait to spend the next 3 days here with my friends in the city. I’m definitely going to make sure I talk to more professionals and people at publisher’s booths. Gotta hand out as many business cards as possible. I’ll report back tomorrow to let you know how day 2 goes (probably great). Until then, have a nice Thursday whether you’re in Chicago or elsewhere.