Alan Zweibel author, comedian, actor said at a panel at BookCon 2015 in New York City, “if you’re really lucky, you get to be friends with the artists you admire.”
From May 26 to 31 I felt a buzz about me like none other I’d experienced as a writer. I walked into the Javits Center located at the far west side of 34th street near the Hudson and saw immense banners boasting advertisements for upcoming books and author’s new works. Stacy Schiff had an enormous banner of her new novel Salem. Jeff Kinney’s wildly popular series Diary of a Wimpy Kid towered about 50 feet above me and sprawled across the caged underbelly of Javits like a winged beast welcoming me to the book world’s main event. Diary wasn’t even the biggest banner promoting a book at this year’s Book Expo America. That distinction went to Harper Lee’s long awaited new novel, Go Set a Watchman, available July 14, probably all over the known universe. Side note, I went to a HarperCollins party and some of the swag was Go Set a Watchman bookmarks. I took about forty of them. I don’t know why. What is it about highly anticipated books from super star authors that bring out the book maniac in us? Anyway, I had never experienced something like this. Books and authors and publishers were the stars of this week and it made me feel special to be a part of it.
I wore a few different hats while at BEA and over the weekend at Book Con. Primarily I was tweeting about authors I saw, cool companies that print lines from classic books on t-shirts and a bevy of costumed fans and promoters peddling advanced reader copies and encouraging you to get in line for an autograph. I admit I didn’t really get in line because I was like a kid who’d wandered into some magical playground and couldn’t be bothered with standing in line when there were so many cool things left undiscovered! I zigzagged in and out of the booths and through the publisher pavilions, catching glimpses of staff members at the publishing companies happily promoting book after book. I kept going back to the Penguin Random House area half wanting to yell out, “I have a few books coming soon with you guys!” But I didn’t and that was an incredibly empowering thing. Let me explain.
As I continue to either lead or assist in programming at The Betsy through The Writer’s Room, I have come to learn, through the guidance of wiser minds, that there is power in supporting your peers. There is empowerment in empowering. To me, being out there supporting my peers, tweeting about authors I admire, congratulating editors and publishers and book sellers I respect, supporting friends whose books are about to come out, is what I enjoyed most about being at BEA.
It was bumping into Norman Manea who was Florida International University’s visiting scholar as part of the Writers in Exile series in partnership with The Betsy. I listened to Professor Manea’s conversation and when it was done he recognized me and called me to the stage for a hug. He asked what I was doing there and I said I was there to enjoy books. In his typical deadpan way, he responded, “there are books here?” He gave me another hug, said he was very happy to see me and off I went to another event.
I love that my entrance to BEA came with a badge that said press as much as I love that my business card says, Literary Programs Manager at The Betsy-South Beach. I love that all of these things make a whole for me. I like to promote my peers as much as I love my writing life. Which is tough sometimes. Managing editorial deadlines, creating new material for my agent to submit, fear that my last great idea was two months ago, managing the creative space with the family space. It’s tough. But being surrounded by the amazing people who made up BEA2015 I was reminded that there are many hats we all wear in our industry – writing books is hard work, but seeing the record crowds, authors, fans, publishers, editors, marketers, journalists, it all made sense to me.
BEA and Book Con 2015 was a weeklong magic carpet ride. I saw my industry in all its flash, brilliance and dedication to the beauty of the written word. I was reminded that the hats we wear help us to connect more with this incredible world of books. More importantly though, it felt like I was among friends.
PABLO CARTAYA is a contributing editor of LitChat and author of the forthcoming The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora and Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish both from Viking Children’s Books. Read his complete bio here.
The Betsy-South Beach is an award-winning 61-room boutique hotel that expansively embraces community through a program called PACE (philanthropy, arts, culture and education). The Betsy-South Beach is a 2012 Knight Foundation Arts Challenge Grand recipient for its cornerstone program, The Writer’s Room (www.betsywritersroom.com), and is also the host hotel for LitChat’s bi-annual global retreat. The Betsy is located at 1440 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, Florida. (305) 531-6100 www.thebetsyhotel.com.