On Saturday, May 31, I had the pleasure of attending Book Expo America. It was a rather last-minute decision. I’d had a good deal of business going on in my personal life, and remembered about a week before the convention that it was going to be in Los Angeles this year (about 40 miles north of my home). I’m an aspiring writer (although still in the stages of write write write, rather than submit submit submit) and I really wanted to attend, but it’s a trade show--how would I get in?
I’m a Collection Development Assistant at a university library. In very basic terms, I help subject librarians and associated staff research and select the materials we purchase. BEA advertised a large focus on librarianship this year, specifically on Collection Development. There was also a focus on graphic novels and video games. Part of my job duties include administrating our library’s island on Second Life, and possibly more work with virtual worlds in the future. There were multiple panels on this subject, so there was my in--BEA was actually relevant to my current job! Score!
Thus, work provided me with a one-day pass, and though I definitely should have gone for multiple days, my experience was nothing short of amazing.
As part of my work duties, I attended three panels- one on Collection Development and two on graphic novels and video games. All three were interesting on a personal level. The Collection Development panel introduced me to EarlyWord.com, and we discussed various ways of updating collections, the impact of libraries on the book industry, and so forth. Eventually the discussion turned to ways to get people (specifically children) to read, which, while interesting, wasn’t as useful to me. University library--our patrons are generally looking for materials to aid them with their next research paper. Nevertheless, there were some tips and ideas that could be applicable with a few twists.
The second and third panels were interesting on both a personal and professional level, since they dealt with video games and graphic novels--areas in which I am somewhat versed. Jordan Mechner (creator of Prince of Persia) gave a fantastic presentation on the makeup of gamer culture today, as well as interesting insight into the history of his series of games. I can’t say I entirely agree with Mechner’s assessment that games aren’t about story, and can’t be appreciated just by watching them; while gameplay is the primary concern (who wants to play a game with a frustrating battle system, for instance?), watching my friend play through Persona 3, GTA IV, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time this year has engaged me as much as it would if I were holding the controller. I was drawn to the stories. Then again, stories have always been the reason I play games, and any games I play without a story tend to be very short.
Both of the latter panels had engaging discussions on the similarities and differences between video games/graphic novels and other forms of media, and the discussion of different forms of literacy in the final panel (The New Literacy) was downright fascinating. While I’m aspiring to write your standard novels, I’ve long been interested in comics, and have more than a few friends who work in video games or the comics/manga industry. This panel echoed conversations we’ve had many times, and took it to another, more professional level (although, like with the first panel, the conversation veered towards graphic literature for children). I could write a meandering monologue on my views on this subject, but it boils down to this: I think graphic novels are fantastic. I may write text only, but I am a very visual thinker--I can’t help but envision the story in movie-mode as I write. But some stories are told better in different media: some can be conveyed precisely in words only, and some gain a lot by being able to see the exact, peculiar expressions in a character’s eyes. I loved discussing this continuum of media, and how they’re related, and was quite sad when the panels were over.
I of course stopped by the academic publishers and university presses to pick up catalogs and promotional materials for work, but between events, I had free time to go crazy and do what I wanted: scour the fiction publisher booths and hit up the autographing area. “Amazing” doesn’t begin to describe it. Maybe I was excited as this was my first publishing convention, but my favorite part of any convention has always been to scour the booths and see what new products companies are offering. The fact that everything is free at BEA was certainly nice, but I would have been content to pay as well (and did donate for each book I got signed, as requested). I picked up books both from authors I love and authors I’d never heard of--Louis Sachar, Neal Stevenson, Benjamin Mee, Richard Dansky, and many more--and found a book which may finally get me into reading memoir. The line next to Sachar’s was for Christopher Paolini, whose turnout was so huge that fans had to get up early to get tickets. That was an interesting experience. His line stretched farther than I could see, and I felt for his poor hand, but knew that, were I in his position, I wouldn’t begrudge the experience.
Alas, I could only stay for Saturday. The experience was enthralling, as cliché as it may seem for me to gush, but I’m a young (early/mid-twenties) woman who was placed in an environment swarming with people who were all just as zealous about books, who got the opportunity to listen to interesting ideas and discuss visions with published authors, and who got so much new reading material that I had to venture out to my car twice. May I never lose that passion.
Next is ALA or San Diego ComicCon. Next year, I hope--New York!