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BEA

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Yesterday, I woke up at noon, having slept for 13 hours. That should tell you all you need to know: it was BEA the week before. And this was an easy one, compared to the last two years. I deliberately tried to go slow and skip all the meetings I could, and still, the expo crawled into my soul and took root.

This year’s BEA was…strange. There weren’t a lot of books on the floor, an odd sight compared to 2009, when I ran around like a kindergartener on a Pixy Stix high, grabbing ARCs and pressing them to my chest in a delirious rush of paper. I only filled up one bag this year, which was good for my shoulders but put me in a funky mood. (ALA was a much better haul, and I hope I’ll be reporting the same about the expo in June in New Orleans.) Not that I want to rob booksellers and librarians of their ARCs but…I need to stay on top of new releases, too…or so I tell myself to sleep more soundly.

There was a lot of talk about digital…a lot. The day before the expo floor opened was all about digital publishing and social networking and all of that. My colleague Laura Rennert was on a panel about new publishing models. You can read more about that from my KidlitApps post, here.

I wanted to run around and post with pictures of upcoming book ARCs, but Random House, the publisher of BUGLETTE, A MESSY SLEEPER had a very small footprint on the floor (though I suppose it’s better than when they had no presence at all), and S&S didn’t have ARCs of WILDEFIRE available. I did manage to find an ARC of MERCY LILY by Lisa Albert at the Flux booth, and pose with it, so the tradition remained alive. Here’s hoping to even more smiley shots at ALA.

The Buzz Panels this year were great. Lots of exciting books. You can read a write-up of the YA panel here, and the MG panel here. I’ve already tucked into THE APOTHECARY by Maile Meloy, which I’d heard about originally from Jen Besser, the editor, at a meeting in the fall. It’s really good so far, and I can’t wait to see the whole package with all of the art. Also in my suitcase this weekend were DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor and AU REVOIR CRAZY EUROPEAN CHICK by Joe Schreiber from the YA buzz panel. I’m really happy we had a MG panel, and hope that tradition continues.

There were also some hotly buzzed ARCs at the expo. If it had been my first BEA, I would’ve gamely waited in line to get them. This year? Feh. But if someone wants to send me THE FUTURE OF US, the new Jay Asher/Carolyn Mackler juggernaut, I will happily provide my mailing address. Yes, it is an ABLA book. No, I did not get an ARC. No, I am not above begging. There’s also an adult (gasp!) book that was getting all the buzz at the expo…THE NIGHT CIRCUS. Anybody got that lying around?

My favorite things about BEA weren’t in the official BEA program. They were run-ins with agents, editors, authors, and other publishing friends on the floor, as always. They were late-night NYC adventures with out-of-towners who just neeeeed, in my opinion, to have an enthusiastic tour guide show them what the view from the Brooklyn Bridge is like in the middle of the night. They were afternoon drinks after the last expo day with people as exhausted as you are, who just want to stare at a wall, mouths slightly ajar. Oh, yes, and also going to the Teen Author Carnival to cheer on my client, Karsten Knight, whose WILDEFIRE is coming July 26th! You can see us here, debuting our ridiculously good-looking glasses (and Karsten in his apron that’s stuffed full of bookmarks for the book).

On Friday night, I was out in the languid summer heat, BEA a fuzzy memory already, enjoying a beer or two at the Frying Pan, a barge/ship/dock/beer garden-type thing on 12th Avenue and 26th Street. I turned uptown to get out of the wind and my eyes fell immediately onto the shimmering black jewel that is the Javits Center. No joke, my blood pressure spiked and I whirled back around. It was good having you in town, BEA. It looks like it’ll be a whole year before our paths cross again. Somehow, I’m okay with that.

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BEA (Book Expo America) ended yesterday and, as of this morning, I’m finally feeling a bit more human. Expo week is always huge, busy, and full of friends, colleagues, parties and, of course, ARCs.

frazee_the_boss_babySome of the highlights of the week for me were: the Teen Author Carnival, running into Marla Frazee and her editor (Marla’s newest book, out this fall, THE BOSS BABY, is one of my absolute new favorites), seeing my fantastic colleagues (and our agency’s phenomenal foreign rights and subrights co-agent, Taryn Fagerness).

BEA is always crowded and it’s hard to get where you’re going without running into people you know or recognize if you’ve circulated in the publishing industry for any length of time. So you can set up all the meetings you want, but you’ll always be surprised by who you bump into.

brown_childrenI also loved meeting Peter Brown (whose newest picture book from Little, Brown, CHILDREN MAKE TERRIBLE PETS, out this fall, is the best thing I’ve ever seen), reconnecting with some old friends and making plenty of new ones (just in time for my move!), meeting agents from the tight-knit agenting community in NYC, and seeing an AWESOME panel for the new GUYS READ: FUNNY BUSINESS anthology coming out this fall from HarperCollins/Walden Media (the panel featured children’s book heavyweights Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, Jeff Kinney, David Lubar and the editor of the anthology, Jordan Brown).

keplinger_the_duffIn terms of YA news and ARCs, I went to the YA Editor’s Buzz panel, an annual event where five excited editors talk about the big books on their list. Ally Condie’s MATCHED was the big book for Penguin, of course, Erin Bow’s PLAIN KATE was Scholastic’s exciting new find, Rebecca Maizel had INFINITE DAYS on the St. Martin’s list, and Sophie Jordan’s FIRELIGHT will be coming out from HarperTeen, but there is one book that I kept hearing about over and over and over again: THE DUFF, coming this fall from Little, Brown.

Kody Keplinger was seventeen, I believe, when she wrote THE DUFF (which stands for “The Designated, Ugly, Fat Friend” in insult lingo). She appeared at the Teen Author Carnival, had several signings and panels at BEA, has sold movie and foreign rights all over the place, was flagged by her publicist and editor wherever she went and was otherwise a consummate professional…and she’s just getting started! I can’t wait to read THE DUFF and have heard from pretty much everyone that it is amazing. I had a chance to talk to several Little, Brown editors and they’re really getting behind an amazing list for next season (including Daisy Whitney’s phenomenal debut, THE MOCKINGBIRDS, which got lots and lots of buzz).

the-mockingbirdsOther impressions I got at BEA from editors and panels and all that jazz: paranormal needs to be absolutely unique (don’t start writing a vampire, angel, werewolf or zombie book unless you want to give yourself the steepest odds possible). This applies to mythology, too (Greek and Egyptian will be a hard sell unless we haven’t heard about those characters before).

Mermaids are definitely on the uptick in terms of acquisitions, as is dystopian: those books will start coming out next season. Editors are definitely looking for thrillers, contemporary/realistic, mystery and stories of friendship, romance, and betrayal, in both MG and YA. This is great because all of these themes are right up my alley — I’d love to stop seeing derivative paranormal romance and hear from writers who are really telling unique stories. It’s finally time to break out of the TWILIGHT mold, and it seems like more and more of publishing agrees.

On a purely personal note, I got to meet and fangirl about Bernadette Peters. She was there, signing her newest picture book. I think finally meeting one of my theatre idols made my life at least 117% better. Overall, a fantastic week. Now, off to catch up on emails from all those patient people who’ve been trying to reach me. :)

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I am heading into BEA today. Excuse the lazy post but BEA week is always crazy. What are the ARCs you most want to see?

I’ve already read MATCHED, which is a dystopian book that went to auction with seven publishers bidding. What are the other hot reader books you want to know about?

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So, I heard from a lot of people on my ebooks and e-readers post last week. There was even a comment from a bookbinder! Some people were very excited about what possibilities lie ahead with ebooks and interactivity and e-readers that target younger readers (whether or not they’re thrust into a toddlers hands for tantrum control and entertainment!).

A few other readers, though, really seem to be rejecting ebooks because they’re not books. Well, yeah. And my iPad doesn’t come in especially handy once a month, either. The two are patently different and, I’d argue, these two media for enjoying written content serve different purposes and (for the most part) different readerships.

Look, there’s nobody arguing with people who love the touch, smell, feel and experience of printed books. This is a joy that folks have known since Gutenberg fired up his press and dashed off the first mass market illuminated manuscript. (The joke cited in the recent New Yorker article about the iPad and ebooks goes that the second thing Gutenberg printed was a book about the death of publishing…)

So there’s no denying that printed books are one (almost sacred) thing, and ebooks are another. But this isn’t Shark vs. Whale where one dies and sinks at the end. (At least not in our lifetimes…cold comfort and heartless, sure, but if all print media, books included, goes the way of the 8-track tape in 100 years, the good news is we won’t be there to see it. But I really don’t think this will happen.)

However, I think people are going to get themselves in trouble, going forward, by denying the power of ebooks or hoping they go away (and here I’m talking about mostly book and publishing professionals, booksellers, etc., not casual readers). They won’t go away. For readers, those predisposed to reading ebooks are probably already in possession of an e-reader or contemplating one in the near future. (A news article I read recently, but can’t remember where, again, which is maddening, says that something like 26% of people were contemplating buying either an iPad or another e-reader in the next year.) For people who want nothing to do with ebooks, they don’t have to make that choice personally, but they should know that ebooks and e-readers are here to stay.

As I said above, it’s really not either/or. If publishers and booksellers and librarians and other bibliopeople want to be successful, they need to maximize impact and profit with ebooks and the people who read ebooks, while fostering growth for their printed formats, as they’re already used to doing. Publishing’s job isn’t to sell people books, it’s to sell people stories and content.

Some people, and I agree, though I have yet to really dig in to some numbers or a case study, believe that having both an ebook version and a printed version of a work feeds sales for both. Last Tuesday, I went to see Cory Doctrow speak and he said that publishing all of his books as a web serial and in ebook format hasn’t stopped sales of his printed work or replaced (in his customer’s mind) a need to own the printed version. If anything, he thinks his printed book sales have benefited from how available his work is online and for e-readers.

Again, this is going to be a huge issue that won’t die or become less important in our lifetimes. There are so many opinions and so many perspectives. From Cory Doctrow — who believes in ultimate freedom and publishes his work under a Creative Commons License — to the bookseller who just had to shutter his or her independent store because the times, they are a-changin’. I can’t even pretend to be comprehensive in these posts, but I hope I am giving you some good food for thought.

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Speaking of publishing, I’m in New York for BEA (Book Expo America), a huge publishing trade show, this week. I’ll be having meetings, going to panels, going to lunch, going to parties, and grabbing ARCs for three days straight. I know I’ll have many more thoughts on digital content once this week is over!

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I read a lot of books in my line of work. Most of them are unpublished, sure, but I still have to make time to keep up with the market. I read tons of ARCs (Advance Reader or Review Copies, sent by publishers to reviewers, bookstores and librarians before the book’s release date… I get them through bookseller friends or at industry events) and already-published books. I used to do a lot more in terms of book reviews on here, but now I think I’ll put together lists of my recent favorites a few times a year. In the spirit of Christmas, here’s a quick and dirty last-minute Holiday Gift Guide with recommendations for some things I’ve read lately and loved.

Support the industry you want to work in by buying two copies of each of these… one for the favorite teen in your life and one as research for yourself, the writer!

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flashburnoutcoverFLASH BURNOUT
by L.K. Madigan
Young Adult (336 pages). Houghton Mifflin, 2009.
ISBN: 978-0547194899

For Readers: You don’t need lil’ old me to recommend this book to you. It is a PW Flying Start, a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award and beloved by everyone. But I will anyway, because it is just that good. You will love Blake’s voice. The main character manages to be hilarious and poignant from one moment to the next, a feat that’s not easy to pull off. Author L.K. Madigan has crafted a story where you’ll be frequently put-off by Blake and his choices, but you’ll be rooting for him anyway, all while laughing your ass off. There are some sexual situations, so this might be a good fit for the older teen set.

For Writers: This is what I mean when I say “voice.” A lot of you are still confused on that subject, or you want to see it in action. Just read this.

buckfeverBUCK FEVER
by Cynthia Chapman Willis
Middle Grade (240 pages). Feiwel & Friends, 2009.
ISBN: 978-0312382971

For Readers: I feel like I have to include BUCK FEVER here because I don’t usually cover a lot of MG and I don’t usually cover a lot of boy MG especially. This book features an unlikely hero, a boy who isn’t one of those self-conscious nerd geniuses like the character in FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN’T HAVE (Read my review). He’s sensitive and shy and genuinely wants to make a difference in his world and to belong to his family, neither of which he’s been able to do very well so far. A sensitively-written novel that’ll appeal to both girls and boys, this MG pits its hero against a really big moral choice… and, in my opinion, that’s the heart and essence of middle-grade right there.

For Writers: If you’re writing more literary or more old-fashioned middle-grade, pick up BUCK FEVER because it puts to bed the myth that these kinds of books have to be slow and boring. There’s a lot going on and the pacing moves briskly. There’s also a great mix here of internal conflict, of the main character and his struggles to define himself and to live up to his father’s expectations, and external conflict, with a local hunting family and the deer that he’s supposed to kill. Yes, it’s a hunting book, and that will turn some people off, but it’s still worth a study.

timothydragonTIMOTHY AND THE DRAGON’S GATE
by Adrienne Kress
Middle Grade (368 pages). Weinstein Books, 2009.
ISBN: 978-1602861091

For Readers: Hilarious hijinks ensue in Adrienne Kress’ second book. Middle-grade readers who want just the right touch of whimsy and don’t want to dip their feet into wizards and dragons will love the author’s unique take on fantasy/adventure. This will appeal to both boys and girls — a rare feat — and will leave readers clamoring for more. Good thing they’ll find it in Kress’ debut ALEX AND THE IRONIC GENTLEMAN, which shares characters and plot with the follow-up. Well worth a read!

For Writers: This is another example of great voice. Kress’ work is a study in the self-conscious narrator. What do I mean by that? It’s a narrator who is very much a part of the story him- or herself. They break the fourth wall, make asides to the reader and otherwise participate. The narrator’s voice colors everything. Kress’ books are also great middle-grade adventure novels with pirates, theatre, quirks galore. They’re over-the-top and they’re romps but there’s also some serious craftsmanship going on. This style worked very well for Lemony Snicket and, if you want another hidden gem example, definitely pick up TIMOTHY.

goodbyerobotHOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT
by Natalie Standiford
Young Adult (288 pages). Scholastic Press, 2009.
ISBN: 978-0545107082

For Readers: I have made no secret of my burning love for this book. It slays me. If I had read it in my incarnation as a geeky, profoundly introspective 15- or 16-year-old, it would’ve changed my life. I think it has pretty much done that anyway. This book is truly for those special readers: the observers, the quirk-ridden, the deep thinkers, the lonely hearts, the painfully awkward. And that’s an amazing thing. I think this simultaneously heart-warming and heartbreaking story is one that will reach out of the pages and grab its readers, never to let them go.

For Writers: “Quirky” is such a cheap word now. Too many people think they have what it takes to write a truly quirky character and instead they emerge with a mish-mash of incomprehensible traits that don’t make a fleshed-out person. Natalie Standiford has created characters who are almost too real. Their interests, their passions, their needs are achingly authentic. They are truly quirky, without being cute or contrived about it. And they don’t harp on their quirks or their loneliness, like most other characters do. I don’t know exactly what lesson a writer can take from this book. I’ve taken so many, over several rereadings, that I really do urge you all to just read it and discover it for yourself.

gothgirlGOTH GIRL RISING
by Barry Lyga
Young Adult (400 pages). Houghton Mifflin, 2009.
ISBN: 978-0547076645

For Readers: Kyra won’t be for everyone, but those who read her and resonate with her will carry her voice and her story for a very long time. Lyga’s angsty, fully-formed character has been waiting for a chance to tell her story and I can’t imagine a better one to showcase her side of things. Despite some very difficult and emotional moments throughout, the ending resonates will a rare, well-earned hope.

For Writers: Barry Lyga is a guy. But he writes an edgy teen girl with all the skill and conviction in the world. Many writers ask me if it’s okay to step so far outside yourself to find a character’s voice. Guy writers, especially, worry that they won’t get credibility writing from a girl’s POV. And I think that’s a valid concern, especially for men writing a first-person woman (I think women writing from a guy’s POV have it slightly easier in terms of criticism, as did L.K. Madigan in FLASH BURNOUT, above, but that’s another bucket of fish). If you are finding your current first-person protagonist is a stretch for you, pick up GOTH GIRL RISING and see how seamlessly the writer a) maintains the writing voice he’s well-known for, and b) slips on a whole new skin.

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And for the love of goats, go buy these at your local independent bookstore or online at IndieBound.org.

For other books that I have loved this year, click on the “Highly Recommended” tag in my blog sidebar. You’ll see things I’ve reviewed and loved from earlier.

Disclosures: This list includes friends as well as ABLit clients. Books have either been purchased by me, obtained at BEA, passed along from friends, or sent to me by the author in ARC form.

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I mean it. Mad. Ness.

Okay, so I have some pictures that I’ll put up here after I get home and I have tons of ideas for posts. However, I would just like to take this opportunity to summarize BEA 2009. Here are the essential stats:

Authors met: 27
ARC’s received: 21
Hopeless geeky crushes on other book nerds: 2*
Editors met: 11
Red Bulls imbibed: 3 (We all know I’d be lying if I didn’t put down at least “5″)
Bars attended with writers and friends: 5
Official publishing parties attended: 2
24-hour diners eggs-benedict-ed in: 1

And now for the most shocking (to me) numbers of all: sleep stats. I arrived on Thursday at 6 p.m. and am leaving Sunday at 11 a.m.

Total hours in NYC: 64
Total hours slept on Thursday night: 4.5
Total hours slept on Friday night: 4
Total hours slept on Saturday night: 0
Total hours slept: 8.5

No sleep ’til… Book Expo! I can’t imagine this sheer amount of mind-blowing awesomeness will repeat itself but I’ve made up my mind regardless: I am adding BEA to my annual schedule. Like whoa. Heart, soul, mind all agree: this was one of the best, most interesting, most intense and most amazing weekends ever.

* I’ll never tell. Muah hahahaha.

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Where, oh where, is yesterday’s tremendous gusto?

The kind that propelled me out of bed, to the Javits, into line, back home, to Javits again, into line, into line, into line, into line (and on and on and on)? I don’t know either. If you find it, let me know. Since I don’t think my blog displays the time of each post, I must tell you something that will make you tremendously disappointed in me. Yesterday’s wake-up call? 4:37. Today’s? 8:24. No crazy signing tickets, no pre-dawn running around.

However, there is a caveat to these very un-BEA-warrior numbers. The plain fact of the matter is that I went to bed around the same time I woke up yesterday. The sun was coming up. It was rather beautiful. Beautiful but deadly.

Whose grand idea was it to stay up all night, at a hoochie-infested 24 hour diner, no less? We’ll never know. Rest assured, it was an amazing time. First I went to the Kidlit Drinks get-together at Houndstooth (alas, the event was not in my honor, hehe…) and met some fabulous new friends. Then got talking and just… didn’t… stop. I swear, I was out and talking for so long that I must’ve told my life story — all the fine points included — three and a half times.

“There was this one time, with this peanut butter and banana sandwich…”

“We. Know.”

Whoops.

But it was incredible and now that I’ve had a shower and some time to get used to the idea of running on so little sleep, I’m feeling pretty human again.

On today’s agenda is a lot less signing. I’m going to one panel, a signing or two when I can fit them in, and then the rest of the day I’ll probably be walking the third level, which I didn’t do yesterday, and going to meetings. Tonight, there’s a fabulous get-together for Blue Boarders and then a party that I’ll be going to.

And then I’m going to sleep so hardcore and so much that I’m about 90% certain I’ll miss tomorrow morning’s flight. But hey, this is my first time here and I might as well take it to the limit, right guys? Right? Right? I’ll assume your silence to mean a resounding “HELL YES!”

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What a whirlwind day! That doesn’t even begin to describe it but, since I’ve been up for about 15 hours at this point, that’s about the limit of my imagination/vocabulary. My day began, as I might’ve mentioned, early. Armed with a healthy dose of RedBull, I arrived at the Children’s Author Breakfast and had the very surreal experience of listening to Julie Andrews talk, Peter Yarrow (of “Puff the Magic Dragon” and Peter, Paul and Mary fame) sing, and Meg Cabot, Tomie DePaola and Amy Krouse Rosenthal talk.

After that, I went downstairs to start my long line of signings (and of long lines). Highlights: Neil Gaiman, Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld, Mo Willems, three finalists from Top Chef, Emeril Lagasse, Adrienne Kress, Sarah MacLean and Ally Carter.

This took up most of my day. At the end of the afternoon, I caught YA Editors’ Buzz, with David Levithan, Arthur Levine, Ari Lewin, Krista Marino, Mark Siegel, Liz Szabla and Tara Weikum. What a blast to hear editors discuss the projects that make them squee! I managed to get through some pages of CATCHING FIRE while waiting in various lines (why yes, I am awesome, thank you very much) and then went to some editor meetings with the director of the agency. It was super cool to hear an agent and editor discussing projects and needs. I’ll be doing much more of that tomorrow.

Are you ready for some pictures? If you want your mind seriously blown, click the link below:

Read the rest of this entry »

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I went downstairs this morning and, to my surprise, not only was it flu booger yellow outside, it was also raining. So, in addition to toothpaste, I picked up an overpriced yet incredibly poorly-made umbrella. Then I tromped the three blocks to Javits and found my tribe, the early-rising book geeks:

You’ll have to excuse my pictures from this trip. There was no way I planned on hauling around my extremely nice but heavy Canon Rebel SLR. Knowing me, I’d either drop it or chuck it against a wall in frustration because the lighting inside the Javits is bound to be a pain in the butt to shoot manually. So I picked up an infuriating little Nikon CoolpieceofshitPix to take on-the-fly snaps with. (Good thing Best Buy has a return policy, s’all I’m sayin’…). So, with that as a caveat, below is the best shot of me and the line. The major blurriness is fitting, actually, as it’s a pretty dead-on reflection of my bleary state of mind right now:

More Javits:

Here are my signing tickets for today. First, just because he’s here, I got:

BAM! Next, I’m more than a little excited about:

And finally, the one that officially makes me the pretty little princess:

And here’s a nice shot of my hotel, the New Yorker, from in front of Javits:

On my way down 35th street, I encountered the biggest puddle ocean in the middle of the sidewalk and couldn’t go around it. So my shoes and the entire bottom quarter of my pants are soaked. Just in time for me to walk around in them all day long. There’s a PayLess across the street but I doubt they’ll open before I have to be at the Children’s Author Breakfast at 8. Oh well. I’m a book warrior and, after this quick update, I’m off to Javits again.

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So, for those keeping track, I flew in to NYC yesterday and had a delightful dinner at my favorite pizza place, Posto, with my agent friend Elizabeth. It was so great to catch up and, even though I might’ve protested at the time, she left me the last two pieces of the meatlover’s special with roasted garlic, which I ferreted up to my room and might or might not have eaten in bed while catching up on Twitter from the day.

Now it’s day 1 of BEA. I’m sad I missed the YA Author Carnival yesterday but I was stuck on the tarmack for an inexplicable hour after we landed, gritting my teeth, only to get stuck some more in rush hour traffic. Not the case today. Today I’m getting to the Javits, only three blocks from my hotel, early. How early, you ask?

CATCHING FIRE signing tickets early, aka. hours before the sun even thinks about rising:

The mist around New York was so thick yesterday that my plane only broke through the clouds about 20 seconds before landing. It’s no different today. The city outside my window is a very unattractive shade of flu booger yellow:

And now that I’m awake, I put on my game face:

And I… run across the street to Duane Reade for the toothpaste I forgot to pack… and then, it’s on. Although I did commit a very unpleasant tactical error. I read the only book I brought (who brings books to BEA?) on the plane yesterday, so I have nothing to entertain me in line except, well, hopefully, other crazed book fans who have no life and wake up at 4:30 a.m. to lay their hands on Suzanne Collins signing tickets.

Book nerds, into the fray! Stay tuned here for my BEA adventures.

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