I equate travel with reading time. You’re stuck in an airport or an airplane for hours on end, so what else are you going to do? For me, I either knit or read or catch up on Welcome to Night Vale. Sometimes all three. So last Friday I decided to head to Toronto for a day or two to visit one of my critique partners. I’ll tell you how many books I read on Friday, and you can guess how long I spent in airports/on planes, okay?

Here’s what I read:

Let’s just say that I hoped to be on the first flight to Toronto on Friday, and I rolled into Toronto at ten o’clock Friday night . . . in a car. It was a combination of flying stand-by and plane mechanical failures. Yes, it was a long day–but apparently that sometimes what happens when you’re flying non-rev.

Biblio-Mat_WEB2-300x225Captive audience time aside, it was a Saturday with a friend, full of walking long distances on an injured foot/ankle, buying tea and French macarons in Queen West, talking about writing, and eating pretty much every hour or two. I was really excited to visit the Monkey’s Paw so I could see the Biblio-mat, but it was out of order. So I guess that’s a good reason to go back to Toronto eventually. Because I must have a book from the Biblio-mat! The Monkey’s Paw still came through, though–I walked out with a 1950 edition of Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery and a copy of Jean-Jacques Lecercle’s Philosophy Through the Looking Glass.

Two finds that you’ll want to know about if you’re thinking of visiting Toronto:

  1. Bull Dog Coffee. My critique partner and I had breakfast here. My latte and cranberry scone were so good I could have happily sat around there all day. Seriously–one of the best lattes I’ve had anywhere.
  2. Change Lingerie. I visited their Queen West location. I would not have gone in but for the glowing recommendation from my crit partner, and now I’m a big fan. Good quality, good fit, well-priced. Looks like I’ll be ordering my bras from Canada from now on.

I know you’re wondering how the books were, right? Well, keep an eye on This Dark Matter, an online magazine I started with my crit partner. This Dark Matter is all about dark fiction–not just horror or thrillers, but all genres. If there’s a dark core to the novel, we’re covering it. There’s talk about writing and publishing, pop culture, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I’ll be reviewing all the books I read over the weekend at some point. And we’re looking for contributors, so if you have an interest, do let me know.


I Am Not Embarrassed.

Let us discuss literary fiction and sales. It’s no secret that it’s incredibly difficult to sell a novel that is considered literary fiction, and that sales of literary fiction have been decreasing to the point where writers have been bemoaning the death of that particular category of books for years. Most recently, Will Self, in an article in The Guardian, claimed “serious novels” are dead. And, of course, by serious novel, he means adult literary fiction . . . because only adult literary fiction can be serious, I guess.

Not to be outdone, freelance writer Ruth Graham has decided young adult novels, regardless of genre, are not serious. In fact, adults should be embarrassed to read YA lit because it is written for children.

I’m a reader who did not weep, contra every article ever written about the book, when I read The Fault in Our Stars. I thought, Hmm, that’s a nicely written book for 13-year-olds. If I’m being honest, it also left me saying “Oh, brother” out loud more than once. Does this make me heartless? Or does it make me a grown-up? This is, after all, a book that features a devastatingly handsome teen boy who says things like “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things” to his girlfriend, whom he then tenderly deflowers on a European vacation he arranged.

Graham then goes on to say:

But the very ways that YA is pleasurable are at odds with the way that adult fiction is pleasurable. There’s of course no shame in writing about teenagers; think Shakespeare or the Brontë sisters or Megan Abbott. But crucially, YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way. It’s not simply that YA readers are asked to immerse themselves in a character’s emotional life—that’s the trick of so much great fiction—but that they are asked to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired as adults. When chapter after chapter in Eleanor & Park ends with some version of “He’d never get enough of her,” the reader seems to be expected to swoon. But how can a grown-up, even one happy to be reminded of the shivers of first love, not also roll her eyes?

Perhaps it makes me more of a grown up than Graham, but I read her article, rolled my eyes, and said “Oh, brother” numerous times.

Look, I love to read.  And, of course, I’m a writer of fiction. Graham tells us that it’s okay to write about teenagers (as I do), but it’s practically a sin for which she’ll happily judge you to read about teenagers. She seems to think I’m somehow depriving myself by including YA on my reading lists instead of only devouring the serious fiction of adult novels. While Graham is dictating what I should be reading as an adult, she doesn’t specify which genre of adult fiction. Does she consider, let’s say, The Fault in Ours Stars inferior adult reading over The Da Vinci Code? How about the winners of the various badly written erotica contests? I mean, it’s for adults, right? To read that kind of thing must mean we have “graduat[ed] out of the kiddie pool.” Or is she, like Will Self, talking about literary fiction? You know, “serious” literary?

One can picture Graham sitting down to dinner, eating only liver and onions because she deems it a grown up dish, worthy of mature palates, looking down her nose at adults enjoying a pizza because it’s kid food. It’s not serious food. (And no, that doesn’t mean I’m saying literary fiction is the equivalent of liver and onions. I read a lot of literary fiction and love it.) She comes across as so curmudgeonly and judgmental and melodramatic that it’s hard to take her seriously. The attempt to shame adults for reading YA rolls off the screen. Who is she to tell me what I can read as an adult or what is appropriate reading material for anyone?

Whether it’s Ruth Graham or Will Self or anyone else, I’m not interested in taking direction about what to read from anyone. I’d rather have the ability to enjoy a range of literature than set up arbitrary rules for myself that limit my options. I think I might be a little older than Graham, so I’ve got a handle on this “being an adult” thing. I vote. I pay my bills and mortgage. I’ve been married for a lot of years. I even hold down a steady, paying job and pay my taxes and manage not to give in to any juvenile impulses I might have, despite reading quite a bit of YA lit. Well, maybe sometimes. I did, after all, cry while reading The Fault In Our Stars. Mea culpa. I’m clearly unwilling to grow up.


The #BookCon2014 Wrap-Up

So . . . BookCon. What can I say about my experience at BookCon today? I’ll start with the positive: the We Need Diverse Books panel was really excellent. A few of the organizers talked a bit about how WNDB came to be and why we need diverse books, and writer Ellen Oh made the exciting announcement that there will be an entire book festival for children’s, middle grade, and YA novels that is focused on diversity. It’ll be sometime in 2016 in Washington, DC. That definitely seems like a book festival worth attending!

The panel itself was interesting and touching and funny, and I just really had a great time hearing from a diverse group of writers–Grace Lin, Jacqueline Woodson, Matt de la Peña, Lamar Giles (just recently read his novel Fake ID, which is really great), and Mike Jung.

You might remember the brouhaha over BookCon’s total lack of diversity on panels that caused the #weneeddiversebooks hashtag and movement to rise up. I was happy to see the organizers and panel members not shy away from calling out the BookCon organizers. And I was also thrilled to see a standing-room-only crowd for the panel. It was filled with a hugely outwardly diverse crowd (inwardly, it was probably even more diverse than anyone can know) of passionate readers, and it was lovely.

Elsewhere at BookCon, not everything was so wonderful.

I won’t rehash the problematic issue of the BEA Power Reader tickets sold that were randomly converted to BookCon tickets. I will, however, repeat what a BookCon rep told me when I pressed for details about the bait and switch issue of the tickets. Specifically, the rep insisted that BookCon would be just like BEA but without the “business-to-business” booths. It was supposed to be a “greatly expanded” experience. I think it’s an understatement to say that it was not. It was not a greatly expanded experience. In fact, I would venture to say that my experience–outside the diversity panel–was pretty awful and disappointing.

It began when I was herded downstairs in the Javits Center and then outside after receiving my badge and situated in a ridiculous line that snaked around some kind of weird parking lot area. I am grateful that it wasn’t 100 degrees outside like it was last year during BEA. Look, I’m aware that there have always been lines at BEA–you know, excited people who queue up to be the first onto the show floor. Let’s just say the crowd was far bigger. And far different. The vibe was far different. The age group was far, far different. But whatever. I think BookCon was hoping for a different crowd. So mission accomplished, I guess. For me, it was just incredibly irritating.

And then there was my experience on the floor of BookCon. The whole of BookCon was shoved into the tiniest section imaginable. Seriously. Six aisles. Six. Something like ten thousand people. Shoe-horned into six aisles. Picture it. We were crammed in there like sardines. And no one seemed to know where to go or what to do.

And honestly, on the BookCon floor, there wasn’t much going on. There were a few of the larger publishers with booths in the BookCon section, but there were more that weren’t super recognizable, along with several self-published writers. I saw a tweet from someone who suggested the exhibitors in the area looked lost, like they didn’t quite know what they were doing there or how to interact with BookCon ticket holders. Maybe that was true . . . or maybe they were just afraid to do anything that might spark a stampede. Unlike BEA, there was a far greater emphasis on sales, particularly for the self-published writers with booths. I saw very few Advanced Reader Copies anywhere . . . not that I could see much. I was sorted of shuttled like a cow through an abattoir death chute since it was impossible to do anything but let the giant crowd take you. Book discovery has always been a very important part of the BEA and the Power Reader experience, and that is what was missing this year. Last year, I was able to lay hands on a bunch of ARCs from writers I didn’t know, some of which became new favorites. At BookCon, I found one ARC. Maybe there were others I just couldn’t see from my hole in the crowd (ah, short person problems). I really don’t know. It was so crowded and stifling and claustrophobic that I gave up after fifteen or twenty minutes. There was no way to even attempt to enjoy anything, but, like I said, nothing on the BookCon floor looked particularly compelling or exciting. I headed downstairs to hang out in the room in which the #weneeddiversebooks panel was being held.

Before I left the floor, though, I did come face to face with the guarded entrance to BEA. That was nice. Way to make participants feel separate and unequal. Perhaps it’s a little overly melodramatic to say, but I kept thinking of the movie District 9, and we–the BookCon folks–were the aliens confined to squalor.

I bailed on BookCon after the diverse books panel. I know a lot of people had a perfectly nice time, and maybe they were the participants who had never been to BEA and didn’t care about the BookCon floor, who were there only to meet celebrities. I don’t know. It definitely wasn’t my scene, though, and I can’t see myself attend another one as a reader/civilian.


I Am Guilty: Traveling Alone While Female

o-MEN-WOMEN-TRAVEL-facebookTraveling while female scares people. Particularly the idea of traveling alone while female.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. In another couple of weeks I’m going to have access to quite a bit of free and/or dirt cheap travel due to a family member scoring a gig that allows for unlimited stand-by (you know, non-rev) travel. I’m incredibly excited–it’s a great opportunity to do some research for a few new novels and short stories I’ve got in mind. In some cases, I will travel with my husband. He likes going new places and seeing new things every bit as much as I do. We’ve been to Paris, London, Athens, a bunch of Greek island, and a coastal town in Turkey together. But more often than not, I think, I’ll end up traveling alone because our free time might not coincide. It’s sad because he makes a great travel companion, and I’ll miss having him with me for adventures. That said, I’m perfectly capable and willing to take a plane somewhere and explore alone. I’ve had a few opportunities to do so domestically–New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, etc.

The issue of safety comes up a lot for women. For instance, New Yorker Sarai Sierra being killed in Turkey for thwarting some guy’s advances. But safety for women is a problem no matter where you go. There’s an article on HuffPo today titled, “Walking While Fat and Female,” written by a woman who lives in Seattle who does a lot of walking and faces constant harassment from men. She links it to being overweight and a woman, but the truth is that it wouldn’t matter if she were thin or average or young or old or a million other things (and the author does acknowledge this)–being female means always being vigilant about your safety, about trying not to get raped or harassed or brutalized in some other way:

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of not feeling like I can say anything to the idiots that yell at me. Like I can’t react. And that I can’t even share that this experience happens daily with supposed allies. Not all men shout at me from cars. But the ones that do shout at me are the ones that make it unsafe to walk in my city. And you telling me that not all men do that doesn’t make my walk, or drive, or existence safer. It makes it more challenging to say, “This happened and it was wrong.” It makes it harder to call out this behavior for what it is — misogynistic, sexist, rape culture bullsh*t behavior. I don’t care that not all men are like this. I care that it happens. That it continues to happen. That it’s common. That it’s so common that when I hear a woman start talking about it with other women, those women can point to at least one similar incident that’s happened to them in the past two weeks.

Whether you’re in Istanbul or Seattle, as a woman you’re going to run into the same problems–there’s a huge disconnect for some guys about how women should be treated (the answer: like equals instead of objects). But the question is this: does that make it dangerous to travel alone? Perspective is everything. I grew up in a really small town, and maybe if I’d stayed there the idea of traveling to Barcelona or Bangkok by myself, exploring cities alone, etc might really freak me out. I’ve lived in Philadelphia for a lot of years. Personally, I think Philly is a pretty safe place to live and work, but last year it was ranked as the twelfth most dangerous city in the United States by Business Insider. Like I said, perspective is everything. Maybe I’m not intimidated because living here so long has helped me develop a sense of how to be safe and also how to trust my instincts. And that semester of self-defense some years back didn’t hurt either.

This isn’t to say that my good common sense and my self-defense training are going to miraculously save me in any situation. What it does give me is the confidence not to be scared to travel alone while female. Maybe I need to take extra precautions because sexism and misogyny exist . . . but I most certainly won’t let that stop me or my characters.

So hit me–what should I put on my list of places to see and things to do?


BookCon Continues to Dazzle (or Not)

Well, the BookCon controversy continues.

Last month, I wrote about the sudden switch from BEA’s Power Reader Day to BookCon (which didn’t pass the smell test for many, many people who had purchased tickets to Power Reader Day). Since that time, the organizers haven’t done themselves any favors. In addition to an awful lot of guest stars who aren’t writers, take a look at the full roster. Notice anything?

Not a person of color amongst them.

astonishedAnd then there’s the Blockbuster Reads: Meet the Kids Authors That Dazzle panel, consisting of Jeff Kinney, James Patterson, Rick Riordan, and Lemony Snicket. Er, white middle-aged dudes, every single one of them. In a genre dominated primarily by women writers, BookCon sort of had to go out of their way to put together a panel that lacking in diversity. But there’s more! When the BookCon organizers got a little too much heat about it, they asked a black woman to moderate the panel, like that was going to somehow mollify everyone.

As BookRiot recently pointed out, readers deserved more than this kind of crap.

Look, I don’t begrudge the writers who are appearing at BookCon their age or whiteness (because, you know, I’m white and I’m 42) or, in some cases, their maleness. Writing is a tough business, and you have to take opportunities to interact with readers wherever you can. But the BookCon organizers should know better. Particularly in the YA community, people are really interested in diversity. Not just diversity of gender and race and ethnicity, but of religion and physicality and everything else you can think of. The world is a huge place, with a huge range of people. The writing community and the people who read that work are just as diverse. We all want to see ourselves reflected in the pages of a book–whether we are white and atheist or brown and bi-sexual or a million other combinations.

At the very least, I’m glad to see people talking about diversity and about BookCon’s (and the publishing industry’s) responsibility to ensuring diversity. That all-white guy male canon in the English Department isn’t going to change itself, you know.

I’m still taking a wait-and-see attitude about BookCon and whether they live up to their own hype (specifically, about offering attendees everything BEA offered but more) . . . but I grow less and less optimistic as the end of May approaches.



Spring Has Sprung (and So Has a Sale)

Yesterday was an exciting day! The Rosemont College Book Festival kicked off in the morning, and I was there to sign copies of THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS. We’ve had such a brutal winter in Philadelphia, but yesterday was gorgeous–warm and sunny (until about half an hour before the end of the festival, but that barely counts). It was nice to see some people I know and meet some new folks, sell a couple of books and all that. Mostly, though, it was just nice to sit outside in the sun and get some funky tan lines.

Also yesterday was the start of the big sale on the ebook version of TRAJECTORY. The publisher discounted the novel to 99¢, and it’ll stay that way for a limited time (a week or two). Here’s the big announcement through Bookbub:


I had a fun time yesterday watching the sales ranking change from hour to hour. Who, me? A nerd? Never.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy of TRAJECTORY for 99¢, here are those links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo


Out of the Haze, It Oozes

yellowdyeSo there I was this morning, running down the street. My lungs burned. In the distance, a bright yellow fog hung in the air, almost seeming to rise from the macadam. People staggered out of the cloud, coughing and sputtering, skin glowing bright canary.

It sounds like a haz-mat situation, or maybe the beginning of a zombie film. Alas, no. It was the Run or Dye 5K in Philadelphia!

facefullLast year I decided to be a runner. Train for races. Work up to completing a spring triathlon one day when I’m ready. I’m the world’s worst runner. I’m slow. I’m injury-prone. But when you’re writing novels, it helps to have a physical activity to do that makes it possible to get out of your head. So I ran a hand full of 5Ks last year, and this year my husband and I decided to start the season with a fun run–the Run or Dye race.

I’ve long been fascinated by the Indian festival of Holi, and so the Run or Dye festival seemed like a good way to experience it without flying to India (although I’d love to do that one day, too). It’s a huge race. HUGE! The organizers release runners in waves. We were there fairly early, and my wave didn’t start running until thirty minutes after the start. People were still starting the race as we finished and drove off. Crazy!nicole

The race isn’t timed, and no one cares if you walk or run. Lots of little kids. A few people in costumes. Lots of people artfully applying dye powder to themselves before taking selfies in the race start corral. The race wound around Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and around the parking lot, and in addition to the yellow dye gauntlet, there were four or five others, all with different colors being tossed at runners.

And in case you’re wondering, dye gets EVERYWHERE. In your ears, in your mouth, under your clothes, in your sports bra, in your socks! What you can’t see in these photos is that I must have gotten caught in a direct hit of bright orange dye–the entire back of me, including my hair, was a solid wall of orange. Sexy!

In other words, it’s a fun and easy race to start the season, and a good tension breaker.

And now, I write!


#LV14 Getting to Know You

virgin_widget14So I’m serving as a judge for this year’s Like a Virgin pitch contest. If you’ve not heard of it, unagented young adult and new adult writers with a manuscript that’s never been entered in a pitch contest nab fifty available spots in the competition. Judges choose ten finalists to move forward to round 2 and offer feedback on pitches. Those ten finalists polish up their pitches further, and during round 2 editors and agents may request pages from the finalists’ manuscripts, and writers are eligible to win swag.

Last year several participants walked away with agent offers. Exciting! And that’s why I was so thrilled to get a spot as a judge. It wasn’t that long ago when I hadn’t yet successfully woo-ed my fantastic agent. Pitch contests were really helpful to me, and so it’s nice to have a chance to return the favor.

There’s a great “Getting to Know You” blog hop for all writers, judges, etc. to, well, get to know each other. Their questions and my answers are below.

How do you remember your first kiss?

Drool-filled and awkward. Oh, Jeremy, Jeremy, wherever you are . . .

In all seriousness, it’s very vivid in my mind. The colors are all sort of turned up, like someone was playing with the contrast in Photoshop. I guess all memories are like that, though, right? Sort of etched in and not quite right. I’m pretty sure the awkwardness isn’t exaggerated.

What was your first favorite love song?

My initial thought here was to name a certain Prince song that is only a love song in the most peripheral of ways. Love song adjacent, I guess. But then I remembered my mad crush on Shaun Cassidy. You know, when I was four or five years old. I had his self-titled album, and it was my most treasured possession, along with my plastic, cornflower blue turntable. I would put on the song “Lonely Girl” and clutch the album cover to my chest and pine for poor Shaun. Yes, at the age of five. Because at that tender age, I knew the pain of lost love and heartbreak. Or something.

What’s the first thing you do when you begin writing for the day?

Waking up is a good start!

I like to write early, but that’s pretty much the only ritual I have. I get out of bed, sit down with my laptop, consult my outline, maybe re-read the last little bit I wrote, and have at it.

Who’s the first writer who truly inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a writer, so I’m not sure I can accurately answer that. There are four books–one in junior high and three in high school–that really struck me when I read them and made me think about their construction, which is probably how most writers kind of start, right? Those books: SE Hinton’s The Outsiders was my junior high book, and my HS books were Invisible Man/Ralph Ellison, Another Country/James Baldwin, and A Prayer for Owen Meany/James Irving.

Did the final revision of your first book have the same first chapter it started with?

Yes and no. When I imagined the opening of The Trajectory of Dreams, it was always with my protagonist Lela White standing over the bed of an astronaut like a total creeper, watching him sleep and thinking about killing him in the most clinical, detached manner possible after having broken into his house. For me, there was no other way to open that novel, and that opening remained in the final version published by Bitingduck Press. The first chapter as a whole is slightly shorter than the original though–the original included a full flashback of Lela’s experience as a child of seeing a space shuttle disaster; the scene in the final version is quite truncated for flow.

For your first book, which came first: major characters, plot or setting?

Character, I guess, although all three happened almost simultaneously. I was reading Mary Roach’s book Packing For Mars, and the idea of a severely mentally ill woman with extreme masking/coping skills who breaks into the homes of astronauts to ensure they can sleep well as part of her psychosis popped into my head. Astronauts equal the Johnson Space Center, so that automatically means Houston. The full plot rolled out to me over the next couple of minutes. Lela White is really insistent.

What’s the first word you want to roll off the tip of someone’s tongue when they think of your writing?

Warped. In general, that’s probably the first thing people think of when they think of me. It’s likely well-earned. I’m doing a children’s book reading as part of Indies First Storytime Day (a national event that celebrates independent bookstores and Children’s Book Week) on May 17 in Bethany Beach, Delaware (Bethany Beach Books), and the unintentional theme of my readings is people being eaten. I’ll be reading The Book That Eats People and Pierre.

And there you have it. All about me.

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THEM ORANGES: a new short story

I have a tendency to write about food a lot. Maybe it’s because I’m a foodie (okay, a food snob–I admit it), or maybe it’s because food in general is so evocative of other things. I’m super excited to announce that one of my favorite food-related short stories, THEM ORANGES, was published today in the April issue of Jersey Devil Press.

“The sun heated the crown of her head, magnifying the heavy aroma. Another gale led Lettie to the road, and some intuition — a prick of recognition — turned her to the west, to the oak-heavy forest and the barely discernible paths within. She walked, following her nose, the nudges from within her belly. She would eat. She and the baby, they’d both eat.”

Go and check it out, along with the other three stories in this month’s issue. You’ll probably never look at oranges quite the same.

I love the short story that Jersey Devil Press picked up. As you may or may not know, I’m a late bloomer at juuuuuuuust about everything. That includes graduating from college. It’s a long story, but it took me 23 years to take a diploma. What can I say–I’m tenacious. During my last semester there (last spring), I took a creative writing class that concentrated on short stories. THEM ORANGES is one of the short stories I worked on in that class. I credit the instructor and several people in that class with helping to make the story a whole lot creepier than it was. Workshopping is super useful.

A few announcements:

  • Do you live anywhere near Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pennsylvania? Come see me on Saturday, April 26 at the Rosemont College Book Festival. I’ll be in the author tent all day, and I may do a reading of THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS as well. If the weather holds, I suspect it’s going to be a gorgeous day to hang out.
  • I’m thrilled to announce that I was invited to Bethany Beach Books in Bethany, Delaware to take part in Indies First Storytime Day. I’ll be reading one or two children’s books there at 2pm on Saturday, May 17. Storytime Day celebrates Children’s Book Week by inviting writers and illustrators into independent bookstores around the country. It’ll be a really fun day for kids, so come out to Bethany Beach, catch a little sun, and have a family fun day!

Hope to see you soon!


BEA to BookCon: What’s the Difference?

Discontent is brewing, and for once it has nothing to do with the constant snow.

For those of us who love books and/or are involved in the publishing industry in some way, BookExpoAmerica (BEA) is the mothership. It’s a place for discovery–booksellers, librarians, and book bloggers get to find out what titles are forthcoming; and it’s a place for networking within the industry and meeting writers. Last year I attended as a writer. I signed copies of THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS on one day, and I took the train back up to NY for their Power Reader Day with a friend. I had a great time, met some fabulous people, and I was able to lay hands on some ARCs that I had an interest in, the vast majority of which I reviewed on Amazon and/or Goodreads or talked about here on the site or on Twitter or Facebook.

This year I bought a ticket to the Power Reader Day only because I don’t have a book fresh out or forthcoming this year. That was a few weeks ago. Today, out of the blue, an email arrived in my inbox telling me that Power Reader Day doesn’t exist anymore. Instead, my Power Reader Day ticket is being converted to a BookCon ticket.

Emma-Watson-Shock-LookWhat? That was . . . abrupt.

The email didn’t really have much information about the difference. Power Reader Day no longer exists on the BEA website. But on the BookCon website, it very clearly states that the BookCon is separate event entirely from BEA, and while you can attend BookCon if you have a BEA ticket, you can cannot enter BEA with a BookCon ticket. But still, not much information about what is different at BookCon versus BEA.

There’s buzz about it on Twitter, but a lot of people seem unconcerned . . . as long as BookCon is not any different than BEA and what we were expecting from Power Reader Day.

Not to be a downer, but BookCon doesn’t really sound like BEA’s Power Reader Day at all:

[Lance] Fensterman [the guy in charge] said BookCon will have little resemblance to the “power reader” events that BEA ran on the final day of the trade show for the past two years. “It will be a whole new ball game,” Fensterman explained, adding that ReedPop will use its experience building events that appeal to a younger, non-trade demographic–specifically those between the ages of 20 and 35–in crafting BookCon.

Uh, well, okay. Leaving out the part where BookCon basically blows off those over the age of 35, what exactly does all that mean? Neither BEA nor BookCon seem to be answering any questions on Twitter, but an AP article says it will “include panel discussions, podcasts, interviews and quiz shows” and another article [first link] says “publishers will be allowed to give away, and sell, titles from their booths, and from the autographing areas.”

BEA has traditionally had panel discussions and autograph opportunities, but selling booksscully to attendees? Yeah, there has always been a component of sales (both librarians and booksellers placing orders and vendors who sell used books and book/reading-related trinkets), but the big draw has always been free ARCs and free book copies available in the signing areas.* While publishers will be “allowed” to offer giveaways, it sounds as though there’s a bigger emphasis on sales. Eh, that’s not what I go to BEA for. If I want to buy books, I’ll buy books where I normally do–either at independent book stores or online. All the podcasts, interviews, and quiz shows in the world don’t make it worth my while to travel to NY simply to buy books at a convention.

The headliners so far for BookCon–Amy Poehler, Martin Short, John Grisham, and Stan Lee–well, it’s a nice touch, but I didn’t even go to the panel discussions last year at BEA. I had too much fun on the floor looking at all the glorious books that were coming out. And not for nothing, but the only writer in there is Grisham. The BookCon website says there are other authors to be signed. All in all, BookCon sounds quite different from BEA’s Power Reader Day, and the fact that they randomly announced the change weeks after I bought my ticket (months after others bought their tickets) feels a bit, well, wrong.**

I hope I’m wrong about BookCon, and it’s every bit as wonderful as BEA’s Power Reader Day. I also hope that BookCon and BEA clear things up about the differences. Because right now it’s looking a little bait and switch-y.


UPDATE (3/27/14): A rep from BookCon that I’ve been emailing with is adamant that BookCon will be just like BEA but without the “business-to-business” booths. It’s supposed to be a “greatly expanded” experience. I was offered a refund on my ticket, but it sounds as though there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that Power Reader Day tickets (those bought before the announcement yesterday) will be honored at BEA. That’s a shame. I plan to keep my ticket to BookCon in the hopes that my experience will be as fabulous and wondrous as the rep says it will.

Reaction from others about BookCon/BEA:

*Now, I know that there’s been some friction between librarians/book sellers and book bloggers/readers when it comes to those free copies. The first year book bloggers were allowed into BEA, there were quite a few complaints about how bloggers gobbled up free copies to the degree that librarians and book sellers weren’t able to obtain the things they wanted/needed. Last year there were a few titles that had a limited number of copies, but it seemed like it was done by design. Overall, it seemed like there were an overabundance of ARCs, and everyone got what they needed. I didn’t hear any complaints about it last year, at least.

**I’m hoping the BEA people honor the tickets of everyone who bought Power Reader tickets prior to the announcement today. It only seems fair, especially since it seems as though they’ve set themselves up for a great deal of liability by giving those who bought tickets something far, far different from what was purchased.