How is it I had lived on the East Coast most of my life and never found my way to BEA (Book Expo America)? I had to move all the way to New Orleans before having the opportunity to acquire my BEA war wounds. Living in New Orleans has given me the chance to experience many firsts (see previous posts).

Owner and friend Donna Allen is a shopping force with whom no one in her right mind would reckon, so we arrived early in New York City. Saturday now seems like a figment of my imagination; I do remember Sunday, maybe. We ate breakfast and descended on Century 21, a clothing orgy of Odyssean proportions. I began to track our progress with Foursquare, so I had some record of where I had been, even if I could not recall. Deciding I did not need the one blouse I had selected in Century 21 or anyone else hitting me in the shins with a red shopping basket, I surprised Michele Filgate at McNally Jackson. In this store, I found book page wallpaper Sarah McNally had specially made. And book light fixtures and book trays for the cafe. Trying to break up with books? This is not the place to do it.

Michele and I love food and books or is it books and food? I don’t know, but we had lunch that day around the corner, and in the short time I have been here, Michele and I have eaten more meals together than when we both lived in the same state. Exhausted by Sunday night, I had to attend the Random House pre-BEA party. At the party, in my basic black dress with fishnet pink tights, I ran into Britton Trice of Garden District, Dan Chartrand of Water Street Bookstore, and Ruth Liebmann of Random House. I also ambushed several people from BookPeople and The Community Bookstore,who probably all hoped I would snag a fishnet and go down for the count. After meeting Haley Tanner, among others, and confessing my boorish lack of knowledge about Josh Ritter, I had a late-night snack with M. Filgate and Joe B. Foster, who is quite nifty.

The first day of BEA was a relative cake walk for me; it was like attending college classes, and I have pretty much always been the nerdy, know-it-all hand waver. I was not prepared, though, for the Century-21-of-books atmosphere I experienced on Tuesday. Trying to plan my attack did not work out well for me. I darted in and out of booths and stood in line with the hopes of not embarrassing myself. I made the mistake of asking the wrong publisher where an author signing was, and she scolded, “We didn’t publish that book.” Although I tried to see Joe Finder, I could have been camping out since last Tuesday and still not have made it up to that table to see him. And I did not get the chance to stalk Colson Whitehead, though as someone pointed out, I am always stalking people and that it’s really creepy, so I need to cut it out.

By the time I arrived for the Random House tea with Bethanne Patrick, I had achieved some form of a groove. The groove hit a snag, when I spotted Judy Collins and hollered at the poor woman, “Hi, Judy Collins,” as if she might be confused should I leave out a portion of her name. As I was trying to take a picture, I spilled the fabulous drink Random House had supplied down the front of my dress. Bethanne said, “That’s why you are wearing a print.”

Hard to tell, all in all, if my first few days have been productive, but given the scenes I have been creating, someone will remember me, right?

Veronica K. Brooks-Sigler

Social Medium/Bookseller

Maple Street Book Shops

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