Readers’ Delight: BookCon 2015

W.C. staff member Kristen Roedel attended part one of BookCon at the Javits Center in New York City on Saturday, May 30, 2015. As writers and readers, she believes that you will love this event. Below is an account of her experience.

Readers’ Delight: BookCon 2015

One day in late April, my tenth-grade cousin texted me to invite me to BookCon. Having never heard of such a glorious event, I quickly Googled it. After spotting John Green, Aziz Ansari, and Ellen Hopkins on the guest list, I squealed. It was safe to say that my fate was sealed.

As a graduate English student, I had to stop and ask myself why I had no idea that this event existed. Had my cousin not invited me (bless her soul), I would have lived life for at least another year not knowing that over 200 authors, celebrities, and YouTubers were scheduled to attend this massive two-day event in New York City at the Jacob K. Javits convention center for the second annual BookCon.

Forty dollars bought me admission to free author panels, special presentations, books, book samples, posters, giveaways, and autographing. Had I not planned ahead with my cousin, I would not have met any authors or attended a fraction of the panels and programs I was admitted into.

First, I attended the BFFs Forever panel with Sarah Pitre, Sarah Dessen, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Han, where they discussed their adolescent and current relationships with their female friends. As authors of YA fiction, they each admitted to using their novels as a way to work through the events of their teenage years. Although I have never read any of these authors’ books, I still thoroughly enjoyed this panel because of the writing advice each author gave during the Q&A segment of the program. Forman offered the most important insight, in my opinion: YA fiction writers are not always taken seriously, but that doesn’t mean that their work is any less important.

The BFFs Forever panel with moderator Sarah Pitre and authors Gayle Forman, Sarah Dessen, and Jenny Han.
The BFFs Forever panel with moderator Sarah Pitre and authors Gayle Forman, Sarah Dessen, and Jenny Han.

I then attended the Gumption Revival! panel with Nick Offerman (who plays Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation), which was hosted by John Hodgman with a special guest appearance by Paul Rudd. Aside from the musical stylings of Offerman and his ominously oddball chuckle, it was eye-opening to see the man who we all know so well as Ron Swanson speak seriously about his newest book, Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers, in which he names twenty-one politicians, thinkers, comedians, and celebrities who he believes possess gumption. Offerman’s take on this “mixtape of great Americans” (his words) from the establishment of America (like George Washington and Frederick Douglass) to the more recent past (like Yoko Ono and Conan O’Brien) is characterized by both his dry humor and his devotion to what constitutes a great human being. Paul Rudd showed up to promote his movie Ant-Man, but also because he is a good friend of Offerman’s.

Watch this wonderful panel below courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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At last, I met Nick Offerman. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Offerman is more of an actor than he is a writer. Why are you even an English major if you were most excited to meet him? While I will agree with you on the former, I strongly disagree with you on the latter. This year, I didn’t find that any of the authors particularly tickled my fancy, but I did luck out in meeting three, one of them being Nick.

In my forty-five seconds with Ron Swanson, who strangely did not don his trademark mustache, I was amazed at how kind and soft-spoken he actually is. After complimenting him on his performance on Parks and Recreation and telling him that he had the interests of a modern-day Hemingway, he was extraordinarily humble.

On the show floor, hundreds of vendors, publishers, and companies had booths, many of which were distributing free posters, book samples, and giveaways, from tote bags to buttons. Several authors also held open signings on the show floor as well. Just outside of the Javits center, employees handed out programs for the day, which outlined the day’s panels, speakers, and other pertinent information, including where you could snag free books! I was lucky enough to score Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae and several others just before the crowds swarmed in my direction. Unfortunately, I only managed to get three of the eight books being handed out over the course of the day due to the schedule I had made up for myself, but I certainly am not complaining!

image1I planned to meet Mamrie Hart, the creator of “You Deserve a Drink” on YouTube, next; however, her line had already closed off by the time I had met the Parks and Rec star. I had quite a bit of time to kill until the Paper Towns panel with John Green, so I decided to snag a few more autographs. Luckily, I managed to get on line to meet Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank, Tricks, and so many more, whose work I had devoured in just hours in high school. I had brought Identical for her to sign, but I was pleasantly surprised when she was giving out Rumble. Meeting Nick Offerman might have been exciting and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but my meet-and-greet with Ms. Hopkins was far more meaningful. I thanked her for the emotional release that her books allowed me during one of the most difficult times in my life. As opposed to the nerves I felt when approaching Offerman’s signing table, here I felt like I was speaking with an old friend.

Up until this point, I had never met anyone famous before, so I have nothing to compare this experience to. However, I didn’t feel rushed or pressured to say what I wanted to say to any of the authors I met. Each author took his or her time to talk to me and to sign each of my books, which I assume is unique to this event. Last year, when W.C. staff member Jessica Day attended BookCon, John Green personally stayed to sign the books of each and every person who stayed to meet him. Now, that’s dedication.

Last but not least, I attended the Paper Towns panel with John Green and some of the cast and crew from the film adaptation. Though I have yet to read this particular novel, I enjoyed hearing about how the book was adapted from page to screen. They premiered the preview for the film for the very first time, which would have been exciting had I been a raging John Green fan.

Tips for Enjoying BookCon

Do Your Research: Some autographing stations require you to purchase the author’s book from the in-house bookstore (which is just a long table that sold one or two books from each author scheduled to appear that weekend). It took over two hours for us to wait online and purchase the books we needed for our autographing, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Download the App: The BookCon app is handy both before and during the event. You will have the opportunity to view autographing and panel schedules as they are finalized, as well as view the guest list for each day of the convention. The app also allows attendees to chat and update each other on the day’s events. It will also alert you when certain panels are about to start, as well as which ones still have available seating.

Bring Friends and Placeholders: Be sure to check out the schedule for autographing, panels, and free books beforehand. Panels and events fill up quickly, and some require you to gain admission bracelets at the beginning of the day that guarantee you a seat. It is also helpful to bring an extra person or two to run ahead of you to hold your place in line. Had my aunt not accompanied us, I never would have met Nick Offerman (and as “Leslie Knope,” you can imagine how excited I was to do so!).

Manage Your Time: Check to see if the author you wish to meet requires you to purchase a book from the Words bookstore. Most authors were happy to sign multiple books, whether or not purchase was required, but only personalized one. Several authors handed out free books to everyone standing in line to be signed.

Wear Comfortable Shoes: If you aren’t planning to be in panels all day, you’ll definitely want to wear comfortable shoes. I spent at least fourteen hours on my feet that day, and I am still (three months later) paying for it.

Play It Safe: Don’t forget a backpack! You’ll need it with all of the free stuff you’ll get to take home. On our way to the Javits Center, there was a remarkable amount of people bringing suitcases to the event. There is a place where you can check a piece of rolling luggage, so you have a nice place to deposit your stash of books and giveaways periodically throughout the day. Not only will you be free to roam the convention, but you’ll save yourself the hassle of lugging all of your goodies home on your back.

Final Thoughts

Overall, BookCon was an immensely enjoyable experience. For the price of an admission ticket, I was able to meet several authors and attend amazing panels and programs. Though BookCon still may not be as widely-known as ComicCon, their guests are certainly A-listers. I highly recommend that you attend next year’s BookCon if at all possible, for it is not only an awesome opportunity to ask your favorite authors any question you wish, but it will be money well-spent as well.

Details for BookCon 2016 have yet to be released.

This post was written by Kristen Roedel.
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