This time last week I was getting ready for BookCon. Practicing a speech. Packing a suitcase. And wondering just how all of it would go. And then the going began. I hopped on a plane in Atlanta and stepped off in NYC feeling like I slipped into a worm hole. [I mean you guys, there was sushi. In the airport. At 9am.] I grabbed a cab to my hotel. Let me be more specific: My robot hotel. [Even more surreal when you’ve been up since 3am that day]
It was tiny and cool and the best place I could have stayed given it was a hop skip and a jump [okay, a lot of jumps if one decided to you know, literally, jump] to the Javitz Conference Center. And as teensy as my hotel was, the Javitz was… huge. Like it could be it’s own sovereign nation huge. Luckily I got in touch with twitter-friends who instantly melted into real friends with a simple hug. Seriously, I can’t name everyone because there were so many amazing people I met like Zareen Jaffery, Kristy Shen, Bryce, and so many more but bar none it was an honor to meet everyone.
|Sona, Ilene, Renee fabulous ladies with books coming out in 2015|
My friends must have recognized my deer in the headlights look and helped me navigate the
behemoth convention center but I still got lost. Regularly. Like, I stopped to look at this mobile penguin truck and instantly was subsumed in throngs of book loving people everywhere around me. And news to me: The books at BEA/BookCon? They are signed by authors and they’re free! I did not take advantage of this awesomeness but awesomeness it truly was.
|Don’t let my picture fool you: sheer madness!!!|
There were interviews and trips to amazing bookstores and all were awesome because I got to meet people who cared deeply about the same thing I did: diverse literature to reflect our diverse world.
|That’s me. Next to Grace Lin. Still hard time believing it.|
And then, I met up with my editor, Nancy Paulsen, and we saw a screening of The Fault In Our Stars. And John Green was there.
And then I saw our Publisher’s Weekly spread.
And realized I was John Green.
|oddest [and funniest] photo bomb ever.|
The TFIOS screening was made possible by my editor, Nancy Paulsen. We saw the movie and then shared a subway ride to grab a bite to eat and let me just say that she is in a word: amazing. Warm, insightful, down to earth, and truly one of the nicest people I have ever met. Easily one of the highlights of my time outside the panel was meeting her.
|Blurry but worthy of remembering|
I haven’t done a lot of public speaking since my children were born [translation: none] so while the nerves hadn’t really hit me before I landed in NYC they certainly did when I saw the room and realized that this large empty room would soon be filled with industry professionals and book lovers and I would be on a panel with Ellen Oh, Mike Jung, Lamar Giles, Marieke Nijkamp, Matt de la Pena, Grace Lin, and Jacqueline Woodson. And that my job was to be one of the people representing We Need Diverse Books, so newly formed and so deeply loved by me and so many others in our first public outing into the world. And well, I’d be lying if the responsibility of that didn’t make me feel a bit nervous.
|Thirty minutes before the panel began.|
But the panel went beautifully. So beautiful, I feel tears forming as I type these words. The crowds filled the seats. They stood in the aisles, three deep standing in the back. People were even unfortunately turned away due to sheer lack of space. This campaign that began less than a month ago, that 22 people put their hearts and souls into, and now here we were, and here were people who had supported us from behind computer screens right there before us now. They clapped and cheered and I felt humbled, amazed, and reinvigorated for the important work we are doing and all that remains to be done.
|Ellen Oh: Author, Lawyer, Mover of Mountains.|
|Mike Jung: Author, Father, giver of enthusiastic thumbs ups!|
|Jacqueline Woodson: In the presence of greatness.|
It was hard to say goodbye to all these people who I met so recently but who had instantly become dear friends to me. There was so much more I wanted to talk about with them. So much more I wanted to hear. But 36 hours means that time is by definition, was limited. So at 3pm, we hugged goodbye. I boarded the time portal that is the NYC airport and I left, coming home to my little family feeling amazed to have been a part of a whirlwind 36 hours that meant so much to me.
The panel went great but there is so much more to do and we are eager to keep on going. If you were there, thank you for coming out, if you weren’t and want to check it out, the audio is here and the transcript is here and for a lovely brief piece to catch up, check out this NPR piece on our panel here!