How To BEA

by sarahenni on June 12, 2012

I have loved reading everyone’s BookExpo America breakdown posts this week, all the more because, giant bunch of introverts that we are, the recap posts are happening after everyone has had a long weekend (of reading ARCs) to recover.

And I am no different! Now that I’ve had time to gather my thoughts, I thought I would put together a handy list of To Dos for anyone considering a future jaunt to BEA in all its madhouse glory.

Step 1: Convene a kickass war counsel.

From Left: Lindsey Roth Culli, Sara McClung, Cristin Terrill, Claire Legrand, Diana Fox, Frankie Diane Mallis, Kelsey Dixon, Jessica Sheehan

Last year (my first BEA trip) I read literary agent Suzie Townsend‘s swag sweep blog post with a not-insubstantial amount of incredulity. “Come on,” I thought to myself, naively. “It can’t be that intense!” Oh ho, that was a mistake. I left last year’s BEA with a grand total of two (2) ARCs. This year I was determined to make the trip more worthwhile. And I was fortunate enough to fall in with this group of awesome ladies who were ready to conquer the expo floor. There were diagrams. There was a route. I was on the vanguard (and somehow managed to lose the pack at the first stop) but made it out with at least 10 of the books I’d been most excited about in as many minutes.

Step 2: Convince yourself crowds are fun and sweating is a natural and pleasant thing, also feet are supposed to be in constant pain.

Deny to survive. DENY.

Step 3: Use the conference to go outside your comfort zone.

TIM GUNN! Also me, Kara Taylor, Lindsey Roth Culli, Sasha K

not trying to be artsy my pic just won't rotate

When I was researching what books I was most interested in from BEA, most of my list included YA titles. But I made sure to read the Publisher’s Weekly reviews of what adult and Middle Grade books were going to be highly sought after, too. I also scoured the BEA author signings listings, looking for anything that caught my eye. Being open to non-YA books, authors, and events led me to some of the best parts of my experience: Meeting Tim Gunn (who is every bit as charming and kind as you hope he is), and grabbing the ARC for Justin Cronin’s The Twelve, a book I’ve been having dreams nightmares about for like two years now.

Step 4: Make time to meet with internet friends IRL

YA Highway girls, together at last! From left: Phoebe North, me, Veronica Roth, Kody Keplinger

The YA Highway girls are in pretty constant communication, but no number of smiley emoticons compare to meeting up for actual conversation. Make time to meet people, and take it outside Javits if at all possible. Oh and also, err on the side of introducing yourself. There will come a day when BEA will print everyone’s Twitter handle and avatar on the name tags, but until then explaining who you are (even if you’ve met someone before!) can only help ease awkwardness.

Step 5: Go to dinner with a mom

Frankie and Sara admire the genius artwork

I cannot stress how prepared Lindsey Roth Culli was for BEA. Girl brought snacks for the car ride up, an inflatable pool raft so Kara Taylor didn’t have to sleep on the floor, and she was even able to bust out her own set of crayons at our restaurant. I am only showing pictures from the side of the table that was able to keep things clean with their drawings.

Related: Always order interesting-sounding margaritas. They might be hot as a jalapeno lollipop on the Fourth of July, but they will also be endlessly entertaining. See below.

Lindsey and Kara took their flaming hot margaritas as a personal challenge, and persevered!

Step 6: Unpack your stash

If you’re like me, you will unpack your BEA books and file them under Bookshelf > To Be Read > YA Section > Alphabetical in Order of Release Date.

Step 7: Enjoy your stash.

Entertainment for months! In this way, BEA never really ends.

What about you? Did you go to BEA? How was it! Did we see each other! If not, WHY NOT! Is anyone going to ALA? Any tips for how to handle it out there?



Conference Survival Tips

by sarahenni on October 24, 2011


I’ve traveled to countless conferences for my job, and a couple of writing-related ones, over the last couple of years. They can be fun and useful events, but preparing for them is vastly different than preparing for, say, a vacation. The following are general survival tips and tricks I’ve developed to make the most out of almost any conference.


Pack like the conference is being held in Antarctica. I don’t care if it’s in Hawaii, the actual conference where you will sit all day will be freezing cold. In fact, I think the hotels in warm areas are so concerned about it being hot that they over-correct and you get frostbite if you wear open-toed shoes. Seriously. Bring a jacket.

Bring comfortable lounge pants. You will want to be out of conference-wear for the evening, but you might order room service. (Of course, you could always wear the hotel robe, but I’ve told you all about my affinity for yoga pants. Necessary.)


Wear fun socks. You will need the socks, since it’s generally freezing at 30,000 feet. But when you have on a pair of bright, fun socks (my favorite pair for travel is yellow argyle) you get a happy little kick out of going through security. I’ve even had security give me compliments on the socks. The result? No full body scan. Win!

Bring a book… or seven. When I travel, I read like it’s a race to the finish. In fact, most of the reason I got a Kindle was because on travel trips like this I can burn through two or more books, and packing all of those is a literal pain in my back.

If you’re changing time zones, catch the sunrise or the sunset. A woman who often travels internationally told me this trick a few years ago, and it really does help kind of reset your inner clock. Seeing the sun come up or down sends a clear message about what time it is! (Other things that help: go to sleep when it would be normal for people in that time zone to sleep—and don’t nap, even if it means being up for nearly 24 hours; eat when it would be normal for people in that time zone to eat, and; exercise! That always helps me get into the groove no matter how far I’ve traveled.)


Even if you’re staying in a room by yourself, get two beds. Then when you get to your room, just throw your suitcase and everything else on the second bed. Way, way easier then bending down to the floor to get dressed in the morning.

Exercise. The combination of eating out for every meal and having the occasional drink at conference-sponsored happy hours will leave you feeling like a disgusting, bloated mess. Count on it. So I don’t care what you need to leave behind, make sure you have everything you need to exercise. That could mean using the hotel’s workout facility (almost all have them), doing yoga in your room, or better yet, using exercise as an opportunity to get out of the hotel and actually see the city you’re visiting!


Get to the swag early. The good stuff (really nice pens, computer mice, bobbleheads, ARCs!!!) goes quick, so get to the booths on the morning of the first day. Otherwise you’ll be the person that went to the conference and only has a hotel pen and chapstick to show for it.

Get up from your seat every once in a while. Otherwise your butt will fall asleep and you won’t be able to tell if your dress is sticking to your underwear. Please, please learn from my mistakes.

Bring a pen and paper. You will want to take notes… and doodle.

Don’t assume you will get to see the sights–-but try. I haven’t always been able to leave the hotel and see fun things in the cities I have visited. But if you can, try to go out to a local restaurant, catch a baseball game, or even just walk a few blocks closer to the ocean. It will make you feel like a human again, instead of a corporate robot.

Those are my secrets to conference survival, but what about you? What other things make traveling for work a more enjoyable experience?