The very first Book Riot Live conference was an incredible success, and I'm so glad I was able to visit New York City to attend!
I stayed in New York for the post-con week, hanging out with various family members, attending theater, and seeing sights, all of which was awesome as well. In quiet moments between the continued fun, I jotted down the highlights of my Book Riot Live experience, and I finished assembling this report on the flight home.
The programming at the con was excellent, and my only complaint was that at times there were too many cool things happening at once! I started my weekend -- after eating gourmet doughnuts in a car wash -- with a live recording of the Book Riot podcast. This show keeps me informed about the most interesting news from the book world on a weekly basis, so it was cool and strange to see the faces of the people with the familiar voices. During the Q&A period, I asked the first question, and I was tickled when the hosts recognized me from Twitter! You can listen to the live episode and hear me at about 33 minutes in. (Is that really what I sound like?)
The next day I attended another recording, this one for the interview show Reading Lives. The guest was announced only a couple of weeks before the con, and I was thrilled to learn it would be Angela Flournoy. Back in May, I recommended her wonderful debut, THE TURNER HOUSE, and it was great to hear about her development as a writer and reader.
Fighting the Good Fight: Turning Awareness Into Action was a fantastic panel of representatives from We Need Diverse Books, VIDA, First Book, and the Harry Potter Alliance, all great organizations working to increase diversity in publishing and accessibility of books. The panelists discussed their activism efforts and ways for readers to participate. In particular, there was much talk about noticing and counting who is represented on any list of books or authors, whether it's a personal record of books read or a set of award nominees or guest speakers. Striving for diversity in any such list, and calling it out when it's not there, has a cumulative positive effect. Personally, I've been very happy with how my reading life has expanded since I started paying more attention to who I read and recommend.
I was delighted at the prospect of attending a conversation between Margaret Atwood and N.K. Jemisin, two amazing authors I admire. The subject of the panel was Writing What You Don't Know, but the discussion was a wide-ranging one. I really didn't care what topic these two were speaking on, because everything they had to say was so smart and funny. The event was covered by The Guardian, which recapped the conversation, and I suggest reading that article for some choice quotes.
I've been to a great many panels about publishing, but Farm to Table: How a Book Gets Made was a different and fun take on the subject. The panelists each work in the industry in a different role: author, agent, editor, cover designer, and publicist. Their presentation walked the audience through the way each job contributes to getting a book out into the world. It was particularly interesting to hear when and how collaborations happen during the process.
I probably wouldn't have been interested in a panel on Faith and Literature, except that it was the program item with author Jessamyn Hope, whose SAFEKEEPING I recently raved about. She was the Jewish representative to the panel but stated right away that she's an atheist and that the most devout character in her novel is a Catholic. Everybody on the panel had their own broad-minded relationship with religion, and the conversation was great. Afterwards, I spoke to Jessamyn to say how much I liked her novel, and she also recognized me from Twitter and was just as enthusiastic about meeting me!
This brings me to the best part of the Book Riot Live: meeting awesome book people. I was a little nervous about going to a con where I wouldn't know anybody, but in the weeks leading up to the event, I connected with some other attendees online, and it was tons of fun to meet up in person. I talked to many people throughout the weekend and now have new friends from all over. Saturday night, a group of us visited a few of New York's bookstores and traded book recommendations over margaritas. Kenya has a full write-up of the evening's adventures and was an excellent traversing companion. On Sunday as the con was wrapping up, I found someone else looking to sightsee, and we ended up spending a fantastic evening together, walking the High Line and eating tapas.
I had the pleasure of meeting several authors to say that I appreciate their work, and I was just as eager to meet the people behind the convention. The Book Riot staff run a fun site, produce a slew of great podcasts, and are always entertaining on social media. Sure, we were all excited to have Margaret Atwood there and to wear her words on our skin. But the real celebrities were the amazing folks who made the whole amazing event happen -- and of course, Reginald the pigeon.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ At The Millions, H.S. Cross muses On Writing What I Don't Know: "On the face of it, I'm not drawn to reading novels set in my immediate time and place, but a good writer can enchant me with any topic. It doesn't matter if she is drawing from her own experience, from someone else's experience, or from thin air. I will care if she can make her subjects alive, surprising, and true. As I used to tell my students, go deep enough and anything can be fascinating."