Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Wonder That Was Thursday

Thursday was the day I went to BEA. The first amazing thing that happened was I got my badge. It said:

HarperCollins Children's

(Published author? MOI? Surely you jest.)

Anyway, I had no idea what to expect when JSV and I pulled up to the Javits Center in our cab.

After we met the fantastic Molly O'Neill, we all walked up to the main floor, which made me instantly salivate. Basically, all you need to know about BEA is that it is Wonderland for writers. I didn't get to nibble on a snack cake that made me tiny, but I did see a sea of publisher's names dangling from the ceiling, including, drumroll, HarperCollins. Love.

But there wasn't much time for that, because I was whisked away to a little meeting room, also guessed it...HarperCollins.

(Smack me if this gets annoying.)

The people who waited for me in that room were people I never thought I would meet, not in my wildest dreams. Among them were Susan Katz (president of the HC), Kate Jackson (Editor-In-Chief), Katherine Tegen (of Katherine Tegen Books), Andrea Pappenheimer, and Jennifer Sheridan (of Sales), and of course, other wonderful people who I hope will forgive me for forgetting their names.

You would think, of course, that these people would be intimidating to Captain Introvert over here (anyone who can accurately call themselves "president" or "in-chief" is sort of a badass, wouldn't you say?). And in the spirit of honesty, I must say that I was intimidated, but only for a few seconds. Once we all started talking, I realized something.

They were freaking COOL.

I don't mean because of what they do. For example, certainly what Susan Katz does is cool. But she's also personable, smart, and didn't have to take time out of the crazy that is BEA to meet with me, but did anyway. All of those things are cool, and they applied to everyone sitting at that table. They were laughing, smiling, real, kind people who set me at ease and, most amazing of all, were interested in my book and in me.

Really, what more can you ask for from your first publishing experience?

By the time we skidaddled out of the Javits Center an hour later, most of my nerves were gone. Then me and JSV and Molltasia, aka Molly, and Katherine Tegen hopped, skipped, and jumped over to HarperCollins.

The HarperCollins building is basically a black-glass pillar of incredible. You can see great buildings from every office, including this beautiful Episcopal church.

We saw Katherine's office, which was FULL OF BOOKS, and then went downstairs to meet Patty Rosati and Laura Lutz, who work in school and library marketing. At this point, I realized that the people I was meeting had actually read part/all of Divergent and actually enjoyed it. But I'll talk more about that later. Suffice it to say that Patty and Laura were easy to be around, and then Laura (who is very sweet) asked me for my first signature on her copy of the manuscript, which I gladly gave.

Then we met with Helen Boomer in subrights (she explained subrights to me. Finally I understand!), and also Suzanne Daghlian, the marketing director. Suzanne, who is one of those instantly-likable people we all aspire to be, took us downstairs to the HC video studio (yes, that's right) where I got my nose de-shined and answered a few Divergent related questions for this large green circle of light, also known as a camera. Upon emerging from said studio, I felt giddy like a little kid, but thankfully managed to suck it in, lest I seem even more looney tunes than I actually am.

Then we went back upstairs and met Joel Tippie and Barb Fitzsimmons, who will be developing and designing my cover, and if you've seen some of their previous covers, you'll know why I'm so excited about it.

I feel like I'm not going to sound genuine because I'm not usually this gushy, but really? I am being honest. I had a lot of fun in that building. I haven't even talked about the best part, which is: most of them had read my book, or at least part of it, and they LIKED it.

Cue brain explosion.

I don't know if I can explain this feeling well. I wrote Divergent because I had an idea and I loved it and Beatrice was screaming her head off inside me, telling me to freaking finish already. (She's really annoying sometimes.) I somehow didn't believe that anyone would ever connect with it the way I did. But the more people I met at the HC, the more I realized that they did, or that they connected with it in other ways that I never anticipated. I've realized that this is the greatest thing about getting published. It's not people liking my writing, or my story, although that's great. It's realizing that I'm not shouting into emptiness; people hear and understand what I'm saying.

All right. That's enough misty-eyed-ness today.

They have this huge meeting room in the HC with frosted glass sliding doors that pull back when they need to expand the room into the hallway and into the other meeting room on the other side, and massive screens so everyone can see what's going on, and I could have ogled at that giant empty table for an eternity, I swear. Everything in that building is clean and sharp and modern. I want to live there.

Eventually I went to lunch with Katherine and Molly, because JSV had to hustle back to the Javits to be at the panel Kody Keplinger was on, and had a great time. Katherine is cool and collected and on top of things. Molly is bright and sweet and enthusiastic. Basically, by the end of lunch I was convinced (not that I wasn't convinced before) that I was in very good hands.

Then I hauled butt back to the Javits Center so I could catch the second half of Kody's panel. She was on it with Sophie Jordan (who wrote FIRELIGHT, and is another HC author, whatWHAAT), Ally Condie (author of MATCHED), Erin Bowe (author of PLAIN KATE), and Rebecca Maizel (author of INFINITE DAYS). I missed Kate Sullivan reading a section of the DUFF with the "f" word in it, which is sad, but I did catch enough to be convinced that I need to read all of those books (two down, three to go). Kody was, of course, very natural and genuine and great on that panel, which pretty much summarizes how Kody is all the time, and why she's my eighteen-year-old writer hero, but that is beside the point.

JSV and Kody and Sara (assistant at Nancy Coffey Literary and generally great human being) and I wandered back to the HC area after that, and I had my first starstruck moment when I met Melissa Marr (and her chicken-dancing husband). Melissa Marr is pretty much a badass, in the nicest of ways. I also met Sophie Jordan. Have you seen her book's cover? It's stunning:

(Original is here.)

Also at the HC area, I got an ARC of "I Am Number Four" and pretty much salivated. Because, seriously? The tagline at the top of that book is "THREE ARE DEAD." Three are dead, I am number four? HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

Somewhere in there, I met Janet Reid. Okay, so I don't want to damage her sharklike reputation, and I only met her for a few seconds, but I could already tell that Janet is really a kind person. And funny, of course. This was only further confirmed when I read her blog post about Kody and JSV (which is here).

Let me transition into the people I hung out with there. Suzie Townsend-- wait, did I say "Suzie Townsend"? I meant General Townsend. Or Swag-Collecting-Rockstar Townsend-- who is hilarious. Diana Fox, who is many kinds of awesome. Michelle Hodkin, her client, who is, aside from making me laugh and getting me ketchup with absolutely no fear, a genuinely cool person (AND OMG DID YOU HEAR ABOUT HER BOOK DEAL? Congrats to both Diana and Michelle! I'm so excited to read it!) Kody, of course, who I've already gushed about. I also met a bunch of Twitterpeople, including Mitali Dave and Shelli Johannes (who may rival Suzie in her swag-collecting skills, I'm told).

By the end of the day, though, I had a sack full of books, my feet were about to fall off, my shoulders ached, and I was happy, happy, happy.

I think I need to stop there, because although there were other things I did that day, this post is fast approaching WAY TOO LONG.

What a beautiful day it was. Slept happy, soundly, and blessed that night.


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