So Book Con is a way different beast than Book Expo because it’s a fan event, so there’s a much different crowd, a much different purpose, and a much different vibe even though they’re literally back to back in the same event space.
I was originally planning to only write one post about Book Con like I did for Book Expo, but I started writing about the panels and want to get kind of detailed about them, so I decided to go ahead and split this post in two.
My sister actually flew in to attend Book Con with me after I enjoyed it so much last year, and we started the day early by getting there a half hour before the doors opened and lining up. I mentioned in my Book Con tips and tricks post how it took a half hour for us to get from the waiting area up to the show floor. Well, this year they actually had us line up closer to the floor and we got in really quickly, but holy crap was the show floor a mob scene.
There were so many massive lines and lots of people pushing and shoving. My sister and I made a quick lap, but we were so overwhelmed by the sheer mass of people that we quickly retreated to the panel area, which is actually where we stayed for the majority of Book Con.
We started out at a panel about channeling fandom into original fiction, but we both thought it was just ok. I just don’t think we were that into the topic, and we wound up sneaking out a bit early to start lining up for a panel about time traveling fantasies featuring Deborah Harkness, V.E. Schwab, and Naomi Novik.
That panel actually started out on the wrong foot before the panelists even started speaking because Book Con staff had us line up in the room next door, but then the line devolved into a crazy mob when they started to let us into the panel room.
It wound up being the most disappointing panel I attended at Book Con. I mostly didn’t think there was much of a conversation between the authors. Like, I sat in that room for 50 minutes and couldn’t really tell you what they talked about. The moderator didn’t have any good questions, so it was kind of up to the authors, but it was weird to put them all on a panel about time traveling fantasies together when technically only Deborah Harkness has written one. What really killed it for me, though, was that the microphones didn’t seem to be working properly, so the panelists were really hard to hear. I was so looking forward to that panel, so I’m pretty bummed it wound up being just ok.
Fortunately, we were able to get into the panel about the magic of world building with Leigh Bardugo (and the line was slightly more orderly), and that one more than made up for the disappointments of earlier in the day. Marie Lu, Renee Ahdieh, Scott Westerfeld, and Sabaa Tahir were also on the panel, and they were all hilarious. It was a really entertaining panel but also a really interesting one, and both my sister and I enjoyed it a lot.
After that panel, my sister and I headed to a panel titled Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives. I was a little nervous about this panel at first; the moderator was pretty shaky (I think she was really nervous) and she mentioned they were going to be doing author readings, which I’m generally not a fan of and thought would detract too much from an already short panel. But it was mostly the various contributors speaking about their experiences as refugees and why they got involved in writing for The Displaced, an essay anthology made up of contributions from refugee writers. And actually, Thi Bui’s reading was really cool because she’s an illustrator and her submission was a few panes of artwork, and she made some slides so she could talk about it. I was just totally riveted by the stories these panelists shared, especially since I know very little about the challenges refugees face, and I left with a new appreciation for what it means to be a refugee.
Also, I was talking to the woman next to me at this panel (she was reading The Kiss Quotient and I wanted to know how she liked it) and she mentioned what bookstore she works at, and all of a sudden I realized we’d met at Book Con last year! We spent the (massive) line waiting for Margaret Atwood’s signing talking and having fun, so it was really cool to run into her again! Although my sister now thinks I’m the biggest nerd ever, because who goes to a book event and then actually knows people there? But I don’t care; what are the odds that our paths would cross again? It’s too cool.
Anyways, once that panel concluded, my sister and I went across the hall to a panel titled “Social Justice Warriors: Redefining Youthful Rebellion.” It was such a fascinating panel. The moderator had a ton of personality and did a great job introducing each panelist and asking them a targeted question, and the panelists were all really well spoken and interesting to listen to. It was such an interesting mix of people, too. You had established writers like Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds paired with newcomer Angie Thomas. And all three were set off by DeRay Mckesson, an activist who protested at Ferguson and has his first book coming out this fall.
I’m sorry, I don’t have much to say other than it was a great mix of people and a really interesting panel that I thoroughly enjoyed. And I’m (even more) eager to read some of Woodson’s and Reynolds’ works now, as well as check out Mckesson’s new book. And while I didn’t notice Book Con recording many of the panels like they did last year, this one is actually up on YouTube, so you can check it out, too!
My sister and I finally had some downtime before the last panel on our schedule, so we went back up to the floor after the social justice panel to see if it was less of a disaster. While still busy, it was fortunately a lot more manageable, so we spent time walking around and checking out the different booths.
I’m not sure if it’s just because I spent so much less time on the show floor this year, but it seemed like they were giving out a lot less things at Book Con than they did last year. I remember my friends and I all walking out with a number of books and a ton of swag, but this year my sister and I barely grabbed anything (though this was probably in part due to the amount I collected at Book Expo). She considered standing in a few lines to get signed arcs, but once she saw how crazy the lines were, she decided she was totally fine just borrowing my copies.
Fortunately we weren’t that invested in getting stuff, though we did stop by the Abrams booth to grab copies of The Displaced. I mentioned this in my book haul post, but there was only one copy left, and my sister was nice enough to let me get it. I’m really glad she did because it’s signed by a bunch of the contributors. Normally I don’t care about buying a pre-signed book because I don’t have any personal attachment to the book if it’s not personalized or I didn’t meet the authors, but I enjoyed that panel so much that I was really excited to have a signed copy (and I made it up to my sister on Sunday, I promise).
The last panel we went to on Saturday was about audiobooks, and it was awesome. It was so fascinating to learn more about how these narrators got into doing audiobooks (a lot of them are actors) and what the life of an audiobook narrator looks like and how they prep to read them. Apparently it’s pretty physically demanding because you have to stay really still while speaking clearly into the microphone, plus doing voice work can take a lot of energy. And they try to read the book ahead of time and make notes on when something has to be said in a certain way and maybe get a feel for what voice to use, though one said she recently had to go into a reading blind because the publisher couldn’t get her the book in advance.
It was such a cool panel. And one of the narrators was January Lavoy, whose name I’ve heard before because she’s narrating The Diviners series by Libba Bray and people have nothing about amazing things to say about her narration for those books. She’s such an expressive speaker, and I can 100 percent see her as an audiobook narrator after hearing her speak in person. And another one of the narrators does the Throne of Glass series, which is pretty neat.
Oh, and it was moderated by Laini Taylor, the author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, and it was cool to get her input as an author, too. For her at least, she’s read a book so many times by the time it’s published that she can’t enjoy it anymore, so the audiobooks breath fresh life into the story for her so she can enjoy them again, and she’s a huge fan of what the narrators do by bringing her work to life in a new way and helping it reach a new audience. Seriously, the whole panel was super neat and I enjoyed it a lot.
And that was it for the day! It was way less stressful and overwhelming than when I went last year, though I worry that my sister didn’t get the all around experience that I had last year at Book Con of collecting free books, sitting in on panels, and getting books signed. But we attended some pretty cool panels and were overall really pleased with the day!