Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bookcon 2016 Overview, Haul + Tips

Saturday, May 14, 2016 I woke up at 5:12AM for Bookcon 2016. Their website, which I basically memorized in preparation and excitement for Bookcon, is here. I bought tickets a few days before April 15 and had been waiting EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. since for Bookcon to just get here already, making at least 6 rough drafts of my schedule, marking down all the show specials and panels, making sure no new author was added, and figuring out what authors to prioritize. I love planning so it was pretty great. But the actual day? It was exhausting (sleep? forget that; it's the back pain that was an issue) and towards the end I was like I need to rest or I'm going to fall over right now, but it was as wonderful and amazing as I'd spent an entire month hoping, expecting, willing it to be, and I left with not one complaint on my lips. 

The madness of lines inside the Queue Hall, which is where you had to stand in line to get wristbands for the autographings later. It was the initial line just to get in this hall that was the biggest, wrapping around over the skywalk and into the second building connected to this one. I was forty minutes early and there must've been 1,000-2,000 people in line already.
Bookcon was supposedly 10AM-6PM but the wristband distribution for the autographing lines began at 8AM, which meant that no one slept unless you went to bed before dinner the night before. In order to see an author later in the day you had to get a wristband, and this wristband guaranteed you got to see the author, which I thought was a pretty good system because all you had to do then was line up to meet the author fifteen minutes before their session began. I'd heard the last two years in New York were pretty chaotic, and I would absolutely cry if I had to keep waiting four hours in advance to ensure I got to meet an author because there was no guarantee. With the wristbands, I knew right away who I was going to see and who I wouldn't, saving a lot of hope, expectations, and time. More authors should have had two hour signing blocks or some kind of system where they signed more people's books as it's not unrealistic. People wait overnight and then some or a couple hours at a time to meet celebrities and YouTubers; they can wait one or two hours in line for authors, too. If need be, the author could just take a break halfway through the signing, like they do with YouTubers at meet and greets to let them freshen up.
Personally I'm okay with it being one day because I was booked solid all day sunday, and I knew I already wouldn't get to meet every author I wanted to, since I wanted to meet almost every author there (who didn't want to meet as many people as possible?). No matter how many days or hours they're signing for, you just won't be able to meet every author or person you want to. Compromise will inevitably become a part of your day. It's like a guest that doesn't need an invite because you know it'll show up regardless of if they got one. In order to avoid disappointment I'd realistically tallied up the hours and the timings and decided if I met even four people I would be okay. I met everyone I wanted to and had the most fun time. I had to sacrifice Cassandra Clare's signing for the Scott Brothers, and I couldn't make it to Sarah J. Maas's poster signing because it was at the same time as Jenny Han's (and apparently it was ticketed, whatever that means?), but I met a ton of amazing people. Another common complaint was the lines, but that wasn't the fault of Bookcon's staff or planners. The logistics were all sound and it was set up as timely and efficiently as it could've been. Lines are also something that you'll always have to deal with. They weren't too bad, though. I didn't wait more than two hours for anything, at least. It was especially hard for me because my stomach was acting up all day, and it wasn't actual pain, more like the kind of feeling of queasiness associated with being really anxious (though mine wasn't the result of anxiety; it was just physically paining me). When my stomach hurts I have to be hunched over or have some kind of pressure over it, so standing was really hard, but otherwise it wouldn't have been a problem. It's bearable. For the authors requiring book purchases, you would get in line to wait for the author, and then when you were a couple of people away from meeting them you would just purchase your book and hop on over to the line right next to yours, which was where the author was seated.
Somehow (?!) I was 1/100 teens who won a ticket to the exclusive Penguin Teen Trivia event. All I had to do was enter my name, email and confirmation number on the Bookcon website. From left to right: Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children), Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me), Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes), ME!!!, John Corey Whaley (Highly Illogical Behavior), Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy series), Ruta Sepetys (Salt to the Sea), and David Arnold (Mosquitoland). I didn't even really care about this because I was more interested in getting wristbands but thank God I miraculously finished early and got to go and it was AMAZING. I got to personally talk with Ransom and John Corey Whaley in my group, they had bagels, strudels, and muffins for us, and my heart stopped when they gave everyone there a tote bag with ARCs of Sabaa Tahir's A Torch Against the Night and...wait for it...FURTHERMORE!!! I was so happy I could've cried; I was set to meet my authors and I'd just gotten an experience only 99 others got, and the book I was willing to do anything to get I'd gotten. Excited, happy, frazzled...I was overjoyed. Tahereh Mafi is a phenomenal writer and the story in Furthermore seems so beautiful and interesting. I love how poetic and mesmerizing the ideas of color and being colorless are and it'll be fresh and innocent as it's directed at middle school readers.

Alexandra Bracken, author of The Darkest Minds series and her latest Passenger, who I never thought I'd meet (both in general and at Bookcon). You'd spend so much time waiting and then you'd meet them and though I kept trying my best to make sure I'd stand out in some way or another, even I myself couldn't remember what I'd said or what just happened. If it weren't for the pictures I wouldn't actually remember meeting anyone.
 We ran into a problem with this at Jenny Han's, when it was taking way too long for the two women charging the books to run credit cards. It was to the point where we were standing in line for an hour while at several times Jenny Han was just sitting there, doing absolutely nothing. I spent the entire designated hour there because of how long it took when we easily could've been meeting her way earlier and because of this, I didn't get to the Scott Brothers line until 2:30PM. That's when the signing began, and though you weren't supposed to line up until just 15 minutes before, evidently people knew there would be a rush and were waiting to get in line much earlier. I had to then wait two hours to meet them for two seconds, and while waiting is fine, it was unbearable to carry twenty books in my backpack and in my tote bag for two entire hours of just standing and scooting an inch every few seconds, meaning you couldn't even get comfortable and sit on the floor. It was funny because for Jenny Han's everyone was standing but I was so over the point of giving a crap I just sat down, right there in the middle of the floor since we were stuck in place. If I'd gotten out of her signing faster I would've gotten to the Scott Brothers' faster. Everything has a chain reaction, which is why you should be really careful of scheduling too close to each other. This could've all been avoided if payment was accepted in cash only. But if you don't bring a luggage bag (which they allowed in even though they said they wouldn't) or drop your books off at the check-in, don't overthink it. It's only one day of lugging those books around and you'll definitely survive. It's a convention; you're going to end up exhausted no matter what you do, but it'll be the best kind of exhausted. Seeing all these books in my room makes every second worth it. One day of pain is nothing compared to getting all these amazing books for free (minus the two I purchased and two I previously owned).
There were a lot of things people did that were wrong. One, not planning. So many people were surprised that in-booth signings were capped and that they needed a wristband. I felt so, so, so bad (actual pity) for them because I know I would be crushed if this happened to me, but why would you not plan? You have to have some idea of how crazy it'll be. I made rough drafts of my schedule before settling, checked the website almost daily, followed Bookcon and all the major booths and authors on Instagram for their schedules and such, and had to pick and choose between which authors I wanted to see since everything overlapped. I already decided I wasn't going to any panels except for Michael Dante DiMartino's. Don't get me wrong, panels are so much fun. My reasoning was that they'll probably post them on YouTube, I can hear an author talk anytime (just look them up) and it's more fun to get to meet them and have them sign my book. But some people don't care as much about meeting people. If I could, there were tons of interesting, hilarious, and huge-author filled panels I would've attended. 

These are the books I got autographed: 
(I somehow forgot ATLA: The Promise Part 1 I'd ordered from Barnes and Noble at home so couldn't get Michael Dante DiMartino to sign it but otherwise I'd have had the chance to).
The Epic Reads Lounge was inside this part. You entered through where the balloons are.
Right next to the Autographing Area, so all the way in the back of the huge show floor, was the Epic Reads Lounge. I wasn't really planning on going in because I didn't have time, but later I found some and the space was beautifully furnished. It was like a hangout space and it turns out each person could choose one free book, or all three or four if it was a series, and at the end they gave us a tote bag full of ARCs. The lady giving the free books was young and super on top of things and had great recommendations and reviews of the books, eventually handing me Jellicoe Road, which I'd forgotten had been on my TBR list for forever.
Raina Telgeimer, the author of Smile and Sisters and who illustrated The Babysitters Club into graphic novel form, which might be my favorite thing she's done. I read Smile in 2011 and have loved the story and clean drawings and her art since.
You know how I said I had a goal of four people? That was generic. I narrowed my must haves to meeting Michael Dante DiMartino and Jenny Han; they were the two things I refused to leave Bookcon without. But you don't have to be as crazy as I was. I devoted so much time to it because I was sooo excited, and planning made it feel like it was getting closer. Just make sure you know the procedures of everything, what times they begin, and who you're there to see. Figure out what authors you'll get wristbands for before going because it's chaotic and hectic in the Wristband Queue Hall, and you don't have a second to waste pondering on which author's line to get into. Read over the FAQs and Autographing Process, and have a schedule on hand. Keep it in a small wristlet or clutch to keep referring to so you know exactly what and where you're going at each hour. Expect things to go wrong. You won't get to meet everyone you want, but at least try. The in-booth signings took pretty long. I only went to one, Alexandra Bracken's, and it took and hour and a half and she ended up staying an extra hour to meet more readers. These are great times to bond with the people next to you. I met so many people this way and made tons of new friends. 
Scholastic's huge Harry Potter display, which attracted witches and wizards from all corners of the universe like a magnet, like ants are when they see food. 
Ask them their name, where they're from, who they came here with. You're at Bookcon, people! Almost everyone was so kind and friendly. Books are always a safe topic. Ask them who they're dying to meet and what their favorite book is and why. It's also a chance to exchange numbers and give people your blog URL! Apparently the shameless self promotion game is not one I play alone. 
My signing with Raina Telgemeier began at 12:30PM, we were supposed to be in line at 12:15, I got there at 12:15, ended up being pushed past the crowd and to third in line, was out and done by 12:31PM and could go grab lunch. Some signings may go fast. It is possible, but don't count on it.
Jenny Hanwhose books mean to me so very many things you can read about here.

There were 44759303846474 free things being handed out at booths - tote bags, buttons, bookmarks, etc. galore - but I was extremely selective. There's no point in getting a bunch of stuff you're never going to use so don't grab every freebie coming your way, though it's deliciously tempting. You can always grab some of this stuff for your friends who couldn't make it like I did, but try not to take something for the sake of taking it. Your options are plentiful, let me tell you. I could've easily doubled or even tripled the amount of stuff I got if I took everything ;-) I also didn't get to walk around the show floor thoroughly, just once or twice through as fast as I could. Luckily my friend had more free time than I did and grabbed some books for me and got Gemina signed and personalized for me. A lot of people bring their moms to do this. I wasn't anticipating help at all so having my friend there was a welcome blessing. That was my trade off: less panels, breaks and show floor/exhibitor browsing time in order to meet more people. Remember that most ARCs and free books are given away as early as possible because there's only limited amounts so once they run out, they're out.
When you say "OH MY GOD!" as Cassandra Clare walks in front of you and she says hi to you. You must be so jealous.
Jonathan and Drew Scott, the famous Scott brothers from HGTV's Property Brothers TV show as well as I believe now three others. 
The Scott brothers were as funny, genuine, and socially adept as they seem on the show. I've never really loved home decor or whatnot and even when I carelessly flip through the book I'm like bleh, but when I stop to read it's actually really interesting and will probably be a huge learning opportunity, one of those books that makes me a smarter person because of it. Their voices shine through in the writing, too, which is nice but I'm still weary of because I never know how much celebrities write themselves and how much is fake. I'll do some research later but for now I'm trusting all their hard work and dedication into making it.

Food-wise I took a big bag of cheddar chex mix, dried mango, rolos chocolates and almonds with me and didn't get to pack a lunch like I'd hoped to. It ended up being fine and I got a $6 filling and good hot slice of pizza during the only break in my schedule. Pack water and food so you can eat in line; save yourself as much time as you can to do what's important. I took three water bottles but it was a lot and added weight. Two should be fine because you're so excited and busy and hustling the entire time you don't have much time to think about food.
MICHAEL DANTE DiMARTINO!!! I never in my entire life thought I'd get to meet the co-creator of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is right up there with Life of Pi, The Book Thief, and Harry Potter in Things I Love the Most. It's one of the greatest TV shows of all time. It's actually a fact. Google it. 
I met him after his panel, and I think most of the authors you could meet after their panels unless they were supremely huge like Veronica Roth or the Scott Brothers. The Booktube panel was followed by a meet and greet that everyone knew about, but some panels you could just go up to the author and stop them before they left, like everyone did with DiMartino, who I still can't believe I met. Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, the authors of Illuminae, were one person away from me in the pizza line so don't lose hope. There's always a chance you could meet who you wanted to - the possibilities of where are endless. 

The Bookcon staff was so chill and awesome. They were quick and on top of things, they had answers when you asked questions, and they knew how to handle tired, cranky, restless people who were just trying to meet their fans. When I tried to get a wristband to meet Raina Telgemeier I accidentally ended up in the wrong line, and the guy told me he didn't have Raina's wristbands. Before I could even realize that i'd have to get in another line he told me to wait right there, went off to the next section where Raina's signing wristbands were, got one and gave it to me. I told him that was so awesome and sweet and thanked him so much.

At 5:30PM I went to meet Hannah Hart, the popular YouTuber, because I won a meet and greet with her through Bookcon's website. Right after her I went to the post-booktube panel meet and greet, so those were the last things I did in my day. I ended up leaving McCormick Place at 8PM.
Sasha Alsberg and Natasha Polis, two booktubers. I was surprised at how really, truly sweet they were. Though obviously I'm not a rare occurrence, Sasha gave me the most genuine look and told me I was gorgeous, which was so kind. I can't believe I hugged and chatted with all these people and I don't remember a single second of it?!?!?!
Emma from emmabooks, another booktuber. 
 Emma is so real and simple. I always get the vibe that she doesn't care about the number of followers she has but just does what she wants because she wants to, not to build an empire out of it. I also appreciate her advocacy of the importance of understanding the difficulty of eating disorders because that's one of the hardest mental health issues to understand. I also met Kat, Christine (my favorite!!! she's utterly pretty and funny and probably the best blend of opinionated but optimistic) and Jesse as well. I follow the booktubers' Instagrams more than I watch their videos, but I love hearing their thoughts on books to either agree with them or get a different perspective on something when I really need to be in the world of a particular book for longer. 
Bookcon was superb and wonderful and perfect and I had so much fun, I was so happy, and if this were happening in Chicago again next year I'd buy my ticket right now. I met so many wonderful people and was in heaven the whole day. Everything just seemed to flow and come together and I'd take the tiredness and my stomachache and the extreme lack of sleep and lines any day. I'm only nitpicking the bad things so you guys have a realistic idea, but really in my mind it was a fantasy and there were no flaws. I'm so blessed I made it along with the 7,000 others at Bookcon and the 30,000 total at Bookcon and BEA. What you put in is what you get - so get your mind ready, plan ahead, and expect minor flaws to piece together a perfect final day. 

When I was planning and because I honestly could not wait any longer I read a few reviews of past Bookcons to hear peoples' outtakes on it and their recommendations or how the day(s) went. Much love to anyone attending June 3-4, 2017!
Top: F21 // Jeans: JCP // Vest: Carson's // Necklace: Charming Charlie // Hijab: from a stall at MAS-ICNA Convention // Shoes: Converse

Life is spontaneously splendid. Sometimes you hope and pray and will and want and wish for a beautiful, perfectly splendid day and do whatever you can to make sure you have one. Sometimes you wait in anticipation for something for so long and get so excited that you can't think of anything else for days. Sometimes the universe is loving and kind. Sometimes you're moody and crabby and awful but you get what you want after all. And you never forget the sweet bliss and relief that it was okay, everything was okay.

You're going to be okay.

Aiman Ghani

4 comments:

  1. You hit every point of why bookcon was so amazing ❤️ I felt like I was reliving your experience when reading your blog post, this was absolutely perfect :)

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    1. I relive it through this post alllll the time. Xxxxx

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  2. Wow Bookcon seemed like a wonderful experience and I'm glad that a book lover such as yourself was able to experience it. Thanks for the tips and that was nice of you to think of your friends.

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    1. It was absolutely amazing. Anything for you, carwoman.

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Hi guys! I make sure to read each and every comment I receive- thank you for your love. x Aiman