Meeting Amy Tan at Book Expo America

One of the highlights of Book Expo America for me was meeting Amy Tan. Ok, maybe meeting might be too strong a word. I said “Hi” to her as she signed her book and slid it over the table to me.

Amy Tan holds a special place in my teenage years. Prior to The Joy Luck Club, I don’t remember reading any contemporary books about the Asian American experience. Especially books about mother-daughter relationships. Like any teenager, my relationship with my mom was fraught with drama and battles of being Vietnamese versus American. Being first generation Asian American has its unique challenges. The Joy Luck Club comforted me because I realized I wasn’t alone in my challenges. It was also the first book I read about the Asian American experience that wasn’t about refugees and war.

For some reason, when you’re Vietnamese, people want you to read books like “The Boat People.” Not exactly a subject I could relate to since I was born and raised in rural Louisiana. Her book gave me the motivation to search for more books about the Asian American experience, with emphasis on the American.

I’ve been a fan of Amy Tan every since. From the book to its film adaptation that gave so many Asian American actors their break.

During her BEA talk, Amy Tan discussed her writing process as well as her inspiration behind her newest book The Valley of Amazement, due out in November 2013.  I keep talking about how The Joy Luck Club resonated with me as an Asian American. However, the themes in the book are universal. I think many mothers and daughters can relate to the struggles in the novel. In fact, the audience during the talk was very diverse, in ethnicity and age. That is a true testament to Amy Tan’s work.

You can watch the official video of Amy Tan’s talk. I started to take one on my phone, but there were so many people walking up to take photos of Amy Tan, my video isn’t very good.

Which author or book made an impact on your teenage years?

Book Club Picks from BEA 2013 (Video)

I had fun making my last Book Expo America top picks video, so I thought I’d make another one. These are books I think will create good discussions for book clubs. I would definitely read them, book club or not. (I tried to fix the sound so it was louder but only managed to make it a wee bit louder. I apologize for my tech fail on that part.)

Here are the books I mentioned in my video (affiliate links)

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L Silver (releases 6/11/13)

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (releases 6/4/13)

The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden (September 2013)

A Beautiful Truth by Colin MacAdam (September 2013)

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman (October 2013)

Any of these book sound interesting to you?

Must Read Books from #BEA13 (video)

Here’s a short video I did about some books I think will be hot this fall! It’s dark because the lighting in my hotel room is a wee bit odd.

I know it’s just a few books, but I have much more books to talk about it. I’ll share soon.

How do you like the videos on here? Do you prefer to just read about the new books? I’d love your feedback!

Edited to add:

Here are the books I talked about in the video (affiliate links)

A Well-tempered Heart by Jan-Phillip Sendkher

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

The Returned by Jason Mott. You can download the prequel short story for free: The First (The Returned)

Stripes of All Types by Susan Stockdale


Book Expo America Day 1 Recap #BEA13

I dipped my toes into BEA by attending BEA Blogger yesterday. I also went to awesome book parties and met some authors we’ve read as a book club here on From Left to Write. I’m on my way out the door for the first day on the Expo Hall (follow my tweets for photos, etc), but wanted to share some photo goodness with you!

I met Tom Reiss, author of The Black Count (affiliate link). Did I mention that he recently won the Pulitzer Prize and that it was From Left to Write book club selection? He’s a great guy! Don’t you love it when authors of books you love are nice?

During BEA Blogger, I learned about THIS. Yes, you read that right, J.J. Abrams has a novel S. coming out this October. It’s shrouded in secrecy, like all of his projects. This postcard is the first clue to it. I predict this will be a best seller. S.  (affiliate link) is available for pre-order but there’s no cover art or anything yet. Abrams has an elaborate marketing plan that includes a lot of bread crumbs like this postcard and internet Easter eggs.

Then I accosted Hugh Howey at the food court yesterday. He was totally gracious as I got all fan girl about his book Wool (affiliate link). Of course I told him that I was a book blogger. An hour later, I see this tweet! How fun is it when authors tweet our the reviews we write about their book? That made my afternoon. Plus I didn’t feel bad about interrupting his conversation with 6 other people. Also, guy how stole a french fry off my tray while I talked to Hugh? I would have given you one if you had just asked.

There’s so much more, but I need to get dressed and head down to Day 2 of Book Expo!

Headed to BEA 2013 & More Tips for Attendees

Thien-Kim & Scaredy Squirrel at Book Expo America

I’ve been so busy that it just hit me that Book Expo America is a week from today.  BEA Blogger is next Wednesday and the “regular” expo is the rest of the week. This year is a little bit different for me as I’m driving to New York. Even though I’m driving, I hope not to bring home too many books. (That’s what I’m telling myself.)

I’m psyched about seeing Amy Tan, who is will be on the Downtown Stage on Friday. The Joy Luck Club was the very first book I ever read that featured Asian American women in a “normal” way. They weren’t idealized for their race or their culture. It was about mother-daughter relationships. There’s a ton of author signings and educational sessions for the 3 days of BEA. I can’t possibly go to them all, but it’s fun to see what’s on the schedule.

Here are my tips from last year for BEA attendees, plus a few more:

  • Wear comfortable shoes. This is non-negotiable. The Javits is HUGE. You’ll be walking miles in your shoes. It’ll feel like you walked a mile just to get to the expensive food court full of greasy food. Don’t buy new shoes the day before you leave. Buy them now and break them in. Bring some talcum powder for your shoes. It’ll keep your feet from sweating and smelling bad after a long day of strolling the Javits.
  • Business cards. Bring more than you think you’ll need. Keep them inside the badge for easy access and replenish as needed. You never who you’ll meet in the autograph line. It could be the next hot author or a kick-ass blogger. You want to stay in touch! I met author Alma Katsu last year during Book Blogger Con ad we still stay in touch.
  • Don’t take every book handed to you. Really, it’s ok. I know it’s hard to turn down free books, but be honest with yourself. Are you going to be able to read all of them? You might take one to give to friends, but be realistic. Besides, your shoulders will thank you.
  • Bring a tote bag. You’re going to receive a lot of galleys. My first hour at BEA last year, I received over 10 books. Without asking for them. Some of the publishers will giveaway tote bags but they might not be very big or comfortable. No rolling bags are allowed on the expo hall. Make sure your tote bag has wide comfortable straps.
  • Or bring a rolling suitcase and check it in the luggage check. It costs around $3 a day per bag and you can revisit your bag as often as you want during the day.  Stop by periodically and drop your books off in your suitcase. Your back and shoulders will thank you. At the end of the day, just wheel your bag home or to your hotel room. Empty and repeat for the next day. Book Expo America Carpet
  • Or start a box in the shipping room. The shipping area is basically a huge full of empty boxes. You can claim a box by writing your name on it. Fill it up throughout the week. When it’s full, you fill out the paperwork and pay for shipping. Boxes will be unsupervised, so if you got  Chris Colfer’s signed galley, keep it on your person. Last year the carrier was UPS. Just note that it won’t be cheap because of union rules. Last year there was a surcharge for $25 per box on top of shipping costs. You won’t be allowed to remove the box from the shipping room. Alternately, there is a FedEx location in the Javits as well, but they won’t hold your books for you.
  • Make an author must-see list. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re walking the many booths during the expo. Write down the day, time, and location of your favorite authors and set reminders so you won’t forget. Depending on the author, the line may start an hour before their appearance. You can also download the BEA Mobile app (iOs an Android) to make your schedule. The 2013 version of the BEA app is a huge improvement over last year’s. It’s more user friendly and easier to navigate and add events to your agenda.
  • Pack a backup battery for your smartphone or tablet. You don’t want to be without a camera if you run into Jane Lynch or Justin Cronin. You need evidence that you met them! I’m using my smartphone to keep track of my meetings, author events, and BEA parties. It’ll also be my primary way to stay in touch with my fellow book bloggers. I will be tweeting updates and photos while I’m there too. Follow me on Twitter for updates.  You’ll be on the go all day and don’t want to tethered to a wall outlet while your phone charges. I ordered this New Trent backup battery for phone. It’s compatible with most phones/tablets and has really good reviews.
  • Pack clothes that work for both day and evening. This mostly applies to us ladies, but I’ll be on the go as soon as I walk out of my hotel room. Since I have meetings during the day, I’ll wear something business casual that won’t look out of place during happy hour. Think layers or accessories that you can keep in your bag. Dresses are also perfect for this. It’ll also be hot and humid in New York City, so plan in accordingly if you will be doing a lot of walking (which most New Yorkers do).
  • Pack snacks and a reusable water bottle in your bag. Like I mentioned before the food court in the  Javits isn’t the best. Pack nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, whatever you like to snack on until you can get some real food. Some of the publishers’ booths have food or candy, but I didn’t want to chance chatting with the Dianetics people for some candy. Same with water. Pack a water bottle and fill it up at a water fountain. A 20 oz bottle of water from the Javits kiosk cost around $6 if I remember correctly. I even pack some Emergen-C  or Starbucks VIA Refreshers to mix with my water.
  • Leave the Javits for lunch. If you can’t, at least go outside for some fresh New York City air. Besides, lunch at the Javits food court is not exactly superior quality or inexpensive. The vibe on the expo hall gets frantic sometimes. It’s nice to take yourself out of the hustle and bustle of the expo and relax a little bit.
  • Attend a session or stage event. This is my advice to myself. Instead of just wandering around the expo floor all day or wait in line for author signings, I’m going to attend a couple of sessions. I’m thinking about this session about a code of ethics for book reviewers.
Whew! That’s a long list of tips. Do you have any to add?
If you’re heading to BEA, let me know. I’d love to meet up!
This post contains affiliate links.

Book Expo America ’12 Recap and Author Sightings Part I

Thien-Kim Lam with author Justin Cronin

Thien-Kim & Justin Cronin

I almost wrote Celebrity Sightings instead of Author. I thought it might confuse people, but to me, the authors I met are celebrities to me. My second time at BEA was a lot more fun and productive. This time I knew what to expect. I had meetings schedule and even  got invited to some events (thanks to my roommate and From Left to Write member Pam for making me her +1 at some of them).

The first day was BEA Bloggers and I immediately became friends with Nicole of Paperback Princess, who was in line ahead of me. Turns out she’s a Justin Cronin fan as well. We made a beeline for one of the table where he would sit for the author breakfast speed dating. She and I sat on either side of the “reserved for author” chair. Yeah, I might have geeked out a bit. Justin Cronin was lovely to chat with. He’s down to earth (you’ll see this is a common theme with the authors I met) and gave us some hints to The Passage’s sequel, The Twelve. Sadly I did not score a galley of The Twelve. I had a meeting during his signing the following morning. At least I got a photo with him. (See my review of The Passage.)

Jennifer Weiner was the keynote for BEA Blogger. I have never read any of her books and didn’t know what to expect. She gave a fascinating talk about how social media is changing the face of publishing and books. She reminded book bloggers (plus the authors, publishers, and publicity folks attending) how vital book bloggers’ voices are to the industry. We help “handsell” the book with our word of mouth. Bloggers have a platform that allows for a more dynamic discussion of books and a conversation with the author. Of course many of us there already know this, but it never hurts to hear it from a successful author. I feel happy that From Left to Write’s book club discussions are part the dynamic. Jennifer Weiner dropped several f-bombs during her talk, which made me love her even more.

Anouk Markovits & From Left to Write Members

Anouk Markovits & From Left to Write Members

Another highlight during Book Expo was the cocktail hour that Crown Publishing hosted for From Left to Write members. We met Anouk Markovits, author of I Am Forbidden-which we read together in May. Hearing Anouk (and other authors I met last week) talk about the characters in their books was enlightening. I know this sounds silly, but I never thought about how real those characters are for the author as they are writing . They live and breathe these characters. In return, the characters talk to them. Anouk shared how Mila, one of the main characters, didn’t become likeable to her until she discovered Mila’s secret desire: to bear a child. Our members enjoyed chatting with Anouk, until her publishing team whisked her away for a much more glamourous party.

Ok, more recap to come!