BookCon: A First Timer’s Review

book con entrance

Via a Facebook ad, I saw that Nicola Yoon, Stephen Chbosky, Jenny Han, Rainbow Rowell, and Margaret Atwood were among the attendees scheduled for this year’s BookCon in New York City. The itinerary was simply too good to resist; days later, my husband and I purchased convention and plane tickets, and I began counting down the days until my arrival in the Big Apple.

Having now attended my very first BookCon, I would be remiss if I did not share my experience with my bookish readers. In short, if you have the time and resources to visit BookCon, don’t pass it up. It truly is a reader’s paradise.

Panels

Panels are always exciting for me. As an aspiring author, I gain writerly tips and tricks. As a fangirl, I get to see some of my favorite authors in the flesh. Here is a short synopsis of each of the panels I attended.

Romance and New Adult Fiction: This panel featured Young Adult/New Adult romance authors Christina Lauren, Colleen Hoover, and Kami Garcia. The women discussed the creation of “strong” protagonists, and stressed the importance of flawed, damaged, and hurt characters. The authors also discussed the unfair and unwarranted stereotype of romance novels, even though they easily outsell other genres.

new adult romance

A Spectrum of Young Adult Authors: This panel featured YA authors Adele Griffin, Jason Reynolds, and Stephanie Garber. This group discussed the unique challenges and values in writing for young people, and how many classic and celebrated novels feature teenaged protagonists. They also discussed low moments in their own lives and careers that have influenced their writing.

ya panel

The Handmaid’s Tale: Margaret Atwood and Showrunner Bruce Miller from the New Series on Hulu: This panel featured author Margaret Atwood and director/screenwriter Bruce Miller from the newest television adaptation. It was truly an honor and privilege to see Ms. Atwood and learn how real-life events influenced her dystopian novel. Bruce Miller discussed the challenges of bringing elements of The Handmaid’s Tale to the small screen.

margaret atwood

Transforming a Bestseller onto the Silver Screen: A Book to Film Adaptation: This panel featured YA authors Lauren Oliver, Nicola Yoon, RJ Palacio, and Stephen Chbosky. These authors discussed the sometimes lengthy and complicated journey from selling the rights to their novel to attending the premiere of the movie adaptation.

book to film

Signings/Meet and Greets

One of my only complaints regarding BookCon is the system employed to distribute signing and meet and greet tickets. Tickets go on sale on a predetermined day, and once they are sold out, there are no more chances to have a book signed by that author. I much prefer the lottery system used by other conventions. That aside, I left BookCon with two signed novels and a professional photograph.

Kevin Hart: My husband and I are fans of the comedian Kevin Hart, so it was extremely exciting to briefly meet and be photographed with him. We also received copies of Kevin’s autobiography I Can’t Make This Up.

kevin hart

Kwame Alexander: I teach Alexander’s novel-in-verse The Crossover, so I was excited to meet him in person and tell him how much the book means to me and my students. If you are having difficulties getting your students interested in poetry, check it out! I also received an early release of Alexander’s newest novel, Solo.

kwame alexander

Ashley Poston: Although I was at the Margaret Atwood panel at the time, my husband was kind enough to get my copy of Geekerella signed by author Ashley Poston. I loved this book—look for a review in the coming weeks!

geekerella

Exhibitors and Free Stuff

One of the most enjoyable things about attending any convention is exploring the exhibition hall, and Book Con was certainly no exception. There were a countless number of exhibitors (no joke—I began to count them all but tired around 200) who were pedaling a wide array of book-related wares:  books in every category you can think of, graphic novels, bookish merchandise, subscription boxes, etc. The largest booths belonged to Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, and Chronicle Books, though smaller booths by independent publishers were also well-attended. Many of the booths also hosted their authors for signings—there was a particularly long line for Chelsea Clinton’s newest children’s book. I left with enough free stuff to weigh down an entire carry-on bag: pens and notepads, tote bags and backpacks, bookmarks, pins, stickers, magnets, playing cards, posters, beach balls, eyeglass cleaners, t-shirts, headphones…the list goes on.

But all BookCon attendees know that the true jewel of convention swag is a free book, and I was fortunate enough to snag several, pictured below. Which should I read and review first?

free books

If you want to see more of my BookCon pics and videos, follow  me on Instagram @ireadwhattheyread!

Book Review: LumberJanes

lumberjanes cover

Stevenson, Noelle, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, Maarta Laiho, and Aubrey Aiese. LumberJanes. Beware The Kitten Holy ed. Vol. 1. Los Angeles, CA: BOOM! Box, a division of Boom Entertainment, Inc., 2016. Print.

In my world, authors are rock stars.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet several of my favorites in person: John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and MT Anderson among others. Each time I encounter an author, I am energized not only as a voracious reader but as an aspiring author.

Recently, I had a unique opportunity to see such an author on stage. He wasn’t conducting a book signing or a meet-and-greet; instead, he was holding a charity Q&A session at my alma mater. Though it pains me to say this, I am not as familiar with his series of graphic novels as I am the subsequent television show adaptation.

The author was Robert Kirkman, and the show is The Walking Dead.

During the session, Kirkman said the key to writing a successful comic book—or creating any type of successful art—is to find a niche, something unique that is not currently out there. The novelty of your creation will likely lead to its success.

And, if this is the key to graphic novel success, then LumberJanes certainly has this formula down pat.

Assembled by a team of talented illustrators, LumberJanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy introduces us to a motley crew of young female campers. The five girls attend Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniququl Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Girls (or hard-core lady types, as the vandalized sign now says). The camp is a mixture between Girl Scouts and 4-H and the girls are expected to participate—and sometimes earn badges—in the standard activities: camping, canoeing, archery, etc.

But the camp is not a tranquil nature retreat. Throughout the course of the first issue, the girls encounter three-eyed foxes, “hipster” yetis, talking statues, and a boy’s camp where something feels a bit off. Most alarming of all, the girls uncover a foreboding message: they must beware the “kitten holy”. Will they ever decipher the meaning of this message? Will their misadventures get them kicked out of camp altogether?

Hearkening back to Kirkman’s wise words, LumberJanes is different from anything I’ve ever read, and not just because of my unfamiliarity with graphic novels. The girls—Mal, Molly, Jo, April, and Ripley—have unique, stereotype-shattering personalities. April, for instance, is the tiniest and most daintily dressed of the crew, yet she is physically stronger and more daring than the other girls. Barney, a member of the boy’s camp, eschews traditionally male activities and prefers baking cookies. The feminist in me cheered throughout the duration of my read.

LumberJanes is interspersed with excerpts from The LumberJanes Field Manual, and these usually give readers a bit of tongue-in-cheek foreshadowing. The grammar errors in these excerpts, however, gave me pause as I read. There were many comma issues and incorrectly used words—a snippet from the chapter on earning a naval gauging badge, for example, says “be she will learn how to explore with a seeing and vigilant eye” when it intends to read as “but she will learn how to explore with a seeing and vigilant eye”. Some readers will skip these sections altogether, but careful readers might be bothered by these editing issues.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this first edition of LumberJanes and I believe my students would be just as enthusiastic. Educators who are teaching a unit on gender might find it especially fitting. The colorful illustrations and the moments of humor will be attractive to the most reluctant of readers. The battle cry of the LumberJanes—Friendship to the Max!—reminds us to look after and protect one another. This is a good reminder to our students that petty disagreements will fade with time, but supporting your friends in times of crisis is of paramount importance.