by Stephanie Casher on June 6, 2007

Well, as most of you know, the primary reason for my sojourn to NYC was to attend Book Expo America, the publishing industry’s monster trade show. This was my first BEA, so I didn’t know quite what to expect, but WOW – what an event. Tons of free stuff, networking opportunities, free stuff, celebrity sightings, free stuff, panels/workshops, and oh, did I mention, free stuff? Overwhelmed does not even begin to describe me as I strolled up and down the aisles in the exhibition halls, lol. But let me begin at the beginning.

The African-American Pavilion actually kicked off it’s programming a day early, so on Thursday we headed over to a catered (and free) luncheon welcoming everyone to BEA. On the panel was bestselling author Zane, as well as heartthrob Blair Underwood. Yes, that’s right, THE Blair Underwood, who I’ve been crushing on since he broke onto the scene on the popular drama LA Law. Apparently he has just co-authored a book with Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes entitled Casanegra, which they were all there promoting. He was only the first of many celebrities I would see at BEA, but most definitely the highlight :-)

James kept telling me to go over and ask for a picture WITH him, but I was too shy and didn’t want to impose. I didn’t want to get all groupie on his ass, and besides, the man was already being swarmed by adoring fans… But he was totally gracious, posing for every picture requested of him, and yes, I am kicking myself for not being more brazen, lol.

Next was a keynote by Victoria Rowell (most famously known as Drucilla on The Young and the Restless). She was there promoting her memoir, The Woman Who Raised Me and doing an autograph signing. Very cool.

Later that evening there was yet another catered dinner reception, with more free food and drink. Many of the African-American publishers had tables set up around the room, and everyone was giving away free books. I left the reception with a large shopping bag full of autographed books, and little did I know this was only the beginning…

After that reception, James and I headed to the Tribal Spears Art Gallery in Harlem for yet another catered reception hosted by AALBC.com, HarlemWorld, & MosaicBooks.com. More big-name authors and Black publishing heavyweights in the house… More free food and drink and tons of schmoozing. This would continue to be a theme for the weekend, lol.

Friday, BEA officially kicked off, and we hit the exhibition halls to meet and greet. Met a lot of cool folks (like Troy from aalbc.com, aka the Host with the Most), put faces to all of the names I’ve been researching the past few years, and collected more bags full of FREE books. Seriously, I shipped over 20 pounds of books home from the Expo – I had no idea it was going to be like that! I also got to see what kinds of books the various publishers are looking to acquire, and get an idea of the current trends taking the publishing industry by storm. Along with the free stuff, tons of priceless information was gathered, in addition to the networking. This was money very well spent…

Friday night, yet another party, this time hosted by Violator Records, G-Unit Books, St. Martin’s Press and author Relentless Aaron at the Shadow Nightclub. After a lovely dinner in the East Village (more on that later), James and I headed to the club, where we posted up in the VIP lounge, networking, eating more free food and drinking free cognac, before spending the rest of the evening dancing the night away… Good times, good times.

Saturday, before returning to the Expo, we attended a luncheon at B. Smith’s Restaurant hosted by my good friend Edwardo Jackson. More free food as we watched Edwardo give a presentation on his new venture Palibra, the ITunes of the written word. Edwardo has created a place where authors can post their work/articles/short stories, and readers can download the content for .99 cents a story. The author receives a 30% royalty on each download. It’s actually pretty cool, and I’m contemplating writing a series of travel articles especially for Palibra. More networking as James and I got an earful from the hilarious one-woman promotional machine, DC Livers of Black Press Magazine, who schooled us on how best to get our hustle on in this Bidness. So much fun. And the food was AMAZING. Then we all geeked out when B. Smith herself walked into the room (for those that don’t know, B.Smith is hailed as the Black Martha Stewart — this woman does it All!) She hung out for a bit, gave a little speech, posed for pictures, and even sat down and did an impromptu interview for DC. It was wild! I also got to meet my writer friend Thomas Brooks for the first time over lunch. Thomas is the author of A Wealth of Family: An Adopted Son’s International Quest for Heritage, Reunion, and Enrichment (you should check this one out Leish!), and a fellow mixed person. :-) All in all, a great day.

Three days and twenty pounds of books later, we finally said goodbye to the Javits Convention Center. Let me tell you, my feet were ready for a rest, LOL. But what a great time – exciting, fun, productive… and I haven’t even gotten into the sightseeing part of the trip yet ;-)

Part Two of Steph’s Excellent New York Adventures (and pictures!) coming soon!

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