The fact that I was actually able to attend BookCon is still surreal to me. Usually expos of this nature tends to stay on the coasts, but to have it in the Midwest was a blessing, considering that I live a matter of hours away from Chicago. I attended with my good friend Michaela, who’s over at bookishreviewsandmore, and it was also our first time attending an event of this scale. But, I do have to say, I think we nailed the event! It also helped that we had read up on it before attending.
We got up between 5:30-6 in the morning, because we knew people were saying that they were getting to BookCon early. We didn’t realize how early – around the time that we were getting up, approximately 300 people (probably an exaggeration from the people who had arrive before we did) had already arrived at the venue and were waiting in line. Naturally, we hurried to get ready and left to arrive at McCormic Place around 6:45. The best part was feeling excited over being in such close vicinity to some of my favorite authors, YouTubers, and fellow members of the book community!
Arriving and Playing the Waiting Game
When we finally arrived at BookCon – it was less than a twenty minute taxi ride over, which was nice! – we instantly started nerding out. There were banners for our favorite books and authors everywhere, and we could hear the low chatter of the other bookworms that had come to experience the event. When we finally made it to the main convention floor, I paused in my tracks. The people posting on the BookCon app weren’t kidding when they mentioned how many people had arrived early – the line wrapped from the main convention area, across a sky walk, and into an entirely different side of the building.
Needless to say, we ended up towards the front of the line forming within the other part of the building. But that was okay! We had gotten there as soon as we were able to – around 7:00-7:05 am, and were waiting for the wristband area to open up at 8am so we could try to get in to meet and get an autograph from Cassandra Clare. We camped out on the ground, talked to some people around us, and mostly fought the urge to sit on our phones for the hour – we needed to save the battery life, after all.
If it was one thing that I noticed, it was that time flew by quickly, even if you were sitting in lines that took more than an hour to get through. The wristband area was no exception. They had us lined up in various “chutes”, which was organized with by the authors that were signing all at one time. We headed into Chute 5 – the one that had all of our favorites signing at the same time; Cassandra Clare, Victoria Aveyard, Richelle Mead, to name a few.
While waiting in line in was chaos. But organized chaos. A lot of veteran BookCon goers were complaining about the new system, but I thought it worked well. It gave everyone a more fair chance at getting to meet the authors they wanted to. The only downside was the length of the chute lines – if you were in Chute 5, like I was, it was definitely harder to get into the other lines, in order to get more wristbands.
Sarah J Maas and Cassandra Clare – those wristbands went almost instantly. Michaela and I ended up getting wristbands for Victoria Aveyard! The catch? We forgot our copies of her books.
Penguin Teen Panel
After getting our wristbands, we quickly headed over to the show floor. It around 8:45am, and the floor didn’t open again until 10am. However, we had entered a contest that allowed 100 teens to meet and play a trivia game with some of the hottest authors within Penguin – Ransom Riggs, Tahereh Mafi, Sabaa Tahir, Richelle Mead, Ruta Sepetys, John Corey Whaley, and David Arnold. We were all split up into Teams to play the trivia game and the authors spoke about their recent or upcoming releases with us. I was super close to their stage, but I was also impressed with my ability to remain calm throughout the entire experience.
For the trivia game, there were three rounds (questions about YA books, matching the first lines of books to their titles, and cover naming), and each time was able to work with an author for two of those rounds. My team got to work with Ransom Riggs and John Corey Whaley and both of them were super cool guys! They talked to us about writing, their favorite things to do, their favorite cities, cool trips they had taken, and more. The best was realizing that these authors are everyday people like we are, and that was a consistent theme I saw throughout the day.
After the game, we got to take a picture with all of the authors as we waiting for scores to be tallied. I think that is when it started to hit me that BookCon was here and it was happening. It was so surreal. Although my team didn’t win the game – the winning team got a tote bag of all of the authors books that were autographed – everyone still walked away with a tote bag with two random, unsigned, books. I was estatic that I got Salt from the Sea by Ruta Sepetys and The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead.
The Show Floor
The show floor opened during my Penguin panel and let me tell you, we definitely heard it when that happened. Through the cracks in the curtains surrounding our little area, we saw people running towards the floor in excitement and the volume level quickly rose. When we left the panel, there were just people everywhere. We tried to walk around the booths, but quickly had to find an empty space to take a moment to gather our bearings before heading back into the masses.
My only complaint about the floor was the set up – they had all the major publishers sitting closely together, which definitely caused issues when it came to the games the booths had and the lines that grew as a result of that. I apologize to the amount of people that I ended up hitting with my tote bags and backpack, because it was a tight squeeze most of the time. Especially when the masses found the ARCs.
In the end, we did spend a lot of time in these areas. For the most part were looked for ARCs because neither of us had any, and we weren’t very interested in the books that were on sale. In the end, we both scored six ARCs and purchased other books. I walked away with autographed copies of The Scorpio Races, Daughter of Deep Silence, and Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl from the BookCon store area.
We also missed out on many of the handouts of popular ARCs, due to them occurring at 10 am when the Penguin Panel was still happening, but we did accidentally stumble across a line for Razor Girl and got copies of that book! We were trying to find the Ransom Riggs in-booth signing line, but getting a copy of that book was definitely worth the mistake.
Ransom Riggs In-Booth Signing
This line was crazy long, but considering we didn’t need wristbands for this one, I honestly don’t blame people for flocking to this signing. Plus, it was for Ransom Riggs! I had spoken to him earlier in the day and just happened to bring along my copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and was happily wanting to get it signed.
We ended up farther back in the line and were sitting behind the PBS live stream of BookCon/their interview stage. I was just fiddling around on my phone and looking up for a split second and there they were – Bookspolsion. Christine, Jesse, and Kat were standing ten feet away from us and all I could do was gape at them. As a theatre geek, I didn’t want to go up to them and interrupt their preparations for the interview, but a lot of people flocked to them to grab pictures before and after their interview on the stage.
Again, time flew by rather quickly as we waited for the signing with Ransom Riggs. Sadly, since there were so many of us, there wasn’t much time to talk, so I got a quick signature in my book and Michaela snapped a picture!
Victoria Aveyard Autographing
In between the Ransom Riggs and Victoria Aveyard signing, we were able to go to the signing for Sasha and Natasha – some of our favorite BookTubers on the internet. I felt bad for the author that was there with them, J.D. Netto, because everyone was there for these two YouTubers. But going to this signing also put us right by the line for Victoria Aveyard’s signing at 3pm. It was perfect.
We got to this signing line at 2 o’clock, which put us near the front of the line – we were around 5th in line. Since other signings were going on in this area, we had to wait outside of the aisles, but that was fine. We were near the front and that was all that mattered to us. However, it was around this time that we realized that neither of us had brought our copies of her novels with us, and that we were about to buy some more. For Michaela, she only owned Red Queen, whereas I owned all of her books. I ended up buying a second copy of Glass Sword, and that’s when I started kicking myself again because I completely forgot about the 10% sales tax in Illinois. Anyway.
Now, BookCon has a very specific no skipping or jumping lines policy and that was totally thrown out the window in this line. Anytime someone stopped to purchase a book, those who had brought their copies jumped in front of them and continued on through the line. Even the staff members were encouraging this. Michaela and I quickly fell from 5th in line to 20th and I was very irritated over that fact.
After dealing with the line jumping, we were waiting for Victoria to appear at the table. We were looking around and there they were – Richelle Mead was signing at the table next to Victoria, and Cassandra Clare was two tables away. Needless to say, we tried to grab what photos we could from the distance that stood between our tables. Which was a challenge. But we did it anyway.
When it was finally my turn to meet Victoria, I didn’t know what I wanted to say or how to act or anything. My chill and calm nature from the morning Penguin Teen Panel went completely out of the window when I was standing in front of Victoria. Here’s how the conversation went:
Victoria: How are you?
Staff Member: *takes photo*
Me: Have a good day!
Yeah… If I ever make it to another BookCon, I definitely need to come up with things to say before I end up standing in front of the authors I admire. Otherwise, Victoria is an angel and super sweet – definitely she’s definitely the type of author I aspire to be one day.
Before heading to BookCon, we had spent a day together to throw together a rough schedule of what we wanted to do and see. For the most part, the panels were the things that we sacrificed in order to spend more time on the show floor. But, by the end of the day our legs and shoulders were throbbing and we had to sit down, so we headed to the panel area. Plus, we wanted to see our BookTuber’s panel at 5:30, so we wanted to be safe versus sorry! Especially after hearing how many people wanted to see the panel throughout the day.
I don’t know who this staff member was, but bless her soul because she helped us to cheat the panel system. As it is, BookCon has it set up so if you want to see a panel, you have to go sit in a queue room and then will be escorted into the panel room about 15 minute prior to it happening. However, they do not clear out the room between panels, so if you wanted to you could spend hours just sitting in the same room and enjoy all the panels that you want to!
So that’s exactly what we did. We entered the panel room during the middle of a panel on diversity in books (the authors have good ideas, but were also contradicting themselves in their arguments, but that’s a whole ‘nother story) and ended up seeing the Book-Hooked panel with Laini Taylor, Victoria Aveyard, and Sarah J Maas, which was a panel that we wanted to see anyways! What I loved about this panel was getting to see a different side to these three authors that I absolutely revere. They were funny, willing to tell us stories about their journey as writers, and gave us writing advice. The best advice came from Sarah – she told us how she has a mirror placed behind her computer, so every time she’s writing she’s able to see her facial expression or is able to block out scenes that way. Also, she told us how many people told her that she could never be an author, and her advice to us was to tell people “watch me” and go make our writing dreams come true.
The Book-Hooked panel ran overtime, but that was okay because it made the time flow by faster until the BookSplosion panel came out to speak with fans before their Meet and Greet. So many people came to see them and Christine and Kat kept saying how it was their biggest Meet and Greet they had ever been to. Ever chair was filled, and there were rows of people standing along the back and the walls along the side. The trio played a game of Two Truths and Lie with all of us, answered fan questions about how they create videos, where they started, and more. It was probably one of the best moments of my life.
Afterwards, the Meet and Greet happened. However, they were releasing us by rows to go meet everyone, which meant it was quite the process and lots of people were there before we were. In the end, they had to cut it down to taking a quick picture with everyone and we couldn’t talk or hug them. That sucked because I’ll probably never be able to meet them again, but I was still able to take a picture with them, which was amazing!
BookCon, Please Come Back!
BookCon is returning to New York next year for a two day event, but I hope to see it in Chicago again! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and definitely takes the cake as the best day of my life. I made so many new memories and got to meet so many interesting and dynamic people. I’m so grateful that I was able to attend this event and I am going to greatly enjoy all of the books that I received.