I think everyone was wondering what BEA would be like in a city other than NYC--and the answer was that it was a more laid-back version of what you might see at Javits. There was still a mad rush and long lines for some coveted ARCs (Heartless, Gemina, and A Torch Against the Night were our personal most-anticipated), but overall, it felt more relaxed.
The consensus between the three of us attending (we missed Mandy W., who was at a work conference and hanging out with VBCFYA!) is that the real treat was exploring Chicago. Even with some seriously rainy and foggy weather, the city was gorgeous, the people were ridiculously friendly, and we had a lot of book-themed adventures in the days we were there.
The author equivalent to seeing your name in lights!
While I definitely had some great moments on the BEA floor (including Justin Cronin signing my copy of City of Mirrors and Aaron Starmer putting Spontaneous, complete with a poncho, in my grabby little hands), my favorite experiences this year involved hanging with Jennie and Mandy C. in some of Chicago's awesome bars.
I know, you're shocked as hell.
First up, Game Room. We were just looking for a place to grab a drink when we stumbled upon this gem inside the Chicago Athletic Association, an historic building recently renovated into a hotel that stays close to its sporting roots. Game Room has bocce, billiards and lots of athletic memorabilia, and I mean that in a classy way, not a sports bar way. (We cracked up when we realized that this was the Chicago equivalent to our Javitz hangout, the basketball-themed Clyde Frazier's). Most importantly, the cocktails were delicious.
Next, we headed over to Green River, which is located on the 18th floor of... a hospital. That might sound weird, but think about it-- is there any place full of more people that could really use a drink? This place offers a gorgeous escape and killer views of the city, not to mention an incredible menu of craft cocktails which we put to very good use while hanging out with Indiana from the FYA Chicago Book Club. Cheers, Chi-town!
Having never been to Chicago, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I mean, I knew it was a big city, near a big lake, that gets big windy. But I was delighted to find that not only is it a absolutely beautiful city, full of lovely buildings, but it's also filled with some seriously lovely people. I'm thankful we got to sneak out before, after, and during actual BEA events to check out the sights and meet some of the city's finest—including one of my most favorite Lyft drivers ever, Anton, a local firefighter whose hobbies include supporting and producing independent films. Anton gave us some tips on what to do and where to eat around the city, told some crazy stories about life as a firefighter (and made me smile when he assured us that he makes sure that little girls on school trips know that they can be firefighters, too), and used a GPS with Shaq's voice giving directions. 5 stars for Anton; would ride with him again.
My favorite event at the actual event was the NOVL Brunch with Laini Taylor, which Jennie and I attended with a few other bloggers and booktubers. Laini was a delight, and gave us some insight into her upcoming duology, which starts with Strange the Dreamer (out in September). Although we only got a teaser for the book, I'm super excited to dive back into one of her fictional worlds. We also chatted about hair color (and I continued my trend of recommending this stuff to authors with brightly colored hair) and Portland (where she lives, and I got married/have family).
I flew into Chicago earlier than Posh and Mandy C., to hang out with my bestie--which means I got a few more days to totally fall in love with the city. Between seeing masterpieces at The Art Institute, the molecular gastronomy cocktails at The Aviary, drinking beer at Goose Island Brewery, admiring the gorgeous flowers adorning every median in the Magnificent Mile, and looking out over the city from the top of the John Hancock building, I was thoroughly charmed by the time Posh and Mandy C. arrived.
Chicago, you're stunning on a sunny day.
The fun didn't stop there, though--we went to the famed Second City for an improv show (my first ever!), ate a lot of damn good food, and were treated to publisher parties by Candlewick, Fierce Reads, and Big Honcho Media.
We rounded out the week with a stop at The Bean (Cloud Gate) and Garrett Popcorn, whose cheesy popcorn was so delicious that I am bemoaning the fact that it would be expensive to have more shipped to me. Finally, when Mandy C. and I got back to the hotel on our last night, we watched some adorable, snappily-dressed kids arriving to their high school prom--which seemed like the perfect note on which to end the trip.
Cheers, Chicago--we miss you already!