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BEA is BEAT. Yeah, yeah, I agree. But indulge me here. I suffer a bit from OCD, which means lots of things, one being I must finish every lingering project if I said I would. No matter if it’s fifteen years later. If I said I’d do it I will. Thankfully this does not apply to the seventeen or eighteen half done projects around my house like The Great Recipe Organizer Project of 2006 or The Absolutely Essential Storage Room Cleanout of 2004. No one knows about those. And let’s not forget the Live off the Land Container Garden Masterpiece of Summers 2003-2007 (yes I’m trying it again this year and now that I’ve written that, it will come to fruition. And when it does, I shall eat it.)

So now you understand why you must suffer through a recap of an event that occurred a few weeks ago and you probably didn’t care about to begin with. You can stop reading now. Seriously. I’ll never know. But there are a few cool things to talk about like the dozen cupcakes that made their way into our booth (thanks, Joe!) and into my heart.

Seeing as though we’re discussing psychological ailments, here’s another one to add to the kitty. I’m food obsessed. At the animal shelter where I volunteer, they test the dogs’ food aggression by using a rubber arm on a stick (which someone decorated with fake blood for added effect) and use said stump to pull the dog’s food bowl away while they’re eating. An aggressive dog (me) will go after the bloody limb while a happy-go-lucky pooch will follow the food bowl wherever the stump takes it. Personally I don’t think this is a fair test. For one thing, they use really good food so the dogs are way more likely to protect it than if you were grabbing generic, liver and cod flavored stale kibble. Second, why is it a bad thing if the dogs go after the bloody appendage? I WANT any dog of mine to recognize an unattached, foreign object, decorated in fake blood that tries to steal our food and to go after it. Not cool, bloody arm! Not cool at all. Anyway, I digress…

Last night I had a dream of twelve little cupcakes. Twelve perfect and unique cupcakes decorated to perfection with frosting the colors of baby blankets. Seeing as though it was my dream I sampled all twelve by biting into their little frosted heads until I got to the cake layer then dropping the half eaten nuggets back into the box. I did not, however, take advantage of the dream factor here or else I would have eaten the whole darn things and then taken off flying. What a waste. Oh well. I’m sure the dream will happen again.

What does this have to do with BEA? Nothing. Sort of. Let’s start at the beginning with Saturday’s breakfast of a giant toasted sesame bagel smeared with eleven pounds of cream cheese. Toasted sesame bagels with cream cheese are no doubt in my top five favorite foods. Delicious. And because today was the day I would do my first ever book signing, I ate the whole thing with no regard. What empty calories? Bad Carbs who? I ate it all including the excess cream cheese that oozed out of the giant bagel and had no other vessel to my gullet other than the wax paper it was wrapped in. I ate it, I loved it, and I would do it again. Back off, Dr. Atkins! Not in my house, you don’t!

This was also the day I finally got to wear the green dress. Correction. The Green Dress. It is a proper name, after all. The Green Dress was spotted at Nordstrom and way too expensive for a green, cotton dress. It’s the kind of expensive you can only justify if you’re going to the Emmy’s or competing in Miss Teen USA or attending BEA for your first ever book signing. So I bought it under the guise it’s a reward for writing a book. Or rather, another reward, but who’s counting? I love me, ok?

So, The Green Dress and I tooled around the booth in the morning (with a dime sized piece of dried cream cheese stuck to the side of my nose) and wandered briefly to other booths like Ripley’s where I saw the two headed goat, shrunken head and God (or maybe Moses.) God wandered around the Javits Center with a staff, long robe, gray beard and a sign around his neck that read “Need Work.” Not “Need Work?” Need Work. It was a statement. God needs a job apparently. I might have pondered this more heartily, maybe even offered a suggestion or two, had I not been distracted by the site of a toucan a few booths over. Not sure why he was there, or even if he was a he, but I got to hold the exotic he/she on my forearm and gaze lovingly into it’s pretty blue eye (you can only see one eye at a time thanks to the foot long honker, but you probably knew that.) I want one!

Other animal sightings included a beautiful black lab that was the star of a children’s picture book. You could have had your picture with her, which I would have been all over had it not been for the fact I was with an interviewer when I saw her and wanted to appear somewhat “professional.” Yes, the girl who writes diary entries from the point of view of her D&D character wants to come across as professional. Problem?

Oh and let’s not forget Dogtoberfest. A full-on beer and schnitzel party hosted by a fellow publisher. They had pugs decked out in lederhosen. Unhappy looking pugs (but really, do they ever look happy?) wearing green lederhosen. Suspenders and all. I’m fairly certain these same pugs ate their owners in their sleep that same night. Even I would draw the line at lederhosen. (Tiaras and cashmere scarves, yes. Lederhosen? No.)

Right-O. Onward. This brings us to The Hugger. Paul, my co-worker, happened to mention seeing The Hugger walking the floor. I saw him too but my mother told me to pay no mind to people who dress up like mimes (only without the creepy make-up), trailing a 1920’s suitcase behind them offering “Free Hugs.” Nice try, Buddy! Paul however was not raised with my apposite moral values and jumped right into the loving arms of this maniac. And he insisted that a professional hug is indeed noticeably different from an amateur hug.

“Professional, how?” I asked. I’m a pretty good hugger but even I wouldn’t say I was professional. This guy has a lot of moxie.

“It was sort of Zen,” Paul said, his eyes glazing over. “It was calming and massaging and awakening.”

“Sort of like Dove shower gel?”

“Go see for yourself.”

Clearly I’m not enlightened enough for The Hugger. At least I wasn’t on Saturday and technically that’s what day we’re still on. But—Spoiler Alert—Sunday was a whole different ballgame!

So now it’s time for my book signing! But first, let’s set the record straight. This wasn’t MY book signing. This was R.A. Salvatore’s book signing. It was not entirely without reason. He writes about D&D, I write about D&D. He’s got a zillion fans, I have one and unfortunately she was in Upstate New York nursing a sore back. Maybe he was in need of some good karma. Or maybe the thinks I really am a sorceress and could cast a spell on him. Whatever the reason, he’s an incredibly gracious man who let me act as the appetizer to his main course. The calm before his storm. The Skid Row to his Bon Jovi. I am the Youth Gone Wild.

Bob’s fans started lining up an hour and a half before the signing. Good thing we had catering that day because some of these people were sounding like they crossed the Sahara with nothing but a pair of soleless Keds and a backpack full of New York Times best-sellers. They were NOT moving. Not for free coffee or pistachio muffins or sesame bagels with cream cheese. Not even for me so I could get through and take my seat next to Bob. Most of them were happy to have me divert their attention while Bob was deep in conversation with the person in line ahead of them. And hey—they got another free book. Only a few thought I was the person who hands Bob a bottle of water and a fresh Sharpie and simply smiled at me while fanning themselves with their free copy of my book.

Bob is amazing and not just in the zillion of fans sort of way. He treats everyone like they’re his neighbors. He’s friendly and relaxed and chatty and makes you feel like any conversation is a meaningful conversation. And he lets newbie writers hijack his fans! Let me tell you—if you have to do a signing, try to do it along-side a New York Times best selling author.

Saturday concludes with another great meal at some Italian restaurant in the Village where food starts flying out of the kitchen the second your butt hits the chair. What’s bad about that? Woof!

On to Sunday. By far the slowest day but that’s good because it gives us a chance to walk around and see what the fuss was about all this free stuff. It was a great day for the food obsessed because most exhibitors were having a fire sale on all their edibles. By “fire sale” I mean “stuffing shortbread cookies and Tootsie Rolls into your pockets as you walk by.” By 9:30 I already consumed more sugar than Barry White (does that make sense to you? Because it makes sense to me.)

There were still lots of books for the taking but after watching the debauchery that surrounded our booth the last few days, I was hesitant to take anything. But I did. No one wants to ship that stuff back, right?

Perhaps it was the sugar gushing through my veins or the punchiness of having spent the equivalent of an entire day confined in the Javits center with cream cheese on my nose, six-dollar lattes and a throng of angry pugs in lederhosen on the loose. Whatever. But I succumbed. I got hugged.

Nina, co-worker and editor extraordinaire, new friend and agent to the stars, Stephen Barbara (and winner of some people’s poll that deemed him “hottest man in publishing”) and myself walked the hall in search of an exhibitor’s booth where some party was going on. We found the booth after about forty-five minutes but there was no party. Unless of course you think two sad looking, beaten down, publishing dregs that probably quit their jobs the next day constitutes a party. Stephen stopped outside their booth and called the friend who spread the vicious rumor of this party and proclaimed loudly, “There ain’t nothing going on here!” The sad publishing dregs merely shrugged their shoulders in apology. I think I saw a tear slide down one of their cheeks. They might as well have been hog-tied and duct taped to their folding chairs, so crushed were their spirits.

But had it not been for the would-be party we never would have crossed paths with The Hugger. He and his handler were casually strolling down a wide aisle, 1920’s suitcase trailing behind. Was he too beaten down and weary after three days of non-stop hugging? Just one more, Mr. Hugger!

“Hugger!” I yelled.

He turned around, no words, just a smile.

“Will you hug my friend, Stephen?” I asked.

No falser words could ever have been strung together than “friend” and “Stephen” judging by the look Stephen shot me that declared our friendship was short-lived and oh-so-over. Oh well. It was almost worth it to see Mr. Hottie Agent-Pants enveloped by a middle-aged man dressed like a mime for what seemed like several hours. Apparently it felt like several hours to Stephen too because he totally broke the Zen-ness of the moment by declaring, “That’s enough, Dude.”

The Hugger backed off. He has boundaries, which I’m grateful for because I threw myself into his loving arms next. I gotta tell you. There IS a difference between a hug and a professional hug. It was relaxing, sort of massaging, and not nearly as weird as I thought. Or as Stephen looked. I think the secret (and I think this is sort of a cop-out) was the fake carnation he wore on his suspenders that strategically hit where most people’s hearts were. The darn thing vibrated! I know, I know, I should assume the buzzing I felt and heard was the sounds of his heart finding mine in a joyous awakening. But that would be…weird. Needless to say, The Hugger was on to something. He’s definitely honed his craft. Hats off to you, Hugger! Or rather, arms out?

I’m not sure much else happened after the hug. Really, what more could happen?
Nina and I bid farewell to Stephen. We even hugged, which of course paled in comparison. We gave away the rest of our giveaways and guarded the Sharpies with our lives. After the show I fled Manhattan on a bus destined for Jersey where I spent some much needed quality time with my dear college friend and her family. Then returned to New York the next afternoon to spend some quality time with my dear friends, Macy’s and Bloomingdales, and later another college friend I don’t get to see nearly enough. Good times.

Wow. I think this little ditty is officially longer than BEA. But I feel much better having wrapped it up. Now I will work on finishing the other 16 entries half-written on my desktop. Or maybe I’ll do that in the morning. Right now I could use a cupcake and a professional hug—both of which I’m resigned to only dream about.

Shelly Mazzanoble

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