My Week: Comic Con, Saeed Jones & Zadie Smith

Well, folks.  My week back at it has been unbelievably busy.  I went to New York Comic Con and attended book launches for Saeed Jones and Zadie Smith.  I’m tired!  This is gonna be a long one, so stick with me.  Okay, let’s get to it.

NEW YORK COMIC CON

So this year, I went to New York Comic Con no longer a newbie.  I went with the focus of someone who knew how things work.  Was it perfect?  Of course not.  But did I have fun?  I absolutely did.

Instead of killing myself to try and make every single panel, talk and event, I strategically chose what I would do.  I mean, I have a regular job so I had to take that into consideration (Note to Self:  TAKE THE WEDNESDAY BEFORE NYCC OFF!).  So I skipped Thursday and Friday and just made sure to show up on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday was a day of panels, which meant I basically stayed inside the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden all day.  I attended panels for The Walking Dead, where Danai Gurira (Michonne) talked about her last season with the show, and we all learned that Lauren Cohan (Maggie) would be making her return.  Cailey Fleming, who plays Judith Grimes, came to her first NYCC and she handled the crowds like a pro.

I had a break until the next panel, so I made my way to Johnnie Walker’s pop-up for the brand’s Game of Thrones-inspired whiskey tasting.  At one of New York City’s art galleries, I was able to taste A Song of Ice, which was smooth and tasted great in a mixed drink I tried called Queen in the North, and A Song of Fire, a spicy and stronger version.  Guests sampled both whiskeys, struck a pose in the photo booth (including yours truly) and interacted with each other.  It was a lot of fun.

Afterwards, I headed back to the Hulu Theatre for the Castle Rock panel.  Attendees were treated to the Season 2 premiere episode and it was BANANAS!!  Season 1 already had me on edge, but Season 2 is going to be absolutely crazy.  The audience was not ready for what happened in the episode and neither will the rest of you.  Lizzy Caplan as Annie Wilkes is a dream!  Get ready for her take on an iconic character when the show airs on October 23.

Once the screening was over, the cast took to the stage for a lively discussion about the season, even though they couldn’t say too much without spoiling anything.  I was fine with that because I want to be surprised.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to be more than surprised when I watch.

Once the Castle Rock panel was over, it was time to prepare for Outlander, a show and book series I adore.  I’ve been to three screenings/panels for the show so far (twice at NYCC) and it’s ALWAYS a great time.

One of the things that happens between panels is what I call the Seat Shuffle.  Hulu Theatre is not cleared out after each panel, so attendees who stick around for the next one have the chance to move to a better seat, if they can.  I already had a pretty good seat for Castle Rock, but I moved anyway.  I found an even better seat closer to the stage and sat with some die-hard fans of the show.  We talked, laughed and sang songs during a contest we could have easily won had we jumped on stage to participate (if you don’t know the words to the Saved By The Bell theme song, I don’t want to know you).

As always, the Outlander panel was so much fun.  The cast was so funny and very gracious to the fans.  David Berry, who plays fine ass Lord John Grey was especially charming and I was psyched to see Duncan Lacroix, who plays Murtagh, on the stage.  One of the funniest things during the panel was hearing the cast say lines from the show in a New York accent.  Caitriona Balfe won that challenge easily when she delivered her lines sounding like she grew up in the Boogie Down Bronx.

Since Season 5 was still being filmed, there was no screening of the premiere episode, but fans did get to see the new trailer for the season.  As always, Claire and Jamie have to deal with some mess, but they deal with that mess together and still very much in love.

And finally, I watched the Season 10 premiere of The Walking Dead.  The gang is in full-on training mode after the Whisperers massacre, Carol and King Ezekiel are still broken up (dammit), Michonne is still kicking walker ass and this season looks like we’re gonna see an Alpha/Carol showdown.

Sunday was not as busy, but I did attend a couple of cool book panels.  The highlight of my day was meeting and taking a picture with author N.K. Jemisin, and folks, I was a damn geek.  I am normally very cool when I meet celebrities or authors but for some reason, I geeked out when I met Nora (yes, that’s how she introduced herself to me so that’s what I get to call her now).  But she was incredibly gracious and handled my spazzing like a champ.  After that, I walked around so I could take pics of all the cosplayers.  As always, attendees went above and beyond.  See all of my pics from NYCC below.

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SAEED JONES

The next evening, I had the pleasure of attending the book launch for Saeed Jones’s new memoir, How We Fight For Our Lives.  The launch was held at BAM Fisher in Brooklyn.  The event began with a reading by a young student named Jada Wilkinson, a senior in high school chosen to read her work.  This young queen read her poem, “Removal,” which was powerful and moving.  With her amazing blue hair, strong voice and beautiful smile, Ms. Wilkinson had our attention and received a rousing round of applause when she was done.  I hope to feature her one day on this blog, and I made sure to meet her (and her mother) to tell her so.

After the reading, Mr. Jones came running out to give Ms. Wilkinson a giant hug and to congratulate her on the poem.  He then read from the poem at the beginning of his book called “Elegy with Grown Folks’ Music” and then part of the first chapter.  I loved the poem because it perfectly captures how kids feel the first time they realize that their parents were other people before they were parents.

After his reading, Mr. Jones was joined on stage by playwright extraordinaire Lynn Nottage.  The two of them together made for a truly wonderful talk, both providing the audience with the kind of engagement you hope to have when you attend a book event.  Mr. Jones is gregarious and witty, with a personality that makes you want to be friends with him immediately.  Ms. Nottage provided the soothing but also empowering side, drawing the audience into her own experiences and how she reacted to the book.  This talk was something special, and I’m always grateful to be able to attend these events.  See pics below.

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ZADIE SMITH

People, this was the talk I had been waiting for.  I have been a fan of Zadie Smith’s since I read her debut novel, White Teeth in college.  I’ve read just about all of her books and essays (I still need to read Autograph Man) and I was lucky enough to see her at BAM’s annual event “Eat, Drink & Be Literary.”  But this time, I would get to see her up close and personal.  She did not disappoint.

Held at the Barnes & Noble Union Square location, fans listened to Ms. Smith read from her new collection of short stories, Grand Union.  Her voice is made for reading and I was soon in her thrall (yes, I know that sounds dramatic).  Once she was done, Ms. Smith and The New Yorker‘s Vince Cunningham engaged in a great discussion about the book and what her life is like now that she lives in New York full time.  One of the things Ms. Smith says she enjoys is people watching.  If you’ve never done it, people watching in New York City is a blast.  You will see so many different types of people of all ages, sizes, temperaments, etc.  I love people watching in NYC and often wonder what they’re thinking about as they walk by.  It was nice to know that Ms. Smith enjoys doing that, as well.

After the talk, guests were given the chance to have their books signed.  Before you ask, of course I got my book signed.  And I got to chat with her briefly, as well.  I kept my cool and spoke to her like a normal human being.  She was absolutely lovely.  See the pics below.

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And that was my week!  I had such a great time and I hope the rest of the year proves to be just as full of literary goodness.  Stay tuned.

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