The Twenty-Something Series: A weekend in Sao Paulo for the Bienal do Livro

A weekend in Sao Paulo for the Bienal do Livro - The Twenty-Something Series - beth reekles

As you might've seen over the last month on my Instagram, I recently got to go out to Brazil.

It's probably one of the most brilliant and bizarre things I've ever done: pop over to Sao Paulo for a weekend, where I was totally famous.

Plus… at the end of this post, I’ve got an exciting little announcement for my Brazilian fans! Read on to find out!

The Kissing Booth (my first published novel) came out as a Netflix Original movie back in May - and it totally took off in Brazil. Like, a crazy amount. I was getting hundreds, thousands, of messages from people all over the world, but a noticeably large chunk of them were from fans in Brazil. The book came out there soon after the film, and was similarly popular.

It was so popular that the Brazilian publisher for the book, Astral Cultural, invited me out to Sao Paulo for a week.

I ended up only going for a weekend, because I need to save up my leave for other things too (like New York for WattCon 2018 in October!) and I didn't feel like I could take too much time out of my placement at work when it was so close to ending and I'd already taken time out for training courses or a family holiday and stuff.

But holy crap, it was the craziest weekend.

The time I was there, the Bienal do Livro in Sao Paulo was well underway. It's a huge event, running for about ten days, and attracts over 700,000 people.

The venue was colossal. Every time I thought we were coming to the end of the building, rows and rows of more stands stretched out ahead of us. It's a huge event in every sense of the word.

When I heard I was going out to Brazil (all expenses paid, too!) I freaked out. I was so excited, because my Brazilian fans had been asking for ages if I'd be going - and I finally was! I was so excited to meet as many as I could.

The publishers organised a pretty packed weekend for me. And let me tell you, it was full on.

The flight from Heathrow to Sao Paulo is twelve hours. I went up to Heathrow after work on the Friday evening, had a flight about 10pm that landed in Sau Paulo at 6am their time. At the hotel, I grabbed breakfast, unpacked, took a shower...

...and went downstairs for a photoshoot and to do some little videos for the Bienal's Instagram story.

Lunch was at the hotel, and with some bloggers and some people from the publisher. I speak very little Portuguese (as in: hello, thank you, I'm sorry, do you speak English, and 'A Barraca do Beijo' - The Kissing Booth), so one of the ladies from the publisher was translating. It was a weird experience, just because I've never really had that done before. Usually when I go abroad, it's been Spain or France, where I can speak the language - or Germany, where I'd learnt just about enough to get by.

After lunch, I had an hour or so where I spoke to my family and messaged my friends, then it was across to the Bienal venue for a string of interviews with magazines.

This is the best bit, folks:

I had to have bodyguards.

Like, genuinely. Originally in the morning, between the little photoshoot and lunch, it was suggested I go check out the venue - but then they changed their minds and said sorry, they couldn't take me, they hadn't organised my security yet.

"Don't worry," they said. "We don't want to scare you. It's not because it's dangerous."

It was just because I'm so big in Brazil. I thought this was brilliant, and my family found it hilarious. I'm still not over it, to be honest.

To head over to the venue, I had two bodyguards, and I was with about three people from the publisher. They walked around me and escorted me through the venue.

I mean, honestly. You know like in movies where a character sees some celebrity they like and tries to talk to them, but the celebrity is surrounded by people who won't let the character get close?

That was me.

That happened.

People genuinely called out to me, asked for my photo. They recognised me and they were excited to see me. And they were not allowed near or to get photos or anything.

I felt so cool. I still do. I'm milking this for all it's worth, believe me. It's basically the coolest thing that's ever happened to me.

Astral Cultural had their own stand - complete with a kissing booth, where people queued up to take photos. It was totally incredible to see. Their stand had an office type room in the back with glass walls, where I did my interviews. People spotted me and waved at me and were not allowed into the room, but took photos of me - like they had to prove they'd seen me, commemorate the moment. (Like I was a real celebrity.)

The day ended with dinner at the most adorable Italian restaurant with the best pizza I've ever had - and I finally crashed in bed around midnight.

Side note: apparently Sao Paulo has this big culture of Italian immigrant families, so pizza is a big thing there. It's SO GOOD.

Sunday was my day at the Bienal where I was actually there for the fans, not just doing interviews. I did a couple of interviews at the start of the day, more Instagram stories for the event, and then was escorted by my 'entourage' across the venue again to where I'd be giving a talk with my fans.

Again, I had a translator, as well as a moderator, Erica, who was so much fun and who I really enjoyed talking with. I did a Q&A with fans as part of the talk, and people just seemed so excited to talk about The Kissing Booth. It was beautiful to see.

The talk was followed by an autograph session, and I've got no idea how many people showed up there, but it was a lot. More autographs than I've signed - probably collectively so far, let alone in one go. Everyone was so nice, and a few people gave me gifts. One girl even brought me a box she'd decorated with tiny mirrors and pictures from the movie. It was honestly the sweetest.

In the afternoon, I had another autograph session - but it was next level. They'd sold tickets to it online - which I was told had sold out in five minutes when they were released.

400 tickets for my autograph.

In five minutes.

As we walked up to where I'd be signing, there were metal barriers set up with people already queuing up waiting for me. They called out when they saw me. I waved back. They screamed, waving their copies of A Barraca do Beijo in the air frantically, snapping photos.

I did a quick interview for Brazil's biggest news channel, with a well-known reporter (though I forget the name, sorry!) before the autograph session kicked off. I had a few more gifts, took so many photos and hugged so many people, and it was absolutely wonderful.

Some people could speak English and told me how much they loved the characters and the book and the movie. Some of them were shaking and told me they were so excited to meet me, they'd forgotten their English, they were so sorry. (Their English was still pretty good.) Some of them were so shell-shocked (star-struck?) that I thought they might cry.

And honestly, it was just incredible. I knew Brazil loved TKB, but seeing it, experiencing it, meeting these people - it was overwhelming. I loved it so much.

I've not done an event in a long while. I've not done one since the movie came out, and I’ve never done one on that scale. I've never really done an event abroad. It was an unforgettable experience on so many levels.

I was exhausted by the end of the day - and my thighs burned from all the perching on chair, stand to hug, perch on chair, stand to hug action that I must've done about 600 times over the course of the day. I put a movie on Netflix on my iPad and ordered room service, and dug into some of the sweets I'd been gifted with.

I was back at the airport the next morning in plenty of time for a 3pm flight home. It was overnight again - I landed back around 7am on the Tuesday morning. I spent most of the day napping or watching Netflix before heading back to work like normal on the Wednesday - sans bodyguards.

I didn't get to see a lot of the city, but that was okay. It's not like I didn't want to see Sao Paulo, but the main reason I was so excited to go was to meet fans of The Kissing Booth (and, apparently, of me) and that was exactly what I got to do over the weekend, so I felt like it was so worth it. Crazy busy, and exhausting once I got home, but so worth it. Even worth the five injections I had to get with vaccinations and the malaria tablets.

Another side note: Brazilian cocktails are strong. I had a Capirini with room service and I swear it was more vodka than anything else, and a cocktail at the airport that felt more like I'd drunk a whole pitcher in Weatherspoons. (It was awesome.)

Everyone I met was just so damn nice, too. The people I met from the publisher were so attentive - they took me out to dinner, had lunch with me, got me popcorn, made sure I had water, translated for me... They took such great care of me, and were such lovely people, I was so happy I got the chance to meet them too! I've never really corresponded with any of my foreign publishers before so it was really interesting to chat to them more from that side of things, too.

And the fans. God, the fans. They were so sweet. (I mean, they gave me gifts! GIFTS! Between their gifts, and the package of welcome gifts the publishers had left in my room, I had to check a second bag in for the flight.)

I definitely loved getting back to work too. People said, "Oh, you had a few days off, did you do anything nice?"

"Oh yeah, I went to Sao Paulo for the weekend to do an event. I'm so famous I had bodyguards." (That was way too much fun to say.)

Brazil, you were incredible. Maybe some day I'll be back, but in the meantime: I love you guys, and thank you for making my trip so memorable and so brilliant.

And – in case you missed it: Brazil are the FIRST country to be getting a paper copy of The Beach House, the companion novella to The Kissing Booth! It’s available for pre-order and will be out soon, so don’t miss out!

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow, what an amazing weekend! That sounds incredible!
    I would also love to experience this for myself when my books are (hopefully) published (and in the best case also turned into a movie ;) )
    I'm also a total lover of Brazil although I have never been there. But something inside of me is being called to this country. :)
    I just discovered The Kissing Booth and found out that you have a blog too. So so inspiring!
    I really love what you do.
    Thank you so much.

    Greetings from Germany,

    PS: And if you should ever come to Germany, I'd love to meet you :))
    Much love!


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