When I was in sixth grade, I got the chance to attend BEA, or BookExpo America, with my parents in New York City. The yearly convention offers members of the publishing industry a chance to “build relationships, learn tactics to bolster business and get the pulse of what’s trending in today’s shifting marketplace.” My mother was considering opening a bookstore at the time and planned to attend some seminars discussing how to get started—and since my dad and I were such bookworms, we decided to all go and make a family vacation out of it.

I never could have guessed how enraptured I would become with the publishing industry after just this one weekend. Aside from the hundreds of booths with free advanced copies of books, I was awestruck by all the authors present. During this weekend, I met my literary idol at the time, James Patterson; sat down and had a valuable conversation with author Simone Elkeles; discovered the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead (which became a huge obsession of mine in the following years); and received my first-ever signed book from her.

This weekend had changed my life forever, convincing me that publishing was the world I needed to work in.

This year, the BEA is taking place from May 29–31 at the Javits Center in New York City. Author appearances include Meg Cabot, Malcolm Gladwell, Philippa Gregory, Sonia Sotomayor, Melissa da la Cruz and Stephen Chbosky.