Pardon me while I promote my store a little, but we’re sponsoring a reading with William Gibson at the Brattle Theatre on Sunday August 19th. I’m really excited about this, as I think Gibson writes some of the more interesting books these days. Apparently, I’m not the only one.
Don’t feel like we’re missing out! If you read on Maud’s blog that she’s interviewing Rupert Thomson at McNally Robinson on August 17th, never fear. He’ll be appearing here at the Harvard Book Store at 6:30 on Thursday August 16th. I’m not as ballsy as Maud, so don’t expect to find me interviewing him. I’ll just nervously ask him to sign my books.
Last night I had the good fortune to see Aiobheann Sweeney read at my store from her debut novel Among Other Things I’ve Taken Up Smoking. The room filled up with Sweeney’s many friends and family—she’s a native Cantabrigian as it turns out. I had written about this strong book some months ago and was looking forward to meeting the author. She was nervous as this was her first reading, but she did a terrific job reading the packed room the first chapter.
The question period began with many of the people in the room asking her about the title, feeling like it had nothing to do with how the book ends. The publisher came up with the title, she says, and as long as it didn’t have some thin girl on the cover smoking, she didn’t mind it. I personally like the title and didn’t see what the fuss was about. I had read Ron Hogan’s account of meeting her for lunch and had a few questions about the book, mainly about her novel being considered gay literature. It hadn’t struck me as a “gay” novel, more of a coming of age and it just so happens that Miranda likes girls. She appreciated this and says that it could be a sign that the times have changed, since none of the reviews so far had even mentioned the gay aspect of the novel. Speaking of reviews, she kindly mentioned how much she enjoyed litblogs more so than the “canned” book reviews (she even thanked me out loud).
All in all, it was a really nice reading ,full of exuberant people. I’m glad that my store got to be her first stop for a reading.
Dave Weich at Powell’s came up with a brilliant idea—create short films about writers and their works and have independent book stores across the country screen them. The first film features Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, a novella whose short size belies its powerful language. As of BEA, 54 bookstores across the country were planning events this week and next featuring the 28-minute Out of the Book™ film.
A week from tomorrow, Tuesday, June 19, the Harvard Book Store, my store, presents the movie at the Brattle Theatre and will include readings and music. Because On Chesil Beach focuses on the first night of a young married couple, three writers from the Grub Street creative writing center will read their own short pieces about wedding nights. In addition, the store has created a contest, asking customers to share their own “real or imagined story about the first night of a married couple.” (The stories should be 600 words or less and be “at least somewhat suitable for a general audience.”) The store will choose one story that will be read at the event. You can see a preview of the film here.
Shelf Awareness reports that Dave Weich, director of marketing and development at Powells.com, who created the series, said that the movie and events have already created a lot of buzz and “gotten a lot of people talking about McEwan.” He said the movies are intended to “invite readers into a new conversation” that will not be academic and exclusive.
Already Weich is talking to other publishers about future Out of the Book films, a task that is much easier now that the first one is in the can. “Before it was hard to conceptualize, like explaining how a song sounds,” he said. In the coming weeks, he’ll be seeking feedback about the events. Next time he wants to have the film distributed through even more bookstores.
I won’t say that getting up on Friday was easy. BEA is all about long days and long nights. You sort of have to get back into that college vibe of staying up late and still getting up for that 9 am class (or in this case getting up at 7 for the 45 journey to the convention center). I arrived at the Javits Center bright and early with my colleagues from the store for meetings with various publishers. These aren’t sales appointments, but more of a chance to talk about our relationships with them, upcoming events and promotions. The day flew by and I had to rush back to Brooklyn to change for my first cocktail party of the evening.
You want to look your best when you meet Philip Roth. That’s right, Philip Roth. I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of about 40 people at a party celebrating his upcoming Fall Book Exit Ghost. We met at Cafe Gray in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. Let me just say that these were some of the best hor’dourves I’ve ever had. Yummy risotto balls, little salad wraps, wow. I had no idea what most of it was and when I asked the servers, they would mumble some reply, but I just ate it anyway. They were all good and plentiful. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. The thing about meeting authors of Roth’s stature for me is not knowing what to say. It’s all sort of a blur. Amanda made him laugh at least:
Bridget, the director of marketing at Houghton Mifflin said as she walked up, “We were just talking about taxidermy.” And Amanda confused as to the subject asks, “Of reviewers?”
Roth smirked. “That would be too good for them.”
She smartly retorts “Maybe roasting then.”
“That would be more appropriate.”
My witty repartee mostly got me a blank stare. I might have mentioned that he’s too prolific and needs to write less so I can catch up or some other nonsense. Then his jacket caught on fire. He was leaning against a ledge against the window overlooking Columbus Circle, which is quite beautiful by the way. The restaurant had placed votive candles on the ledge for ambiance. He must been leaning too too close to one because his jacket soon started smoldering. He ended up with a quarter sized hole! Some lucky bookseller got to pat him on his ass to put out the fire. Fun was had by all.
After having dinner at Landmarc, also in the Time Warner building, I headed over to another annual secret booksellers party at Cowgirl, on Hudson street. Again, lots of booksellers and other folks. Another late night.
Headed back over to the Javits for more meetings with publishers as well as a chance to walk the show floor for a while. Let me just say that the floor can be overwhelming. Tons of people, all walking around, looking at the various publishers booths, not necessarily looking where they are going. Some of the booths are bigger than others. I believe Random House had a square mile (not really). There are first time authors hoping to get their books into the hands of the booksellers. Frankly, you learn to keep your hands to yourselves or else you end up with so many books, many you don’t necessarily want to read. I actually didn’t get that much this year. Probably because I can get all of these things back at work and don’t want to lug them back home on the train. Some booksellers use the chance to get some extra inventory—a controversial topic to say the least.
Saturday evening found me at Buddakan for the Harper Collins cocktail party. This is a restaurant famous for its decor, one of the reasons why I went. The Harper parties also tend to have the most interesting people, more business folks than booksellers. Also lots of authors—I spotted Deepak Chopra amongst others, while people watching with Dave Weich from Powell’s. We enjoyed the various hor’dourves, except they gave them to you in little spoons and bowls, but didn’t stick around to take them back, so your left trying to hold your drink and various implements. It was messy to say the least. Dave and I headed uptown to the Museum of the City of New York for the New York Review of Books party, a somewhat more sedate affair, but just as fun. We met up with Jill and Darrin also from Powells and headed out after a while to the Ultimate Dance Party. Now I have to mention that PGW usually has one of the biggest and most famous parties each year. They usually rent out some large venue and book a pretty well-know band. One year it was Brazilian Girls and another year the Blues Explosion. Last year, several other publishers banded together to do something similar, calling it the Ultimate Dance Party. Imagine 100 booksellers of various ages all spazzing out on the dance floor and you get the picture. It’s still a good time.
The last day of the trade show! A lot of the booksellers don’t attend on Sundays, but we had some more appointments and what not. Sunday is the hardest day. The lack of sleep is staring to take its toll, not to mention the conditions of the Javits Center. It went from tropical humidity on Thursday to Arctic on Sunday. I was glad when we got back into the sun around two o’clock. I used the free afternoon to wander around Soho, visiting McNally Robinson and other stores in the area. I also had dinner with a small group of booksellers at Bar Tabac in Brooklyn. When we left the restaurant, the skies were pouring water down like it was going out of style. We ran a block to a nearby bar with couches before heading back to the hotel.
My store is part of a small consortium of booksellers that meets several times a year, one of the days being the Monday after BEA. We split up into groups and talk about various topics having to do with bookselling. It’s usually one of the most informative days for us, a chance to talk in a smaller setting about real issues. That runs into the afternoon and now I’m on an Acela train speeding back to Boston while writing this. I can’t seem to get any wi-fi, so you might not get to read this until tomorrow, where I’ll be back at my desk trying to catch up on the 200 emails and voicemails.
After returning from pizza at Grimaldi’s, I met up with a lot of other younger booksellers at a bar in Brooklyn called Floyd’s—they’ve got a bocce court in the bar. We’ve started a network of the next generation of booksellers so that we can meet one another and provide support for one another. It may sound cheezy, but it’s always nice to brainstorm with other like minded folks about things. The new generation need to learn how to stick together. That’s how the independent bookstores will survive and possibly even thrive.
One of the reasons for a bookseller to attend BEA is the day of education that precedes the show floor. I spent most of Thursday attending seminars on topics ranging from Book Clubs to store expansion to the digital revolution in the book world. The American Bookseller Association aka the ABA sponsors all of this education and I usually come away with some good ideas for the future. I woke up early and spent all day learning until I decided that I should take advantage of the nearby promenade in Brooklyn and go for a long run. It was energizing, energizing enough for the long night of cocktail parties and hanging out with other booksellers and bloggers.
We had what’s becoming our annual Litblog Co-op (LBC) party on Thursday night. Fun was had by all I hope. I met lots and lots of people, from publishing, authors, bloggers, and other booksellers. If I didn’t get a chance to meet you, I’m sorry. It was so crowded at Kettle of Fish! Pinky has some photos. After a few hours, I went with some booksellers, Chris Morrow from Northshire Books, Neal Strandberg and Heather Duncan, both from Tattered Cover, Amanda and myself to a nearby tapas place. The name escapes me, but I remember it being good. We also ran into Liz Steffey, a former Harvard Book Store employee and favorite who is working for a publisher out in Western Massachusetts. Finally, we cabbed it back to Brooklyn for a few hours of shut eye.
Friday night: in which I attend a dinner and inadvertently imply that Jack Gantos is old.
Friday night I attended the ABC Annual Secret Garden Silent Auction and Evening with Children’s Booksellers.Â I sat at a table sponsored by FSG and had the great honor of meeting (and sitting between) Jack Gantos (author of many lovely books including those about Joey Pigza) and Sophie Blackall (illustrator of many books including the Ivy and Bean books and Meet Wild Boars).
There were several interesting conversations taking place around the table about the publishing world and families and the state of being single.Â Mostly I listened to conversations and added little. At one point, the conversation directly around me turned to age and parenthood and it brought to mind a recent discussion that I had with my mother (when I was home in Nebraska) about the socio-economic impact of waiting longer to have children.Â Remembering that conversation, I meant to interject some insightful comments based on having been born and raised in an area where parenthood tends to happen early and often (small-town central Nebraska) and having moved to a community where older and adoptive parents are much more common (Cambridge, MA). Comments about how much socio-economic status and level of education tends to affect the age at which one becomes a parent. And that geographic location also tends to affect that same statistic (at least as far as I have noticed). What I actually said to Jack Gantos was, “You’re the same age as my mother.” (Which, I must add, both for Jack and my mom, is not old.)Â I then proceeded to not very coherently state some of what I’d meant to say about location. At the end of my statement, Sophie Blackall said, “Well, I think you redeemed yourself by the end there.”// Â u003c/span>u003c/p>nnnnu003cp>Ah, well, my shoe tasted tolerable, but not nearly so goodnas the coffee-flavored, fudge-filled dessert they gave us at the end of thenvery long evening.u003cspan>Â u003c/span>u003cbr>This is why I'm not allowed to speak in public.u003c/p>nnu003cp>That moment aside, I'd like to thank FSG, the ABC, the CBC,nand any other alphabetically inclined organization that had anything to do withnarranging such a lovely evening or with my invitation.u003c/p>nnu003cbr>nnu003cp>Saturday:u003cspan>Â u003c/span>in whichnmy feet become very angry with me.u003c/p>nnu003cp> u003c/p>nnu003cp>Saturday opened with the Speed Dating with Children's Authorsnevent in the galleria area of the convention center. About 200 booksellers,nlibrarians, and other interested parties spent 3-minute time allotments with 20nchildren's and young adult authors and illustrators learning about new andnupcoming projects.u003cspan>Â u003c/span>There was anninteresting mix of picture book/chapter book/young adult titlesnrepresented.u003cspan>Â u003c/span>Skippyjon Jones has a newnadventure coming in October.u003cspan>Â u003c/span>Libba Brayngave us enough details to have some idea of what's coming in u003ci>The Sweet FarnThingu003c/i>, but not nearly enough to satisfy the curious fan. Peter McCarty gavenan interesting glimpse into his creative process by bringing one of hisnpersonal journals that contained some of the ideas and storyboarding for u003ci>Hondonand Fabianu003c/i>.u003cspan>Â u003c/span>Christopher Paul Curtisnhas a new middle-grade historical novel called u003ci>Elijah of Buxtonu003c/i> comingnin October from Scholastic and I'll definitely be hounding Nikki (my rep.) forna copy as soon as ARCs are available. It was definitely an hour and a half wellnspent.u003c/p>nnnnu003cp>After that, I set out to explore the Children's pavilion inna much more organized fashion. I discovered that Timothy Decker, whose firstnbook, u003ci>The Letter Homeu003c/i>, was a lovely pen and ink picture book about wasnset in the trenches of World War I, has a new book that is just as lovely and maynbe even harder to sell. u003ci>Run Far, Run Fastu003c/i>”,1] );
Ah, well, my shoe tasted tolerable, but not nearly so good as the coffee-flavored, fudge-filled dessert they gave us at the end of the very long evening.
This is why I’m not allowed to speak in public.
That moment aside, I’d like to thank FSG, the ABC, the CBC, and any other alphabetically inclined organization that had anything to do with arranging such a lovely evening or with my invitation.
Saturday:Â in which my feet become very angry with me.
Saturday opened with the Speed Dating with Children’s Authors event in the galleria area of the convention center. About 200 booksellers, librarians, and other interested parties spent 3-minute time allotments with 20 children’s and young adult authors and illustrators learning about new and upcoming projects.Â There was an interesting mix of picture book/chapter book/young adult titles represented.Â Skippyjon Jones has a new adventure coming in October.Â Libba Bray gave us enough details to have some idea of what’s coming in The Sweet Far Thing, but not nearly enough to satisfy the curious fan. Peter McCarty gave an interesting glimpse into his creative process by bringing one of his personal journals that contained some of the ideas and storyboarding for Hondo and Fabian.Â Christopher Paul Curtis has a new middle-grade historical novel called Elijah of Buxton coming in October from Scholastic and I’ll definitely be hounding Nikki (my rep.) for a copy as soon as ARCs are available. It was definitely an hour and a half well spent.
After that, I set out to explore the Children’s pavilion in a much more organized fashion. I discovered that Timothy Decker, whose first book, The Letter Home, was a lovely pen and ink picture book about was set in the trenches of World War I, has a new book that is just as lovely and may be even harder to sell. Run Far, Run Fast// nnu003cp>Peachtree Press has a picture book, u003ci>Snow Dayu003c/i> (bynLester Laminack), which reminded me of my home and childhood quite a bit. Thencute twist at the end made it all the more fun. We'll definitely be celebratingnthe joyous weather of winter with this title.u003c/p>nnu003cp>Kane/Miller has an Australian line-up for their fall listnincluding a new picture book from Robert Ingpen, u003ci>Ziba Came on a Boatu003c/i>.u003c/p>nnu003cp>Upstairs in the main pavilion, it was harder to find peoplenwith free time to talk with me about upcoming children's books, but I managednto find some exciting things. Walker Books for Young Readers has a new titlenfrom K. M. Grant (the De Granville trilogy) coming in September for which theirntagline reads, "Monty Python meets The Princess Bride in this unique romanticnadventure." I've read the De Granville books and think Grant is an interestingnauthor, but I'm not sure that anything can live up to that tagline. We shallnsee if u003ci>How the Hangman Lost His Heartu003c/i> really is just that off beat andnfunny.u003c/p>nnu003cp>Deborah Wiles (u003ci>Each Little Bird That Singsu003c/i>) has a newnbook, u003ci>The Aurora County All-Starsu003c/i>, which I'm very eager to start.u003cspan>Â u003c/span>I loved u003ci>Each Little Birdu003c/i> and havenhigh hopes for this as a great summer (and holiday) middle-grade title.u003cspan>Â u003c/span>u003c/p>nnu003cp>There were many, many more titles I saw, but they've allnblended together somewhere in my brain. I'll remember them as I go through thencatalogs for fall, though, that's for sure.u003c/p>u003cp>Saturday evening I attended a party hosted by the Penguin Young Readers Group at the Bookmarks Lounge in the Library Hotel. I felt a bit out of place at first, but found a corner and met some lovely fellow booksellers from Joseph-Beth Booksellers and Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers and a producer from the CBS Early Show. We chatted about events and celebrity books and had a generally fantastic time (we may have scared a server from the lounge, though, in our overenthusiasm for the food she was bringing around). I'm sure the Penguinis (the Penguin version of the Bellini) didn't hurt the atmosphere, either. I managed not to embarras myself around either Loren Long or Lane Smith, so the evening can be considered a success. n”,1] );
// ]]> is another pen and ink picture book, this time set in the world of fourteenth-century Europe during the plague. I am continually drawn in to his beautifully stark drawings and sparse tales of the human condition. Both books are from Front Street/Boyds Mills.
Peachtree Press has a picture book, Snow Day (by Lester Laminack), which reminded me of my home and childhood quite a bit. The cute twist at the end made it all the more fun. We’ll definitely be celebrating the joyous weather of winter with this title.
Kane/Miller has an Australian line-up for their fall list including a new picture book from Robert Ingpen, Ziba Came on a Boat.
Upstairs in the main pavilion, it was harder to find people with free time to talk with me about upcoming children’s books, but I managed to find some exciting things. Walker Books for Young Readers has a new title from K. M. Grant (the De Granville trilogy) coming in September for which their tagline reads, “Monty Python meets The Princess Bride in this unique romantic adventure.” I’ve read the De Granville books and think Grant is an interesting author, but I’m not sure that anything can live up to that tagline. We shall see if How the Hangman Lost His Heart really is just that off beat and funny.
Deborah Wiles (Each Little Bird That Sings) has a new book, The Aurora County All-Stars, which I’m very eager to start.Â I loved Each Little Bird and have high hopes for this as a great summer (and holiday) middle-grade title.
There were many, many more titles I saw, but they’ve all blended together somewhere in my brain. I’ll remember them as I go through the catalogs for fall, though, that’s for sure.
Saturday evening I attended a party hosted by the Penguin Young Readers Group at the Bookmarks Lounge in the Library Hotel. I felt a bit out of place at first, but found a corner and met some lovely fellow booksellers from Joseph-Beth Booksellers and Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers and a producer from the CBS Early Show. We chatted about events and celebrity books and had a generally fantastic time (we may have scared a server from the lounge, though, in our overenthusiasm for the food she was bringing around). I’m sure the Penguinis (the Penguin version of the Bellini) didn’t hurt the atmosphere, either. I managed not to embarras myself around either Loren Long or Lane Smith, so the evening can be considered a success.