Monday, May 22, 2006

Link-Mad Monday, BEA Style

As one of my friends put it, Book Expo America 2006 was truly Book Nerd heaven. I think this was the most productive and educational BEA I've ever been to -- I spent far more time in workshops and panels than on the show floor -- and also the most fun, since I seem to know enough folks in the business to get invited to some of the cool parties. And the best part, as always, was the people. I feel like I need to invest in (horrors) a Rolodex to keep track of the brilliant and interesting people I met.

I plan to spend the next few weeks focusing on those panels and workshops and what they might imply for the book biz, but today, my first day back, I just want to relive the fun stuff. For Link-Mad Monday, I'm giving some shout-outs to some of the great people and institutions I met and learned about this weekend (in approximate order of meeting them), so that you can give them some love. These are all people and places that are going to be added to my links list as soon as I have time! But this is officially The Name-Dropping Post, so feel free to skip if you've an aversion to that sort of thing.

Bookstores and Booksellers

Cindy Dach of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona is one of the masterminds behind the Emerging Leaders project, and a heck of a cool person as well. People kept telling me I had to meet her, and I feel lucky that I finally did!

Steve Colca does double duty at Labyrinth Books New Haven branch and Yale University Press -- he's an awesome colleague to have in the tri-state area, and I'm looking forward to talking progressive indie bookstore stuff the next time he's in Brooklyn.

Aubrey Davis of Arches Book Company in Moab, Utah has a huge and refreshing enthusiasm and creativity, and her stores not only sell new and used books in a breathtaking part of the world, but roast their own coffee as well. Aubrey may be getting into the blogging world soon, so watch for her fresh take on all things bookish on the web!

Daniel Goldin of Harry W. Schwartz Bookstores in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is a personality and a half -- he's a native New Yorker (Queens, actually) and brought some serious energy to the Farrar, Straus, Giroux party.

Roberta Rubin of The Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Illinois is a bookselling veteran -- I was grateful to talk to a woman bookstore owner who's successfully made a go of it for about twenty years, and still loves what she does!

Susan Weis of Breathe Books in Baltimore, Maryland is another inspiring female entepreneur, and I've now met her so many times at NAIBA and ABA events that I'm happy to count her as a friend. Her spiritual- and inspirational-focused bookstore is doing fantastically well, and she's a great source for bookselling ideas, as well as a total kick to hang out with at a party.

Kari Patch and Megan Sullivan of Harvard Book Store are part of a killer bookselling team at that wonderful indie store (which the ALP had the great pleasure of visiting this weekend while I was meeting its employees!) Megan, of course, is the famous Bookdwarf, and Kari was one of my co-panelists for Frontline Bookseller Buzz -- they both totally rock, and I wish I could have spent more time with both of them.

Laura Grey of Shaman Drum Bookshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan was another co-panelist -- we chilled out in the ABA Lounge together while we prepped for our panel, and she's another bookseller I wish I could have hung out with more.

Stu Hecht of The Book Vault in Wallingford, Connecticut runs the shop with his wife and has an amazing amount of insight and handselling skills after only a few years in the business, which is probably why he was also a Frontline Bookseller Buzz panelist. Best of luck to them!

Mark LaFramboise of Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C. is another expert handseller and all-around good guy -- I'm only sorry I couldn't join him and everyone else at the reportedly rockin' Politics and Prose party on Thursday night. Mark's store is a role model for many in the indie bookstore community -- I'm dying to check it out the next time I'm in D.C.

I didn't actually get to meet the proprietor of Book Court in Brooklyn, New York -- I'm so mad I missed talking to my hometown indie bookseller extraordinaire! But he spoke up in the Blog 2.0 panel session about the store's new website, which is really cool -- click on e-notes for the store blog of new and exciting stuff, or StaffPicks for great book recommendations organized by staff member. These guys are my heroes -- I hope to meet them all someday soon!

And last mentioned but first met, I got to hang out with my own brilliant coworkers at McNally Robinson Booksellers in New York, New York: Allison Glasgow, our inventory manager (who gamely wore her ThugLit shirts all weekend to advertise for the cool new publishing project of her partner, mystery writer Todd Robinson); Katie Hine, our children's book buyer (who got to visit the pandas at the National Zoo AND party with Barack Obama, lucky her!); and Tom Roberge, our events coordinator (who was actually there in his capacity as assistant editor of A Public Space, which I think is the best new literary magazine out there, and who knows a lot of people). Along with our wonderful boss, Sarah McNally, her dad, Paul McNally (owner of the McNally Robinson bookstores in Canada), and his colleague Chris Hall, we stormed the educational sessions and author lunches together, and got to spend some good social time together outside the store. How lucky am I to work with such amazing booksellers!


Bloggers, Familiar and New

Max of The Millions was possibly the coolest person at the Litblog Co-Op party. Check out his take on the convention from a non-bookseller, non-publisher perspective -- he's saying some things we need to hear. And he's got links to a lot of other blogs talking about the convention that I don't even know about.

Scott of Slushpile is a blogger that's new to me, although apparently not to everyone else -- he's been going strong for several years, posts four or five times a day, and focuses on publishing and writing.

I met a woman whose name I have sadly forgotten who blogs for both Gawker and Gothamist. She had beautiful earrings, though (and she liked mine, too) and she made me think that I ought to read those New York-centric blogs more to find out about literary events.

Megan of Bookdwarf, of course, must be mentioned in her blogging capacity as well -- I was glad to run into her at the Emerging Leaders meeting as well as the LBC and several other parties, since I know she's one of us young folks who plan to make our lives in this business (and a fellow David Mitchell fanatic). I found out this weekend that Bookdwarf was second choice to Bookgnome as a blogging identity, since being a blogger isn't really that far removed from being a Dungeons and Dragons character.

Richard Crary of The Existence Machine is one of the newer denizens of Blogland -- I met him briefly and hope to read more of his thoughtful posts in the future. He's one of several of these bloggers who comment on the terrible news that author Gilbert Sorrentino has died, a much more serious topic for discussion than anything you'll see here today.

Ed Champion of Edward Champion's Return of the Reluctant , an excellent literary blog, is proof that the problem with having an alter ego is that his behavior tends to reflect on you.

I did NOT get to meet Scott Esposito of Conversational Reading or Gwenda of Shaken and Stirred -- I looked for you, and I'm so sorry I missed you! But I heard so much about these two fantastic blogs from others that they certainly deserve mention anyway.

Publishers and Other Folks

Ohmigosh, I met Kelly Link! Author of fantastic and fantastical short stories, she's also one of the founders of the fiercely independent and unabashedly innovative Small Beer Press, and I adore her (and her husband Gavin) even more after meeting them than I did when I had only heard of their awesome venture. Their fall list looks great, too.

I'm also excited about the fall titles from First Second Books, which published my favorite THE LOST COLONY by Grady Klein, and has a whole new batch of extremely literate graphic novels coming down the pipeline.

Not everything from Diamond Book Distributors is quite so literary, but they're the biggest distributor of mainstream graphic novels, and I happily snagged several of their catalogs in hope of ordering more of that kind of candy for our store.

Mark Batty is another publisher that was new to me -- they've got some great graphic design titles coming out, including a history of the graffiti on the walls of CBGB's -- how cool is that!

Ignacio de Echevarria of Fondo de Cultura Economica, a venerable Spanish language press run by the Mexican government, was very patient with my lack of Spanish beyond high school classes and filled me in on some wonderful Spanish literature titles that we will hopefully soon be carrying.

Lauren (Aargh, I've forgotten your last name!) is a publicist at Coffee House Press -- she introduced herself at the LBC party, and I got to hang out with her and her counterpart from radical AK Press (whose name I've forgotten altogether) at the Independent Press Party as well. Coffee House published FIRMIN, which I pitched hard this weekend, but I didn't know they were actually a non-profit press that makes ends meet primarily with grants. They also published Gilbert Sorrentino, which is another of many reasons to support them.

Larry Portzline is the founder of Bookstore Tourism, a brilliant idea for bringing booklovers from outlying areas to indie bookstore-heavy areas, to the benefit of all involved. He stopped by McNally Robinson just before BEA, and I was lucky to hang out with him at the Shelf Awareness party -- he's truly a literary idealist and a great advocate for independent bookstores, as well as also being a total kick to drink and laugh with. I'm only sorry I missed his panel on Bookstore Tourism because I was in the middle of my own.

And to be honest, I wouldn't know half these people without Robert Gray, formerly Master Bookseller at the Northshire Bookstore and now the founder of Fresh Eyes Now, a brilliant venture aimed at "envisioning new bridges between authors and readers." I got to sit next to Bob at the FSG dinner on Thursday night, and we helped to entertain John McPhee and Alice McDermott with our bookselling enthusiasm. Devastatingly, Bob put so much work into organizing our Frontline Bookseller Buzz panel and his own Luring the Web-Addicted Book Buyer panel, as well as arranging meetings with those in the business, that he suffered a stress-related seizure on Friday afternoon and had to be taken to the hospital. He was released shortly afterward and will certainly recover, but he was forbidden to do any more work over the weekend, and so had to sit out the rest of the convention before returning to Vermont. This is especially difficult as he seeks to gain customers and recognition for Fresh Eyes Now, so I hope all of us in the industry can help to support him now, especially as he's been such a great friend and mentor for frontline booksellers and independent bookstores.

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I had planned to write up some of the BEA nightlife, but there were more shout-outs than I realized (I've reposted about five times with things I'd forgotten!), and I have to dig back in to the freelance projects I've put on the back burner. Suffice to say, a great time was had by all, though I'm glad to be back home in New York again. My equally invigorated coworkers and I plan to have lunch later this week and hash out some of the practical ways we can implement what we've learned at our store. BEA was definitely a high, but luckily everyday life as a bookseller is also something worth looking forward to.

If I met you and missed mentioning you, forgive me! -- there was a lot of alcohol flowing and a lot of faces flowing past me over the course of the weekend. If you were at BEA and you have more stories, shout-outs, or corrections, PLEASE post them in the comments, or send me a link to where I can find out more!