Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Chronicle-Mad Wednesday: Brooklyn Biz, Book Festival, ELNO, NAIBA, Body Art

I spent the morning at the fabulous Brooklyn Business Library -- I wanted to make sure I got there in time for the 10:15 Wednesday tour listed on their website. As it turned out I was the only person there for the tour, but the librarian was just all the more helpful for that -- she asked me about what I was working on and what I was looking for, and quickly passed over all the boring stuff to take me to the information I needed (in my case, Brooklyn demographic statistics). She admitted (actually several times) that much of the information in the massive folders lining the walls can be found more easily on the Internet, and that the library was being forced to shift its focus toward mentoring entepreneurs rather than supplying hard data. She proved her point by giving me the names of several websites for research that proved extremely helpful, and even letting me photocopy the zip code map in the Brooklyn phone book. (I'll spare you the details of my research, but one of these days look for a supplementary blog about the birth pangs of a Brooklyn book store...) Hooray for librarians, and hooray for Brooklyn!

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Speaking of which, I hope if you're in town on September 16 you get a chance to go to the Brooklyn Book Festival , being held in Borough Hall and the surrounding plaza from 10 to 6 that Saturday. (Note: you may not be able to see the festival website unless you have Flash installed on your computer.) Details and schedules are hard to come by, even for those of us exhibiting in the festival, but there are an amazing number of big-name authors on board who will be reading, signing, and celebrating in the tents and booths that day. Look for poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and lots of children's literature, with an emphasis on locals but with a good showing from Manhattanites and even further abroad as well. It is the first year for the festival, so I think a lot of folks are holding back their opinion (and in some cases their support) until they see how things go this year. Despite those reservations, I have high hopes that it will turn out to be something special, andthat recognition of Brooklyn's unique literary culture continues to grow.

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And speaking of THAT, preparations are underway for the second quarterly Emerging Leaders Night Out (ELNO for you acronymophiles), to be held probably the Thursday before the Brooklyn Book Festival (BBF) -- that's Thursday the 14th. Details on this one are still in the works too, as we pin down time and place, but we're thinking of it as a pre-party for the Festival, and hoping lots of young folks from publishing and bookselling will come out and drink and talk just like we did at the Brazen Head, back in June. The focus will still be social, but this time there will be opportunities to express your opinion of what you'd like to see the Emerging Leaders doing in future... and maybe even some BBF-related book swag from publishers. If you're interested, feel free to email me; I'll be sending out an email to everyone who attended or expressed interest last time as soon as the details are finalized.

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Sadly, I myself will not be attending the Brooklyn Book Festival -- happily, it's because I will instead be in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, at the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association's fall trade show. Regional trade shows are sort of like mini-BEAs, though with more emphasis on bookselling -- workshops, roundtables, clases, meet-the-author dinners, and of course the show floor. I'm really looking forward to reconnecting with my fellow Eastern seaboard booksellers, maybe learning a little about Above The Treeline or Constant Contact, eating with some of the authors I most admire, and checking out the exciting new fall suff on the publisher tables. After the show, the NAIBA board has its annual meeting -- and presuming that the membership confirms my nomination, I'll be joining them. I'm extremely flattered to have been asked to join the board, especially because I'll be the youngest person on it and the only one who's not a store owner. I'm hoping it gives me further opportunities to create community among booksellers, support and mentor good business practices, and foster awareness of the importance of independent bookstores in our region. And I suspect I'll be learning a lot too.

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As I suspected, Shelley Jackson's reading last night rocked. We had a great turnout (why, oh why did I forget to break out the camera? Because I was starstruck, of course), and she read a big chunk from the beginning of HALF LIFE (including a crazy song/poem sung by a two-headed kitten), and brilliantly answered questions afterward. I got to hang out with her a little bit beforehand and asked her to sign my galley -- she included a drawing of a "ladies' room" style female figure with two heads, just like the one on her shirt with the label "YESIAMESE." Talk about cool souvenirs from a fictional world! In doing a little biographical research beforehand so I didn't screw up her introduction, I came across Jackson's amazing website, Ineradicable Stain, and information on her "Skin" project (apparently I'm the only book nerd who didn't know about this yet). SKIN is a story written entirely in one-word tattoos on the bodies of 2,095 volunteers, and known in its entirety only to them. (Several of the "words," as the tattooed are known, came to the reading to collect their copies of the complete manuscript, prompting a New Zealand film crew to show up to interview them.) It's an idea as strange and creepy and wonderful as HALF LIFE, and makes more sense the more I learn about Jackson's work. Apparently about half of the (randomly assigned) words are still unspoken for, which had one of my fellow fabulist fan coworkers and I talking breathlessly about becoming Words -- how cool would it be to literally embody a story! But Shelley told me that though she's still accepting them, she has thousands of requests for those few hundred words already, and will eventually have to send out a mass rejection... and the ALP was distinctly skeptical when I suggested the idea, though supportive. Perhaps I'll just have to come up with my own choice of words to embody.

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So here's today's question: What word, words, quotation, or entire work of literature would you consider having ineradicably etched upon your person? What bit of language is worth tattooing?

Hope you're having a Wednesday as interesting as mine -- happy reading!