Sorry about the lack of post on Friday -- the day got crazy, as is likely to happen more often as the wedding date (June 30!) approaches. I'll give a shot at recapping my BEA, with some extra linkage for fun.
Joined the rest of my fellow booksellers at the Brooklyn Marriott for a celebration of Brooklyn. Saw my old boss and mentor Toby of Three Lives and other familiar faces. And David McCullough's opening address -- man can that guy write. The author of 1776 and The Great Bridge expounded upon his own writing career, the Battle of Brooklyn, and the moment he knew he wanted to write about the Brooklyn Bridge. His previous book about the Johnstown Flood had been about the worst of humanity ("just because people are in positions of responsibility doesn't mean they're acting responsibly" he observed, presciently), and he wanted to write about the opposite, a great effort of idealism and civilization that succeeded. The bridge, he postulates, is such an effort: built despite great odds, a thing of beauty as well as utility. Maybe that's why our wedding invites (from local retailer Lion in the Sun) have an image of the Brooklyn Bridge:
After that I scurried to the walking tour of Fort Greene (the neighborhood adjacent to my own, but one I know little about), led by Adrienne Onofri, author of a new book called Walking Brooklyn (though I failed to pick up one of the free copies! -- can anyone help me out with finding if there are any left??) I found myself in a group with the inimitable Joe Drabyak of Chester County Books & Music (and prez of NAIBA) and his coworker; Julia Cowlishaw of Shaman Drum; and the daughter of ABA CEO Avin Domnitz who's a fellow Park Slope-er (though I've forgotten her name - Sasha, maybe?). Adrienne took us on a fascinating tour highlighting the Revolutionary War-era past of Fort Greene, and showing off the evidence of incredible writers, from Walt Whitman to Richard Wright to Marianne Moore, who lived and made their Mark here. It's always amazing to experience the history found in my own backyard.
Afterward we reconvened at Brooklyn's Borough Hall for the "Taste of Brooklyn" reception: beer from the Brooklyn Brewery and cheesecake from Junior's! (Holy cow, those were big slices of cheesecake -- wish I'd taken a picture.) The incredibly loveable (even if he is supporting the disastrous Atlantic Yards project) Borough President Marty Markowitz gave one of his barn-burner speeches in praise of Brooklyn's literary culture, to cheers from the assembled. I found some more friendly faces from the ABA and bookstores, and had a brief huddle with Lance Fensterman about the evening's Emerging Leaders party at Floyd. Then, in the company of my coworker Katie and partner-in-crime Amanda, I trekked over the few blocks to the party venue, where the awesome girls from Reed Elsevier (which runs BEA) were already setting up.
The party pictures, you've already seen. It was great to meet up with old friends, and meet lots of young booksellers from literally all over the country. The Southwest, the Gulf South, the Northwest, the Northeast -- all were represented, and everyone had their fill of free drinks (on BEA -- thanks SO MUCH again!) and conversation with each other and the great authors who joined us: Matt Sharpe and David Silverman from Soft Skull, Kate Christiansen from Random House, Larry Doyle from HarperCollins, Dan Kennedy from Algonquin, and possibly others I might have been too preoccupied to meet. Bocce was played, liaisons both business and personal were formed, and importantly, surveys were filled out that will help us as the Emerging Leaders Council take the project forward with new goals and projects for the year - for example, making our new ELP website a resource for both national and regional gatherings, networking and events.. Do stay tuned for more on that -- I'm excited about the tools we've gathered to make this a truly valuable and viable project. Amanda and I stayed later than everyone else, which may have had something to do with my exhaustion the rest of the weekend, but man it was a good party. (Sweet Pea, we missed you!)
The thing about having BEA in your hometown is that it's not all BEA, all the time -- you have to have your life in between. I got up early to work at the bookstore from 10 to 6 on Thursday, and stayed a bit later to help set up for a party hosted by Simon & Schuster Canada to welcome Canadian booksellers to BEA. Since my boss is Canadian and we have a great cafe, we were a perfect fit, so I helped slice cheese and pour out Manhattans as the booksellers mingled in our cafe. It was kind of fun to be on the other side of a bookseller party and watch the dynamic a bit -- those book people can talk, man.
After that, however, I hightailed it over to the West Village, where the Litblog Co-Op party was slated to start at Kettle of Fish around 8. After a quick hello to Amanda (different Amanda) and Moira at Three Lives, I held down a table at my favorite dive bar for a few minutes before being joined by Levi, Carolyn (who really got the best pictures), Anne, and the other usual suspects from the LBC, as well as hordes of publishing folks. You know it's a good party, as someone has observed, when Morgan Entrekin makes an appearance -- he was wearing a white suit and introduced himself to me graciously, and I felt indeed graced by the legendary publisher of Grove/Atlantic. Here's a picture for proof:
(That's him next to blue-shirted Levi Asher). It was pretty amazing all around to see this cross-section of the book world crammed into the bar where I've spent many an evening after work: I met folks from Europa Editions, Dave Weich from Powell's was there, Christin and Praveen from cool new project LitMinds (where, incidentally, there's an interview with me up this week - more on that later), a contingent from Soft Skull, and even the effusive Edward Champion, whom I'd never met (though I did have a run-in with Bat Segundo at last year's LBC party and am relieved he didn't show). After, again, a bit too late a night (though the party was still raging when I left) I trained back to Brooklyn to prepare for the next day at BEA.
I didn't make it to the children's book and author breakfast on Friday -- or indeed any of the book and author breakfasts or lunches all weekend -- I'm sorry my wimpiness kept me from Mo Willems and Stephen Colbert, but there's only so much one can do. I did make it to the Javitz in time for the panel "Book Blogs: Is their increasing influence a tastemaker's dilemma?" (whatever that means.) Anne Fernald of Fernham was on the panel (and has thoughtful commentary on her blog), as well as Bud Parr of Metaxu Cafe and several print jounalists and editors. As the New York Times notes (among many other discussable things), the panel was standing room only (I chatted with Chad Post, who was one of the standers), and both panelists and audience were lively and engaged. There seemed to be a strong consensus (with caveats of course) that both blogs and traditional media have valuable, if different things to offer to readers, and that every segment of the book world would do well to understand both in the interest of both growing their business and enriching book culture. My only regret about the panel was that apparently Lady T was there in the room (and both of us asked questions) but I didn't meet her! Sorry about that -- maybe next year??
Then it was time for a whirlwind tour of the show floor, where I picked up scads of interesting info from publishers, point of sale systems, new tech innovators, graphic novelists and others to take back to the bookstore (and it's all still sitting in a pile in my apartment for me to organize and share with my coworkers). I met some more friends, and found myself in a panel with my coworker John, as we listened to an analysis of data from online, chain and independent bookstores resulting from a survey we took part in. It turns out independent bookstores outrank both chains and online retailers in satisfying customers' desires -- are you surprised? There was a lot to learn from the data about securing market share and considering pricing power, but that's for our manager's meeting next week, not for the blog.
And then it was back to the bookstore for a closing shift. I was already getting a big cranky by Friday night, so my apologies if you visited the store (or had to work with me) -- I blame overstimulation.
At the urging of the ALP, I slept in a bit on Saturday, and returned to the Javitz just in time foor another hour or two of show floor before my own panel appearance on "The Graphic Novel Pandemic" (formerly known as "Graphic Novels 360", which I liked better). John Davis of Bookazine able moderated, and I was honored to be in the company of Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home, Mark Siegel, publisher of First Second Books (and one of the most eloquent and philosophical speakers on graphic novels I've ever heard), and Stephanie Zvirin, youth books editor and graphic novels reviewer for Booklist. Here's a picture of us (which proves, I think, that I look slightly better sober). Thanks to Carolyn Bennett of Bookstream for handling the camera!
Serving on the panel was kind of like having a great conversation about something we all love in front of an audience, and WITH the audience -- Calvin Reid of Publishers Weekly was there and had as much to say as any of us! It was a gratifying experience, and I hope a profitable one for those who came.
At this point I found the Booksense Lounge, and test-drove the newly redesigned ABA website -- have you seen it? It's pretty awesome looking, and Dan Cullen's blog Omnibus is going to be one to watch. And I discovered a new use for the Lounge -- I crashed out for a half hour nap on one of their comfy couches.
Around 4:00 I met up with Amanda again and fwe ound our way to the advance screening of the Out of the Book film, with producer Dave Weich and author Ian McEwan on hand for commentary. It was great to see the film before the screening hosted by our store (and to find out I don't disgrace myself in the 10 seconds I'm on the screen), and to be able to ask a question or two of McEwan himself. The most important revelation: the film, while evocative and intriguing, manages not to give away the ending.
At the point the show floor had closed, so Amanda and I adjourned to Brooklyn for dinner with the ALP. While he opted for the evening at First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum (always a good time), Amanda and I felt we ought to get some free drinks out of the evening, and found ourselves at local bar Magnetic Field at a party thrown by NAIPR (that's the National Association of Independent Publishers Reps, in case you wondered). The music was odd (a folk adaptation of "The Girl from Ipanema" called "The Girl from Al Quaida"??), but the company was good -- we met Douglas Calhoun (whose mom Wanda Jewell runs SIBA, the Southern Independent Booksellers Association), and his boyfriend, and had some good laughs before my stamina gave out. There was talk of going into Manhattan for the PGW party, but the icky bug that laid me out for the next two days was starting to manifest itself, and I went home to crash instead.
All in all, it was a less intense BEA than last year's for me. I know a big part of it has to do with being a little preoccupied by wedding planning, and having it in my hometown, and the fact that I'm a lot busier in the bookstore than I was this time last year (running a four-events-a-week reading series is a lot more labor and brain time than just working on the floor, I've found). And like last year, I wasn't looking for the hot new galley to read, because those get sent to the store anyway. But I did pick up a lot of information, both about new products and new ideas for running the store, that don't happen anywhere else. I'm grateful for the chance to see old friends and make new ones, and feel my finger on the pulse of the book industry and the literary world for three days a year. And I'm looking forward to next year in L.A. -- I'll have a different last name, I may be closer to opening a bookstore myself, and I won't have any shifts to work.
I'd love to hear about your BEA experiences -- do direct me to other great rundowns and stories you've seen, as my RSS reader can only show me so much!
P.S. I loved doing the LitMinds interview, and I think it's a little funny that the tag line ended up being about my assertion about John Updike's misogyny. The poor guy got name-checked in the NY Times article I linked above too, for his ranting speech against digitizing books, as it becomes clear from BEA that the book world is moving on in spite of him. There is more to the interview, though -- let me know what you think in comments or on LitMinds, which is becoming a great new forum for literary conversations.