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Patterson Helping to Save the Indies: A Chat with Austin’s BookPeople
Feb28

Patterson Helping to Save the Indies: A Chat with Austin’s BookPeople

Mega-selling author James Patterson announced last fall that he would be donating $1 million to help independent bookstores; last week he began giving out the money. According to Publishers Weekly, the first chunk of $267,000 was disbursed to 54 stores in payments ranging from $2,000 to $15,000. Some stores applied for the grants via Patterson’s website; others were recommended to him by author friends such as R.L Stine and Kate DiCamillo (the new the Library of Congress’ 2014 –2015 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature). Patterson has stepped to help in the absence of what he believes should be a government bail-out of the troubled publishing industry. As quoted in the New York Times, he says: “I just want to get people more aware and involved in what’s going on here, which is that, with the advent of e-books, we either have a great opportunity or a great problem,” Patterson continued: “Our bookstores in America are at risk. Publishing and publishers as we’ve known them are at stake. To some extent the future of American literature is at stake.” The stores chosen for grants will use the money in a variety of ways, from replacing carpet to rewarding hardworking and underpaid employees to creating streaming video of in-store events to purchasing a bookmobile for off-site sales. Pub Hub spoke with Meghan Goel, Children’s Book Buyer at BookPeople in Austin, TX, one of the Patterson grant recipients. Goel was the force behind BookPeople’s proposal and discussed the impact of the gift. Pub Hub: Tell me something about the process of requesting the grant: did you apply via Patterson’s website? Did you ask for the funds for a specific purpose? Meghan Goel: We actually asked for funds to help us grow a program that we started this year to bring book based curriculum enhancements into Austin schools. We are currently running a pilot program with 40 Austin schools to expand upon local author Shana Burg’s book Laugh with the Moon by providing art, music, and social studies curriculum enhancements and connecting over 3500 kids with Malawi pen pals. It has been such a success that we are currently putting together a committee with Austin Independent School District to collaborate on these kinds of programs annually. PH: Did you have any indication ahead of time that you might be selected? How were you informed that you were chosen?   MG: We received a heads up that we were on the list for final consideration a few days in advance and then found out for sure just before the announcement was made public. It was exciting! PH: Has the actual check arrived? How did...

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Books Are Always in Fashion
Feb28

Books Are Always in Fashion

When that small trim-sized book we now call “mass market” was first created, it was called a pocket book, and it was meant to literally fit in one’s pocket. Pocket Books publishers published the first books of this size in America in 1939. The company was acquired by Simon & Schuster, who owns it still, in 1966. There was a fashion designer in the second half of the 20th century who designed dresses with specific pockets for books (Darn, I can’t remember or find her name! Does anyone know? …[Two minutes later…] I just remembered! It was Pauline Trigère. I am so impressed with myself. My confidence in my memory is restored!) Anyway… Pauline Trigère thought books important enough to make a place for them in haute couture. Once, when I led a book class for a group of lower income women, women with very challenging lives, many of them single moms, I remember one mother telling me how she kept a book in her pocket while she cooked dinner. When things were simmering on the stove, she’d slip the book out and slip in a few moments of reading time. That really stayed with me, that image of someone to whom books mattered so much that she went to some effort to create reading time. Take that, you many folks who tell me you’re too busy to read! But I digress… my point is, books are in fashion, literally. And just last week, at London Fashion Week, it happened again. Designer Christopher Kane has taken a page from the book of fashion and integrated it into his lovely Bookleaf dress. It probably costs a bit more than a paperback, but that’s the cost of...

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Quelque Chose D’amusant
Feb26

Quelque Chose D’amusant

Thanks to Chris Kenneally of Copyright Clearance Center for pointing me to the Facebook page for Improbables Librairies, Improbables Bibliothèques, where I found this entertaining...

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The Obituary Writer’s Sad Story
Feb25

The Obituary Writer’s Sad Story

A few days ago I wrote about my challenges writing book reviews, about how I shy away from criticizing a book in a written review. In exploring whether or not it’s wrong or inappropriate to write negative reviews, I referred to what some other writers recently had to say about this in the New York Times, and I determined, along with writer Francine Prose and others, that it’s important to be honest and ok to be critical. So I’m going to just plunge right in here: Ann Hood’s recent novel The Obituary Writer was a great disappointment. I discovered the writer Ann Hood in college, when I wrote about several of her novels in a paper about how feminist politics manifested itself in the fiction of various contemporary women novelists (there were other, stronger, entries as well in the paper: Margaret Atwood and Marge Piercy for example). I greatly enjoyed her work at that time, but then it began to feel too fluffy to me, and a bit off (an icky father/daughter relationship), so she disappeared from my radar for a while. In 2002, a truly tragic thing happened to Hood when her five year old daughter died of an antibiotic-resistant strain of strep. One can only dimly imagine the pain of such a thing. In 2008, Hood published a memoir about this experience. The book, called Comfort, was well-reviewed and chosen as a book of the year by the New York Times. I could not bring myself to read it. Since then, Hood has published several more books, and I eagerly returned to reading her work with her newest novel, The Obituary Writer. The book interweaves the stories of two women, Claire, a 1960s housewife in an unsatisfactory marriage, and the titular obituary writer, Vivien, who lives in Napa Valley in 1919 and still mourns the loss of her lover in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.Eventually the reader will discover how these two women are connected. Vivien came to her vocation by accident and has turned writing obituaries into an art form. Her home welcomes a steady stream of the grieving who long for Vivien to hear their stories of loss and memorialize their loved ones in writing. Vivien understands their grief, as she herself is still in mourning. Nonetheless, I found it odd that an obituary writer should be such a local celebrity, and that the first thought of those experiencing the loss of a loved one would be to rush off to Vivien’s home to tell their story. Claire, meanwhile, is ensconced in 1961, just as JFK is about to take office, and the descriptions of...

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Sneaking a Peek at Next Season’s Bestsellers
Feb23

Sneaking a Peek at Next Season’s Bestsellers

Ah…. Just finally sitting down after a busy morning on my feet doing what I love best: talking about books! This morning I gave one of my talks where I preview forthcoming books. I include a PowerPoint presentation and discuss books that will be published by various publishers in the next 1-5 months. I review different categories of books; for today’s audience at Keneseth Israel I spoke about adult fiction and non-fiction, including memoir, business books, cookbooks, and books by local authors. I also brought along the Open Book pop up mobile bookstore, so I had books for sale right on the spot! I love my portable bookstore and being able to turn people on to new authors. Today one reader was introduced to Ann Patchett for the first time, and walked away with a copy of Bel Canto. She’s lucky—she has a great reading experience ahead of her. I introduced another reader to Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn—what a terrific novel! And best was the eight year old girl who successfully persuaded Daddy to buy her The Big Book of Girl Stuff. She was so happy! When Daddy told her that he spent the ice cream money on the book, she didn’t even care! There are a number of new and forthcoming books that I talked about today which I’m really looking forward to reading. Here are just a few: Orfeo by Richard Powers:  In a review in the New York Times, critic Jim Holt asked: Is it premature to talk of the “Powers Problem”? The potential “Powers Problem” Holt describes is that Powers, who has written 11 books, is cerebral, intellectual. He writes about weighty complicated subjects such as genetics, artificial intelligence, and game theory. I like cerebral writers, but, like this critic, I want a book that also has heart, that has fully fleshed characters. The story underpinning Orfeo is: Retired 70 year old composer Peter Els has an unusual hobby, do-it-yourself genetic engineering. He is trying to implant his theories about music into DNA. When his work is accidentally discovered by government agents, he embarks on a journey that takes the reader through Els’ history and his beliefs about music. I am so far about fifty pages into the book and am finding it very compelling. Yes, it’s intellectual, but I am enjoying the author’s explorations of music, language, and the process of creating art and science. Orfeo will be the first book discussed in my upcoming “Hot Off the Press” class. Another new book I enjoyed is Margot by Jillian Cantor. The premise of this novel is that Anne Frank’s sister Margot did not perish, but managed...

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