Lynn Reads a Book
This blog reflects Lynn Rosen’s comments on books she’s read and on happenings both in the world of book publishing and at her independent bookstore, the Open Book Bookstore.
It’s hard work being an author. You probably think I’m referring to the work of writing books, don’t you? It’s true that writing a book is hard — it’s time-consuming, solitary work. I know many writers whose first novels took years, or even a decade or more to write (especially since most of them were holding down demanding full-time jobs and writing in any pocket of time they could find – instead of sleeping!). But I’m actually talking about what happens once a writer finishes a book, and is lucky enough to have it published. You’d think the hard work would be finished then, and it would be smooth sailing and merely a matter of collecting accolades. But post-publication life is far from that. Post-pub is when another phase of really hard work begins for a writer. And it’s difficult to tell sometimes which is more challenging: writing the book or marketing it! On March 13th, Open Book partnered with Philadelphia Stories magazine to hold The 2nd Annual Writers at Work Conference. The purpose of this conference is to offer writers ways to manage their career (what we call the write/life balance), along with really useful and practical information about marketing, publicity, events, building an author platform, and more. Yesterday’s event was a great success. My fabulous event partner Christine Weiser and I are so grateful to all of our speakers (listed HERE) and to the many writers who joined us at the lovely Manor House in Blue Bell, PA. Thank you for being there! Here’s just a taste of what I learned yesterday: *If you want to prepare to be a good speaker, have a friend or someone else interview you. That way you’ll get a sense of what the most interesting things are that you have to talk to an audience about. (That tip from Andy Kahan, director of events at the Free Library of Philadelphia.) *Pitch yourself as a guest blogger for book sites. Make fun videos (I’m going to do that one!). (These tips from Jennifer Kasius of Running Press and literary agents Clare Pelino and Eric Smith.) *What do booksellers have that Amazon doesn’t? Booksellers do community outreach, and bookstores offer the possiblity of serendipity. (From Kat Meyer of the Book Industry Study Group.) *The term “read-a-likes.” This refers to books an author might compare their book to, one with similar style, subject matter, and/or readers. (Learned this from author Donna Galanti.) *I met a new local bookseller, Ashley Montague, co-owner of Penn Book Center, and had a great time bonding and sharing ideas with her and with Cathy Feibach, owner of Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr. We three booksellers did some brainstorming on ways we can work together and support each other. It’s so nice to be part of the supportive indie bookseller community! What a...read more
One of the joys of owning a bookstore is choosing the books we sell. As those of you who’ve been in the Open Book Bookstore know, we make our selections very carefully – we carry only good books at our store! And we like to direct our customer/readers toward new discoveries. We do a lot of research before we stock a book, and we’ve read many, if not most, of the books we carry. One fun challenge for us is exploring and learning about new genres. I’m particularly proud these days of the wonderful new children’s picture books we’ve recently added to our collection. Recently we celebrated this collection with an event for adults. Our amazing guest speakers, Heather Devlin Knopf and Julia Way Rix, both artists and children’s book illustrators and authors, shared the process of making a children’s book. Fascinating! Below are listed some new books in our collection – come check them out for your kiddies and grandkids! An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton – My thanks to our friend and customer Amy Brantz Bedrick for telling me about this book. It celebrates just what is awesome about life, and encourages us to share this awesomeness with those who may be missing out on it. This book brought tears to my eyes. i carry your heart with me – a beautiful setting of a poem by e.e. cummings illustrated by Mati McDonough. The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz – Thanks to Emily Chen for steering me to this fun retelling of the fairy tale where the pig who triumphs in the end is the sister pig who has been paying attention during her karate lessons and practicing. She is prepared for that wolf! Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi, who really is Gandhi’s grandson. A great story accompanied by stunning art. We have these and so many more books with lively stories, meaningful messages, and gorgeous illustration. Come and...read more
In January, Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee called for a boycott of the Academy Awards because so few black actors were nominated. They also called for emcee Chris Rock to step down from his position. I’m glad he didn’t. Last Sunday night in the Oscar ceremonies Chris Rock tackled the question of African-American representation in the film business head on, addressing it in his trademark irreverent way. You may or may not have liked Rock’s approach, but I thought this was a great way to use his platform to confront an issue rather than to give it up. This made me think of a recent situation in Philadelphia. As reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer, some students at local high school Friends’ Central were offended by the use of the “n” word in the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Students and faculty took a vote and decided not to have students read the book. What a lost opportunity! What a chance this would have been for teachers to use this as a springboard for a meaningful discussion of racism and race relations, how things have changed over the years, and how things are represented in literature. I say, use the platform you have to talk about making change. Kudos to Chris Rock for taking on an important issue with courage and humor. One of the best novels I’ve read recently that tackles the issue of racism and does so in great literary form is Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson. It’s out in paperback now, and the Open Book friends to whom I’ve recommended it have all come back to tell me how much they like it. If you read and liked it, post a comment in my blog (click HERE). And of course we have it, as well as Huck Finn, available for sale at the Open Book Bookstore. Finally, I’m happy to share some great recent press for Open Book… An article in the Huffington Post and… An article about how many new bookstores opened last year, including us! Tomorrow at the Open Book Bookstore we a great event for adults about the art and technique of creating great children’s picture books. It’s a free event at 7pm – come on by! Details HERE. Check out other events too, including Writers at Work Conference, Genre Mix ‘n’ Match Writing Class, Dinner and Lunch with a Book, and our fun St. Patrick’s Day...read more
Cold weather caused a pipe to burst last week in the ceiling of the Drama Book Shop on West 40th Street in Manhattan, damaging many valuable books. Lin-Manuel Miranda to the rescue! The creator of the Broadway smash “Hamilton” tweeted to his followers to support the store and later made a video encouraging people to make purchases and donations. His help made a great difference. Just another friendly neighborhood indie bookstore supporter! And btw, have you seen the show? It’s brilliant! In other book news, Harper Lee passed away last week at age 89. To this day, her Pulitzer-prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird continues to be a bestseller and its story continues to touch and inspire readers as well as viewers of the film (or maybe that’s due to Gregory Peck…). For decades she was a mysterious one-hit wonder who shunned the spotlight until last year when HarperCollins published Go Set a Watchman, the book that Lee wrote first, and which her editor (wisely) told her to rewrite from the point of view of Scout as a young child. Controversy continues to swirl as to whether Lee, who suffered from dementia later in life, truly wanted this other manuscript published. Closer to home, things are busy at the Open Book Bookstore. According to the American Booksellers Association, we are part of a trend – 61 new stores opened in 2015. Some of our most popular books this month are the new Zahav cookbook by Michael Solomonov, and the entertaining novel The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, as well as adult coloring books. We even had an coloring book evening — fun! (Don’t worry, we’ll have another!) Young adults are enjoying the new graphic novel Roller Girl and for the littler ones it’s been a season of new classics by favorite writers like Mo Willems and fun new discoveries like local writer Zachariah OHora. What else, you ask? Why, events, of course – lots of ‘em! Such as… Do you love children’s picture books? Click HERE. Looking for a fun and novel (pun intended!) way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Click HERE. Want to eat some good food and talk about books? Click HERE and HERE. Have you thought about writing a memoir? Click HERE. Are you interested in learning how to get a book published? Click HERE. Already published and need some advice on what to do now? Click HERE. As always, stay tuned for more!...read more
This past Sunday I attended the kickoff event for this year’s Philadelphia area One Book One Jewish Community program. I am a volunteer member of the implementation committee for this group, and I help review selections and choose a book. This year we selected a memoir called A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin. It tells tells the story of Lev and his family. Soviet Jews, leaving the USSR and settling in America. The kickoff event took place at Gratz College and about 400 people attended. I had the honor of interviewing Lev on stage after his talk, which was fun. Open Book Bookstore, our store, was also the official bookseller for the event. After the event, a woman came up to the book table and asked me where I got the books, i.e. from whom I purchased them. I replied to her: “I am a bookstore.” It turned out she too worked at a bookstore, and she was hoping no doubt that her store might provide the books. A good thought on her part, but I’ve got it covered. But what really struck me the next day as I was recalling this interaction was the way I replied to her, how, without really stopping to think, I simply said: “I am a bookstore.” It’s what, in high school English, we learn to call personification. Actually, now that I think of it, it’s the opposite of that. In personification, human qualities are given to inanimate objects. Here I made myself into an inanimate object. Except our bookstore is not inanimate. It’s a very vital, living place, full of activity and conversation, and filled with a stream of thoughtful, interesting people. I spend a lot of time there, and it has begun to feel like part of me. Most of my conversations these days, anywhere and with anyone, are in some way about books, and I spend huge chunks, if not most, of my time reading books or ordering books, managing inventory, and selling books. Indeed, I have become, and I am, a bookstore. Come visit me and my bookstore at 7900 High School Road in Elkins Park, PA. And if you’d like to read Lev’s memoir, which I recommend, we have it in stock or you can get it...read more