I just got back from New York and Book Expo America. The show felt very different this year. It was quieter. Booksellers were all asking each other how things were going with true concern. For the most part the answer seemed to be that it felt kind of unpredictable. Some days were great. Others not so great. It seems to be a question of balance and figuring out how best to serve the public while serving ourselves as well.
At Book Expo the American Booksellers Association (the ABA) offers a day of educational programming geared toward booksellers. The classes are always well-attended and informative. We are all looking for ways to be be successful in this new economy. Looking at all the angles. Looking into the deep, dark corners. Planning for the long run. The ABA is a great support for us.
Besides bookseller and publisher angst there were plenty of high moments. For me it was practically sitting at the feet of Richard Russo and John Irving as they were being interviewed for a small group that gathered on the trade show floor. Oh that was amazing! To be so close to two of my favorite writers and to hear their candid thoughts on writing, reading and publishing.
Both of them now write screenplays almost as much as they write their novels. John Irving said he does them both at the same time. I’m not sure if that takes away from the novel — they both agreed that books are better than the movies! Russo said what movies show you, a writer needs to describe, so he always feels that challenge to “show” what he is talking about.
They both spoke about the structure of their novels. John Irving joked that they always involved a single mother, a dead child, and a town in New England. Both said they needed that drama to grab the writer. Russo said he often cringes when he gets to the point where he needs to describe some terrible scene, but it’s so key to the narrative.
It was such a revealing conversation. It’s moments like these that make me so so happy to sell books. To get the inside scoop from an author and pass it on to a reader. I love this.