Michael Moore might have stolen the spotlight at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association trade show last weekend when he responded with interest to a challenge by booksellers to help them compete with Amazon, but there was other news. Attendance was on target and slightly up, according to executive director Hut Landon, and there were plenty of opportunities for publishers and authors to get their books into the hands of indie booksellers.
NCIBA added an author buzz lunch to its education day to showcase seven winter/spring titles. After a brief introduction by sales reps, the authors each had 10 minutes to talk about their new work. Carol Anshaw said that her relationship with her siblings influenced the plot of Carry the One (March, Simon & Shuster), which is about how a group of grown siblings cope after a car accident while they were returning from a family wedding takes the life of a young girl. As one sister says in the novel, referring to the dead girl, "When you add us up, you always have to carry the one," said Anshaw.
Tiffany Baker--whose debut novel, The Giant of Aberdeen County, was a huge Northern California bookseller favorite handsell--returned to NCIBA to talk about The Gilly Salt Sisters, her new novel coming from Grand Central in March, about sisters bound both by the family tradition of salt farming and by an entanglement with the same man. Who knew salt marshing was a craft handed down in families? Next up, Kevin Fox, a screenwriter from film and TV's Lie to Me, presented a debut novel described as the "literary love child of Dennis Lehane and Alice Hoffman." In Fox's novel, Until the Next Time (Feb., Algonquin), an Irish American goes to Ireland in the 1970s to help clear the name of an uncle he never knew who was sent back to the mother country to escape legal trouble in the U.S.
Closer to NCIBA territory, Sere Prince Halverson, spent time near the Russian River writing her novel The Underside of Joy (Jan., Dutton), set in a fictitious Russian River town. At its heart is a widowed woman taking care of stepchildren whose negligent biological mother wants them back. Another book about parenthood is the thriller Defending Jacob by William Landay, a former district attorney in Boston, which was described as Presumed Innocent combined with anything by Anna Quinlan. Landay said before he had his two boys, he thought good parenting yielded good children, but he found out it's a lot more complicated than that. Defending Jacob is about a D.A. who has to defend his own son who is accused of murdering his friend--and the father is not always sure of the son's innocence.
Meredith Maran quipped about how she arranged to kick off publicity for her first novel, A Theory of Small Earthquakes (Feb., Soft Skull), by arranging for a few small earthquakes--including one that morning. Maran's book is about a lesbian who leaves a lover whom she planned to have a child with to try living a "normal life" by marrying a man. Maran said her central questions were: How do people change the world and how does the world change people? "Oops, I forgot to write an easy first novel," she added.
The final luncheon author was Amie Phan, author of the story collection We Should Never Meet, who talked about her first novel, The Education of Cherry Truong (March, St. Martin's). Growing up with Vietnamese immigrant parents in the 1980s, she told NCIBA attendees, the biggest threat that anyone could make was that someone be sent back to Vietnam. In the novel, Cherry, a rebellious girl, is sent back to Vietnam to track down an older brother who was sent back earlier because of his rebelliousness.
"I don't know about you, but I think I have my reading set for the next few months, observed Jenn Ramage, one of the Random reps.
After a lovely tea with Philippa Gregory, who discussed her new novel, The Lady of the Rivers, and her first work of nonfiction, The Women of the Cousin's War (both S&S), NCIBA gave out its annual awards in the evening. Joe Christiano from Pegasus won the adult events award for the not-yet-a-year-old First Person, Singular series, which combines readings with performance (e.g., a female cast reading Glengarry Glen Ross). Two outstanding handselling awards were given: to Patti Norman from Copperfield's for specializing in children's books and to Judith Milton of Book Shop Santa Cruz for adult books. Finally, a stunned Luan Staus, owner of Laurel Books in Oakland, accepted the Debi Echlin Award for Community Bookselling by saying that Echlin was a mentor and tipping her hat to Shirley Masengill and Nicky Salan, two children bookselling giants that the Bay Area book community lost this year.
Tomorrow, check back for not your average rep picks and other non-Michael Moore happenings from NCIBA. --Bridget Kinsella