There's nothing like a haunted venue to spice up a trade show, and this past weekend the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association took over the historic, glamorously art deco (and a bit dingy) Queen Mary in Long Beach for its annual daylong table-top exhibit and author's feast.
Scary stories were in keeping with the mood of the show--although, thankfully, they were not scary bookselling stories, since, as the American Bookselling Association's Oren Teicher noted, sales at independent bookstores have been up about 12% this year.
Children's author Adam Gidwitz (In a Glass Grimmly, Dutton) kicked off the lunch session by sharing the real Grimm Brothers version of Cinderella. As the Grimms wrote it, he said, the beautiful (yes, beautiful) stepsisters cut off parts of their own feet to fit into the golden shoe Cinderella left behind. And instead of a fairy godmother, there is a hazel tree housing two talking doves who rat out the conniving stepsisters just in time to save the prince from choosing the wrong bride.
|Lunch speakers (l.-r.) Matthew Reinhart; emcee Jennifer Worick, author of Things I Want to Punch in the Face (Prospect Park Books); Adam Gidwitz; Amity Gaige; Lemony Snicket, aka Daniel Handler; Attica Locke.
Amity Gaige talked about how, for her novel Schroder (Twelve, February 2013), she took a troubling plot twist from a newspaper clipping about the man who called himself Clark Rockefeller, who said upon his arrest that he did not regret anything, even kidnapping his daughter, because they got to travel together. "Some people think he's a monster," Gaige said of her protagonist, Eric Schroder. "Others say they can relate to him."
Later, Daniel Handler, standing in for Lemony Snicket, had a newspaper column of his own to share in which that great American philosopher Dear Abby advised a mother who had made the bad choice of holding her newborn son in one hand and her cordless phone in the other, leading to a series of unfortunate events. The first of four volumes in series of books about the young Snicket, just released by Little, Brown, is titled Who Can That Be at This Hour?
The other lunch speakers were Matthew Reinhart, who recounted how he created Star Wars: A Galactic Pop-up Adventure (Orchard/Scholastic) by hand, and Attica Locke, who had to face her own racial issues while working on her novel The Cutting Season (Dennis Lehane/Harper). In 2004, Locke said, she attended a wedding on a one-time Southern plantation that became the setting for her new novel and she found herself relating more to the white owner than she did to the slaves who once occupied the quarters that had since been replaced by a bed & breakfast. "All of this stirred up with me in this novel," she said.
Among the scary stories that came up at the rep picks session in the afternoon was one of Amy Comito's favorites from Penguin: Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye. "It's the scariest book I have read since The Shining." Tom Benton, the other Penguin rep sharing his picks at the session for adult books, talked about Mary Coin by Marisa Silver, in which she explores how life changed for both photographer Dorothea Lange and the subject of her Depression-era photo of a Native American mother, which became the iconic image of American poverty. Penguin's Blue Rider Press imprint will publish Mary Coin in March 2013.
The scary read Norton's Jot Murphy talked about was Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen, which is about the tipping points when animal diseases cross over to humans. Karen Torres, from Hachette, mentioned the new Tom Wolfe Back to Blood as well as The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, a debut novel Wolfe called "The All Quiet on the Western Front for the Iraq War."
Simon & Schuster's Cheri Hickman focused on what she called a "landmark" book, Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon (November). Hickman thinks Solomon will shine a much-needed spotlight on the topic of genetic differences between parents and children, as he did on depression in his bestselling The Noonday Demon. "You guys are so busy," she told the booksellers, "just pick one chapter and e-mail me what you think. This is the most readable book."
At the Authors Feast, Beverly Fisher from Ingram Content Group won the annual SCIBA Publisher Representative award, and she named the stunning five-volume set Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold with Maxime Bilet (The Cooking Lab) as one of her picks of the list.
The rest of the SCIBA Awards:
- Children's picture book: I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)
- Children's novel: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)
- Glenn Goldman Award for art, architecture and photography: Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art 1945-1980, edited by Rebecca Peabody, Andrew Perchuk, Glenn Phillips, Rani Singh and Lucy Bradnock (Getty Publications)
- Adult nonfiction: A People's Guide to Los Angeles by Laura Pulido (University of California Press)
- T. Jefferson Parker Award for mystery: Kings of Cool by Don Winslow (S&S)
- Adult fiction: The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar (Picador).
"This means a lot," said Winslow, "because Southern California is the spiritual home for the modern crime novel and independent booksellers are the spiritual home of Southern California."
Tobar called his award "karmic" because he and his wife have spent a lot of time and money in SCIBA bookstores buying books for themselves and three young readers they are raising in the dual cultures of Los Angeles and Latin America. "People like me--sons of immigrants--have the world open up for them because of what you do," he told the booksellers. And there was nothing scary about that. --Bridget Kinsella
photo courtesy of Prospect Park Books