Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 6, 2015

William Morrow & Company: Death of the Author by Nnedi Okorafor

St. Martin's Press: Disney High: The Untold Story of the Rise and Fall of Disney Channel's Tween Empire

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Graphix: 39 Clues: One False Note (39 Clues Graphic Novel #2) by Gordon Korman, Illustrated by Hannah Templer

Running Press: Enter For a Chance to Win a Moonlit Explorer Pack!

Quill Tree Books: The Firelight Apprentice by Bree Paulsen

Quotation of the Day

Kelly Link: 'I Love Booksellers--Literally'

"Brick and mortar bookstores have their own distinct personalities. They're idiosyncratic! They have opinions! They champion the books that they love! They can order any book that you want, but they also carry books that you might not come across on your own. I like browsing. I like finding books that I would never have found if someone hadn't written a note about them, or faced that book out on a shelf. And I love booksellers. (Literally: I fell in love with a bookseller. He proposed to me in the store window.) I love finding out what books they've read and loved. I like asking them questions about their bookstore: what sells, who their customers are, what they wish was back in print again."

--Kelly Link, former bookseller (at Avenue Hugo Bookshop, Boston), co-owner of Small Beer Press, editor and author--her latest is Get in Trouble: Stories, has just been published by Random House--in a q&a with Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex.

Zest Books: The Gender Binary Is a Big Lie: Infinite Identities around the World by Lee Wind


ABA: DesHotel Is New CFO; 59 Stores Opened in 2014

Robyn DesHotel

The American Booksellers Association has appointed Robyn DesHotel to be its new chief financial officer, effective March 2, Bookselling This Week reported. She succeeds Eleanor Chang, who announced last fall her plans to retire. DesHotel, who brings more than 20 years of finance-related experience to her new position, previously worked as the PEN American Center's director of finance and administration.

"We could not be more happy that Robyn is joining ABA," said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. "Her background and experiences position her extremely well to strengthen our efforts on behalf of our members. Eleanor leaves a strong legacy here, and I'm confident that Robyn will help us continue to build upon it."


In 2014, the ABA welcomed 59 independent bookstores that opened in 25 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. BTW reported that this "is the largest number of new stores joining ABA in a single year since the start of the Great Recession in 2008." This includes nine branches or satellites of existing businesses and five stores selling primarily used books. In other good news, 28 established ABA member businesses were purchased by new owners.

GLOW: Flatiron Books: Private Rites by Julia Armfield

BEA 2015: Children's Author Breakfast Speakers Announced

Tony Award-winning actor Nathan Lane will be the master of ceremonies at this year's BookExpo America Children's Author Breakfast, where he will introduce Oliver Jeffers, Rainbow Rowell and James Patterson. The event is scheduled for Friday, May 29, at the Javits Center in New York City.

Lane is the author (with Devlin Elliott and illustrator Dan Krall) of Naughty Mabel (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, October 6). Jeffers is the illustrator of The Day the Crayons Came Home (Penguin Young Readers/Philomel, August 18). Rowell's upcoming titles are Carry On (St. Martin's Griffin, October 6) and a new special edition of Fangirl (St. Martin's Griffin, May 12). Patterson's fall books are Treasure Hunters: Secret of the Forbidden City (with Chris Grabenstein & illustrator Juliana Neufeld; Little, Brown for Young Readers, September 14) and House of Robots: Robots Go Wild (Little, Brown for Young Readers, December 7).

Alex Baker: Exceptional Design And Creative Services For The Publishing Industry

SCBWI Adds We Need Diverse Books Discussion Board

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, in conjunction with We Need Diverse Books, has created a new section of SCBWI's Blueboards that will be dedicated to discussing diversity in children's literature. The boards are separated into sections representing different topics and issues, under the basic headings ethnic & cultural minorities, LGBTQIA+, disabilities and illustrating diversity.

The discussion threads are being led by a WNDB team that includes Steven dos Santos, Sara Polsky, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Don Tate, Jerry Craft, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jennifer Baker, Cindy Rodriguez and WNDB president Ellen Oh. Dos Santos said he looks forward to the forums as a place for "fostering a dialogue of representation and acceptance in diverse children's literature."

Hachette Book Group Sales Team Reorganization

Chris Murphy, senior v-p, group sales director, at Hachette Book Group, has reorganized the sales team. Among the changes:

David Epstein is being promoted to v-p of retail sales, overseeing sales of both adult and children's books to all traditional retail accounts. He has been v-p of children's sales. Before joining the company two years ago, he was director of national accounts at Disney Publishing, and earlier was an adult regional rep at Penguin and Simon & Schuster and a national accounts rep for Globe Pequot Press. He also owned Huntington's Bookstore in Hartford, Conn., and won New England Independent Booksellers Association's Saul Gilman rep of the year award.

Andy LeCount is being promoted to executive director, chain sales. During the last seven years at HBG, he has sold B&N and served as Little, Brown sales liaison.

Linda Jamison is being promoted to executive director of mass merchant sales and will oversee the ID reps. A 20-year veteran of HBG, Jamison was originally hired as a Little, Brown field rep, and has risen through the ranks, serving as national account manager and channel director.

Tracy Dowd is being promoted to director of sales and become sales liaison for Grand Central Publishing while continuing to sell to Costco and BJ's.

Karen Torres is becoming v-p of field sales and account marketing and resuming direction of the independent field force.

Melissa Nicholas is being promoted to director of account marketing.

Billy Clark is being promoted to v-p, sales, retail analytics and client services, and will manage the analytics department.

David Bowers is being promoted to senior v-p, digital sales, business development and strategy. He will focus on digital sales worldwide as well as print and digital account negotiations across all channels as well as maintain responsibility for Amazon, Baker & Taylor and Ingram.

Bookseller Jamie Kornegay Makes Author Debut with Soil

For Jamie Kornegay, the owner of TurnRow Book Company in Greenwood, Miss., and the author of the novel Soil, due out March 10 from Simon & Schuster, writing has been a lifelong pursuit.

"I was probably in second grade when I started writing, and I've always messed around with it in ebbs and flows," said Kornegay, who studied creative writing at the University of Mississippi with Southern great Barry Hannah. "It seemed like a brutally long apprenticeship until just a few years ago."

In Soil, a young man moves himself and his family out to a remote river bottom in Mississippi in the hopes of becoming an organic farmer through an "ambitious agricultural experiment." Within a year, things have gone terribly wrong for this "upstart farmer"--he's pushed away his family, he's nearly broke and, in the aftermath of a big flood, he finds a dead body washed up in a field. From there, he makes a series of poor decisions that "put him at odds with his estranged wife and a local deputy."

Jamie Kornegay

Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, Kornegay said, was a major influence--something of a model, in fact, as far as having a "crazed protagonist" goes--on Soil. The novels of Patricia Highsmith, and in particular her specialization in a "low-burn creepiness," were also sources of inspiration. And the works of both Charles Portis and Barry Hannah have been very important.

Kornegay worked on Soil intermittently over many years. He began it while he was still working at Square Books in Oxford, Miss., and eventually put it on hold as he opened TurnRow Books and started a family.

"It never really left my mind," explained Kornegay, "and I started working on it again a few years back."

Kornegay's writing process has evolved over the years. He spends much less time "agonizing over the blank page" than he used to--he called it a "foregone conclusion" that the first draft, along with maybe the second and third, will probably suck. "So I plow right in and come back to revise, revise, finding an ember of something good and fanning it," he said. He also spends much less time reworking the same sentences over and over again. "To me it's [about] getting the idea first, getting to the heart of the matter, and then making it read well."

Soil is Kornegay's first novel to be published, but it's not the first novel that he's written. Over the years he tried to get a few earlier novels published.

"People were very gracious and kind and they read these things," recalled Kornegay. "But I think I always knew they were half-baked, not quite ready. When Soil was ready, I thought it was good to go."

Following a brief stint as a journalist shortly after graduating college, Kornegay got a job at Square Books because, as he put it, he was "trying to write, and thought the best thing to do to bring in a small amount of money was work in a bookstore." He thought he'd stay in bookselling for only a few months; now he's been in the business for some 15 years. And working in a bookstore, he said, has influenced his writing. In addition to mining the gestures, phrases and mannerisms that emerge in everyday human interaction, Kornegay has made use of his dealings over the years with hundreds of writers and many, many more readers.

"That's something that's been very useful to me, just learning and talking to readers about books," he said. "What they're looking for, what they're interested in, and what they expect to get out of a book. And talking to writers, too, of course. Of all the hundreds of author events I've worked, all the writers I've hosted, you pick things up along the way."

Next week, Kornegay will attend Winter Institute for the first time ever, in Asheville, N.C., and he'll be doing double duty as both an author and a bookseller. On March 10, he'll launch Soil with a short reading and party at TurnRow Books. From there, he'll go on an extensive author tour through the Southeast.

"I'll be going to a lot of the stores and booksellers that I've known over the years," Kornegay said. An early stop will be a "homecoming" at Square Books. "And I'll also be stopping at some that I've been anxious to know but never have." --Alex Mutter

Obituary Notes: Martin Gilbert; Eileen Kaufman

Sir Martin Gilbert, historian and official biographer of Winston Churchill, died February 3. He was 78. The Guardian reported that the author of more than 80 history books and atlases "was as interested in geography as in history and his many historical atlases are strikingly original and have often been imitated."


Eileen Kaufman, "a Beat generation figure whose greater contribution was to write down and get published the poetic rambles of her husband, Bob Kaufman," died January 26, SF Gate reported. She was 93.


Image of the Day: Farewell to Penguin's Inside Sales Department

Today is the last day for Penguin's inside sales department in the Kirkwood, N.Y., warehouse before it merges with the Random House inside sales department. Here are many of the crew, in Boca Raton, Fla., during a recent sales conference: (l. to r.) Connie Barnes, John Lawton (who is staying with Penguin Random House in New York), Karen Taylor, Vicki Congdon (who is moving to the Westminster, Md., warehouse), Kathy Space, Diane Quattrocchi, Vickie Calby, Deb Lewis (who is also moving with the company), Melinda Lawrence, Nancy Oliveri, Jeanne Conklin and Tammy Brant.

Cool Idea of the Day: Octavia's Recycled Paper Book Bags

Octavia Books, New Orleans, La., asked Tom Varisco Designs to create two fun recycled paper book bags. Check out the stop-motion animation video that the designer filmed to help the bookstore showcase its bags. Octavia Books is donating 100% of the proceeds from the bags to a local environmental nonprofit.

Seminary Co-op Director Tours 'Bookstore Nation'

Last summer, Jeff Deutsch drove Interstate 80 from California to Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, where he would begin his job directing the Seminary Co-op. The University of Chicago Magazine noted that "he made stops for gas, food--and book shopping. He 'was really impressed' with what he found along the way."

With that, as well as his long career in the book business, in mind, the magazine asked Deutsch to share "his personal pantheon of booksellers. Many are out West, unsurprisingly; Deutsch spent the better part of the past decade in the Bay Area, working for the bookstores of the University of California, Berkeley, and then Stanford. But a couple are right here in Chicagoland. Happy browsing."

Personnel Changes at University of California Press

Clare Wellnitz has been promoted to director of sales & licensing at the University of California Press. She joined the press in 2010 as director of intellectual property and subsidiary rights. In her new role, she will continue to oversee rights, licensing and contracts.

Wellnitz started her career in acquisitions at Simon & Schuster, moved on to subsidiary rights at the Free Press and at the Melanie Jackson Literary Agency helped to sell rights for a large roster of authors. She also spent over a decade at Columbia University Press, where she rose to the position of publishing director.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Janet Mock on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher

Tonight on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Janet Mock, author of Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More (Atria, $15, 9781476709130).


Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Michael Rosen, author of Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story (Counterpoint, $25, 9781619024830).


Tomorrow on NPR's All Things Considered: Reggie Love, author of Power Forward: My Presidential Education (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781476763347).


Sunday on Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo: Bill Browder, author of Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476755717). He will also be on CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Saturday.


On Sunday on the new In Deep Shift series on OWN: Mary C. Neal, M.D., author of To Heaven and Back (WaterBrook Press, $14.99, 978-0307731715).

TV: The Casual Vacancy

The HBO/BBC miniseries adaptation of J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy "is getting a two-night U.S. premiere in the spring. The premium channel has set the three-hour mini for 8 p.m. April 29 and 30," reported. Jonny Campbell directed the project from a script by Sarah Phelps.

Indiewire featured a trailer and photographs from The Casual Vacancy, which stars Rory Kinnear, Simon McBurney and Michael Gambon.

Books & Authors

Awards: PROSE Winners

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty (Belknap Press) has won the R.R. Hawkins Award, the highest honor of the 39th annual PROSE awards, organized by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing division of the Association of American Publishers. Piketty wins $10,000.

For a list of the more than 60 winners, click here.

Book Brahmin: Floyd Cooper

Floyd Cooper has illustrated nearly 100 books for children, including The Blacker the Berry by Joyce Carol Thomas, for which he won the 2009 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. His books have also garnered three Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honors, two NAACP Image Award nominations, a Jane Addams Peace Award Honor, the 2011 Simon Wiesenthal Gold Medal, and the 2011 IPPY Gold Medal. His most recent book is Juneteenth for Mazie (Capstone, February), which he both wrote and illustrated. Born in Tulsa, Okla., he lives with his family in Easton, Pa.

On your nightstand now:

On my nightstand now is a piece of Halloween chocolate, a bottle of Evian, a large....  Oh, the book is Arnold Rampersad's The Life of Langston Hughes Volume I: 1902-1941, "I Too, Sing America."

Favorite book when you were a child:

My favorite book as a child was a Little Golden Book about a little red fire engine, can't recall the title.

Your top five authors:

Joyce Carol Thomas, Jackie Woodson, Walter Dean Myers, Virginia Hamilton, Maya Angelou.

Book you've faked reading:

Faked? FAKED?!! I'm almost appalled, but not quite. 

Book you're an evangelist for:

I am really high on Jackie Woodson's picture book Show Way.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I have been a fanatical magazine collector for years, for the covers! No, really... it's only for the covers!

Book that changed your life:

The book that changed my life was The Blacker the Berry by Joyce Carol Thomas [illustrated by Floyd Cooper]. It won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

Favorite line from a book:

In the picture book Be Good to Eddie Lee by Virginia Fleming, when Eddie stands by the pond, puts his hand over his heart and looks Christy in the eyes and says, "It's what's here that counts!" Still gets me!

The five artists you most admire:

Jerry Pinkney, Paul O. Zelinsky, Bernie Fuchs, Etienne Delessert, John Collier.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

That Little Golden Book about the little red fire truck.

Book Review

Review: A Spool of Blue Thread

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (Knopf, $25.95 hardcover, 9781101874271, February 10, 2015)

Family life never grows old in the hands of Anne Tyler, a master of domestic fiction who returns to familiar terrain in her 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread. This time around, Tyler (The Beginner's Goodbye) focuses on the Whitshank family of Baltimore, Md., launching the story with a telephone call from wayward son Denny, who, at age 19, drops an attention-getting announcement on his parents, Abby and Red. He then hangs up and disappears from their lives--and the lives of his three siblings--for years.

Over time, Denny's mysterious nature brings out the best and worst of all the family members. His interactions (or lack thereof) gently nudge the plot forward, giving underlying texture to this leisurely paced narrative. Tyler characterizes the Whitshanks as "one of those enviable families that radiate clannishness and togetherness and just... specialness" and Denny "trailed around their edges like some sort of charity case."

Years later, when the entire family--including Denny--finally reunites in Baltimore, stories of the past are retold when Abby and Red's future living arrangements are called into question. The common thread--binding the generational tapestry of the Whitshanks, along with the four sections of the novel as a whole--is the family home built by Red's father in the 1930s. "It was not a grand house," Tyler's omniscient narrator tells the reader. It was "a house you might see pictured on a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle, plain-faced and comfortable, with the Stars and Stripes, perhaps, flying out front and a lemonade stand at the curb.... But best of all, that porch: that wonderful full-length porch."

The warm, inviting nature of the house comes to represent the family. "The two were one and the same," Tyler writes via flashbacks that delve into the history of Red's parents and how Abby and Red met and married in 1950s. Vivid details from these eras are centered on the house, and the stories of those who inhabited the residence deepen the meaning of the present-day predicament: with Abby and Red growing older and more infirm--Red has heart issues and Abby is plagued by "mind skips"--the four disparate siblings and their spouses urge the couple to give up their bedrock, their much-beloved home, and make alternate living arrangements.

Abby and Red's decision will not only affect their lives, but the lives of their children--particularly the two sons who struggle to reconcile their distinct places in the fold. Tension builds as Tyler stitches together an intricate, insightful story about family history, memories, rivalries and long-held secrets. As in other novels Tyler has written over her 50-year career, A Spool of Blue Thread is a quietly engrossing saga--a sensitive and compassionate exploration into the trappings of family life, the perils of fate and what it means to try and live a life of love. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf Talker: A multi-generational saga about a tight-knit Baltimore family faced with the prospect of selling and dismantling a much-beloved house.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Thomas Merton, Reading

"I am reading..."

Those three words recur, as a kind of litany, throughout the writings of Thomas Merton, whose birth centenary is being celebrated this year. Although many people know him as the "famous" Trappist monk (a contradiction in terms, I know, but not inaccurate) and prolific author, I was struck from the beginning of my four decades-plus engagement with his books by the literally catholic range of his reading life. Open to any random page, especially in his journals and letters, and you'll discover something important about him as a reader.

Merton's official birthday was January 31 and events have been occurring worldwide, including a discussion at the Brooklyn Public Library hosted by New Directions, which has long been associated Merton's work. On the publisher's blog, Mieke Chew wrote: "I recently found the address of Gethsemani in a rolodex at New Directions. It has been many years since James Laughlin and Thomas Merton exchanged letters, but the evidence of their shared interests and passions can still be found in our archives and in each of the books they worked on together."

Last Saturday at Canio's Cultural Café, Sag Harbor, N.Y., community members were invited to read "a favorite excerpt from Merton's work, creating a Merton "mosaic"--diverse representation of the vast ways in which Merton's work has touched our lives."

I attended a similar event on Sunday at Market Block Books, Troy, N.Y., where Stanley Hadsell hosted the bookstore's fifth annual Merton birthday party. Although Stanley and I have talked about Merton many times previously, we just realized that we had originally discovered him in a similar manner. I was raised Catholic, but my initial encounter with his writing occurred during the early 1970s, when I began reading books by Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki. Soon I found Merton's Zen and the Birds of Appetite and The Way of Chuang Tzu, which eventually led me to his classic autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. The rest, as they say, is reading history.  

In the 1990s, Merton's seven-volume journals began appearing, one book at a time, and I learned the value of heightened anticipation as well as patience. Occasionally his name would come up in conversations, and it was like I had encountered another traveler on my reading pilgrimage.

One of those conversations occurred when I was working as a bookseller and answered the phone, fielding a simple customer question: "Do you have any books by Thomas Merton?" I said yes, and what followed was a long conversation with author Jon Katz, who had recently moved to the area and was working on a new book that would eventually be published as Running to the Mountain: A Journey of Faith and Change.

"I am reading," Merton wrote again and again, followed by all those names: James Baldwin, Matsuo Bashō, Boris Pasternak, Federico Garcia Lorca, Czesław Miłosz, Margaret Randall, Graham Greene, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Meister Eckhart, Gabriella Mistral...

There is a moment in volume five of the journals, Dancing in the Water of Life, that eloquently speaks to the power of a reading life. In June of 1964, Merton received permission to fly from his monastery in Kentucky to New York City for a meeting with D.T. Suzuki, who was 94 years old. Merton wrote: "He read to me from a Chinese text--familiar stories. I translated to him from Octavio Paz's Spanish version of Fernando Pessoa." The words of a legendary Portuguese author, shared with a Japanese Zen scholar via a Mexican poet and an American monk.

One of the many impacts Merton has had on my life is the way he embodied the ideal of reader and re-reader, never ceasing to look for the next book, the next author, while valuing and revisiting those that had come before.

And we all can understand this moment from The Seven Storey Mountain: "One day, in the month of February 1937, I happened to have five or ten loose dollars burning a hole in my pocket. I was on Fifth Avenue, for some reason or other, and was attracted to the window of Scribner's bookstore, full of bright new books."

Or this journal entry (later collected in The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton) from 1968, the last year of his life: "Lesson: not to travel with so many books. I bought more yesterday, unable to resist the bookstores off San Francisco." Always, everywhere... Thomas Merton, reading. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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