BookExpo America: Day 4: Final Words from BEA by Jami Kelmenson
BookExpo America (BEA), the largest annual book trade fair in the United States, wrapped up this weekend. Special correspondent Jami Kelmenson – a freelance writer, blogger, and first time attendee – shares her final thoughts. And make sure you catch up on her day one, day two, and day three adventures!
The last day of BEA is open to the public, so the lines were twice as long as raving fans of all genres were invited to “discover new books, meet favorite and up-and-coming authors, and get some serious book swag!”
Here are some of the highlights from this reader-friendly day:
Helen Fielding: She Swears She’s Not Bridget!
Yes, Bridget Jones returns for a third go-around in an older and hopefully wiser (but not too wise) version due out this October. Some amusing anecdotes from author Helen Fielding’s address this morning were:
If you’re a fan of the Bridget Jones Diary series, you’ll remember that Bridget famously used to count “pounds lost” at the top of each entry, usually a series of depleting numbers ending up in “naught.” Now, in her third book, Mad About the Boy, Bridget counts new Twitter followers and finds the results similar to pounds lost—naught.
Ms. Fielding shared that she wrote her last book in silence. She was afraid to tell anyone that she was writing a third novel at first because she doubted herself so much. I’ve heard the same concept of author self-doubt in Amy Tan’s conversation with O Books Editor Leigh Haber as well as in Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk. We look at these enormously accomplished women, our literary idols, and say, no way! you’re brilliant, how could you doubt yourselves? Funny, I don’t think we hear of too many male authors sharing these kinds of doubts—not because they don’t have them, I’m guessing, but because they’re not as comfortable sharing about it.
Elizabeth Gilbert and Wally Lamb: The Power of Book Clubs
Speaking of sharing, this afternoon, Huff Post Books hosted the ultimate book club—a wine and cheese mixer and conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love) and Wally Lamb (She’s Come Undone). They could not have chosen two better authors to illustrate the power of book clubs to engage readers and extend the reach of authors in a way that’s more personal.
On Using Social Media:
Wally Lamb: First he had a Facebook personal page, then was told to shift to a Fan page when he surpassed 5,000 followers, but the truth is, he’s more comfortable conversing with followers on his personal page as himself, not as “the author. “ While he resisted at first, he loves talking to readers via social media. In fact, he threw some questions out to us in the audience which demonstrated his ability to connect and really listen. Mr. Lamb, a former high-school teacher, gets an A for approachability in my book, so connect with him online and talk to him about his upcoming book, We Are Water.
Elizabeth Gilbert: Of social media, she says “it’s the nicest way to connect.” The first thing she does every morning is answer questions from followers. In fact, she even crowdsourced the choice of cover art for her upcoming novel, The Signature of All Things, through Facebook, letting the readers decide what worked best. (Happily, they chose her favorite design!)
On the Writing Process:
WL: An inspiring writing teacher once told him, “Don’t write for a perceived audience. Write for yourself.” So, he says, “I had to say goodbye to all those imaginary people in the room with me while I was writing, but then I open the door to them again once the books are out.”
EG: Not so for Elizabeth Gilbert. “I write for readers,” she said. “The readers are in the room with me while I’m writing, in my mind. I write for the person who wants to go on a story.” Of her resounding fame, she shares, “I miss the intimacy of having just 11 readers so I can exchange with all of them, but I’m also grateful for the mass exposure my books have received.”
Advice to writers navigating the chaotic publishing industry of the 2010’s:
WL: “Write a good story, that’s all that matters; one that’s character driven. There are no original stories. It’s all in the telling.”
EG: “It’s like trying to find an affordable apartment in NYC, It’s impossible. But people do it.”
Pick of the Day: The View From Penthouse B
I may not live in a penthouse but I do have two sisters. So books that explore the sisterly bond are always fun for me; especially when they come from Elinor Lipman. Her quietly self-deprecating web site is one of the nicest I’ve seen for creating mood and forging intimacy. And she was the same way during her signing, genuinely interested in talking to every person on line. Ms. Lipman is actually promoting two books at the same time (talk about multi-tasking!). The second, I Can’t Complain, (All Too) Personal Essays, promises to appeal to fans of Nora Ephron and Anna Quindlen. Isn’t that everyone?
Final Thoughts from Happy Feet
When Kristen and I originally discussed the idea of doing daily blogs from BEA I jumped at the chance. And then I wondered what exactly I’d gotten myself into. Not to overdramatize (what me, never!) I was scared. And very excited.
Thanks to Kristen and Stacy for giving me this opportunity to hopefully move to a new level as both a reader and a writer. At times throughout this process, I’ve wondered if the sore leg muscles (toned biceps from carrying all the free books aside) were worth it. Is anyone really reading?
Watching all the booths being torn down, it felt sad. Like moving out of an apartment you’ve had for several years and saying goodbye to all the memories and your good friends in the neighborhood. The pace of getting to the Javits Center in the morning, so as not to miss anything, taking shots on my smartphone and jotting down notes for the blog at every turn during the day, and then writing it all up at night—frenzied as that may sound, it’s become a way of life. Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself now that it’s all over. Know of any good books I should read?
Speaking of book clubs, let’s all meet back here on July 10th to talk about Shelf Pleasure’s book club pick, The Year of the Gadfly. I met the author Jennifer Miller at an event where she spoke about her unique marketing strategy, and I can tell you, this author is a natural promoter, smart, passionate and authentic. I can’t wait to hear more from her, and of course, read the book!
Jami Kelmenson is a freelance writer and blogger living and loving in New York City. She is currently seeking representation for her first novel, Crossing Paths. Read of her ongoing tales of travel, life, love and the pursuit of getting published in NYC at her blog, www.jamikellywriter.tumblr.com
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