The Real World

I made 2 New Year’s resolutions for 2010.

1) Try to expand my food repertoire by cooking a recipe from a cookbook once a week. I’ve already broken this resolution after my first few recipes were flops.

2) Get out in the real world more. Everyone’s talking about online marketing and social networking these days…but I want to give a plug for getting together in real life too.

Yesterday I saw two authors in the “real world” and it was worth more than a million emails.

Turns out Ellen Galinsky isn’t just the President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute as well as the author of the forthcoming book Mind in the Making — she also happens to be an amazing photographer. I had the pleasure of seeing her latest exhibit yesterday in Dobbs Ferry.

After being inspired by Ellen, it was off to meet upcoming HarperStudio author Sascha Zuger for dinner with her son and parents. We’ve been Twitter buddies for a while, and I’ve been psyched to read her memoir about her journey from a 9 to 5 office job to working on a commercial shrimp boat on the Great Barrier Reef and sailing across the South Pacific — but nothing compares to hearing her awesome adventure stories over a bowl of pasta. Having a kid hasn’t seemed to slow her down an iota (if I heard her correctly, I believe she said she’s traveled to 20 countries with her 7 year old son?). Crazy. Inspiring. Can’t wait to read her book even more now.

And speaking of the real world, everyone’s always asking me if the book tour is dead — and honestly, I’m not sure. I do believe there’s a bigger opportunity to make it successful using the tools available today on the internet as well as by being extra creative. Here are two book tours that I want to point out as food for thought:

Stephen Elliott wrote about The D.I.Y Book Tour in the New York Times about a month ago. It doesn’t seem perfect, but certainly interesting and seemed worthwhile if you ask me.

Gretchen Rubin has done (and continues to do) a big tour. I’ve been following along on her blog and it seems that there are a lot of “Happiness is a Great Book Event in…” posts — so she did something right. I know she asked the readers of her blog early on where they’d be interested in having her visit, and I believe part of the tour may have been sponsored by a magazine (I don’t know more details than that), but I’m dying for the full wrap up from Gretchen on what worked and why, and what to skip in the future.

And then of course there was Gary’s tour which was a huge success. Check out the Facebook pages he created which really helped spread the word and gauge numbers in advance.

Would love to hear from anyone out there about what you find working in the real world…

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What’s Next In Book Promotion?

Gary at Hudson NewsHow does the man who shows up on TVs in gas stations and billboards in New Jersey top that?

He agrees to do a “Hudson Hustle Tour.” That would be 6 Airport Hudson News Stores in 24 Hours. Check it out on Facebook. Tell all of your friends who might be traveling on November 2nd and 3rd to come say hi…and follow along on Facebook and Twitter if you can’t make it.

Here are the airports: LGA, ORD, DFW, DEN, LAX, and EWR.

Pass it on!

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Crushing a Book Tour

Have you seen Gary‘s book tour page? It’s insane. Gary is stopping by over 30 locations to talk about Crush It! and sign copies from October to December, and he’ll most likely be landing in a city near you. In true Gary Vaynerchuk style, he is crushing this book tour! Check out the loooong list of events and make sure you RSVP if you plan on going to one (or more)!Gary Vaynerchuk's Crush It! book tour

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What Makes A Bookstore Great?

Prairie Lights BookstoreAubrey Lynch from Tor arranged a little get together last Wednesday night at Lily’s in the city. I had such a great time talking books and publishing with passionate book peeps. One of the many topics covered was why Aubrey loves Prairie Lights. I asked her to write a a post explaining what makes it such a wonderful place:

A few weeks ago I made a trip out to Iowa–the order of business, meeting my boyfriend’s parents for the first time–daunting, to say the least. But one of the things I was most excited about doing while I was in Iowa City was visiting the infamous Prairie Lights Bookstore. Infamous in that it has a reputation for putting on great author events and for being a conscientious and passionate bookseller. How could I resist? I am a booklover to the core and was, at one time, an aspiring writer. Of course I had heard of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the fact that Iowa City is the world’s third City of Literature (as designated by UNESCO). With so much to recommend the city as one of the world’s centers of literature, I was hoping to find the bookstore I’d always been looking for—and wow, did I find it. Here’s what I found.

  • Prairie Lights Bookstore felt homey—almost like I was walking into a room in my own house (well, that is, if I had a nice big house and not a “cozy” apartment in Brooklyn)—I can’t explain it—something just felt familiar, comfortable and safe about it. Maybe it was the warm colors or the carpet. Maybe it was the lighting. It was quiet without being a library and the people who worked there seemed very happy to be right where they were.
  • What was most impressive was that scattered throughout the store—in places where people would be most likely to see them, were lists of book awards and the titles of the books that had most recently won those awards. Talk about making things easy for a casual browser who might have thought about reading mysteries in the past but didn’t want to risk spending money on a book that wasn’t that great and that would forever be their first impression of the genre (I say this because I am often that cautious browser).
  • When I went to find the science fiction and fantasy section, right there, right smack dab in the middle of everything, was an announcement for the release date of the Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson book in the Wheel of Time series that fans have been anxiously waiting for! Here was the exact date that the book would come out—in November! And no one is paying them to do this. No one asked them. It wasn’t a sponsored announcement—they did it because they love the books and they are fans. Honestly, these are the types of people I want to sell me books—people who are anticipating the next book in a series, just like I am—people who love the work of authors and who love to tell the world about it!
  • Cubes of bookshelves that you could see over—it opened up the room a lot—I never felt like I had to wonder about what was around the next corner—everything felt very open—the perfect word for the way the books were laid out, to me, would be “organic”—like following the paths your mind would naturally take.
  • A café in the bookstore—not a bookstore in a café which is how I sometimes feel when I walk into a store that’s trying to do both. The focus is on the books, not the drinks they are going to sell you. It was tucked away on the 2.5th floor. It was quiet, without obtrusive music blasting—leaving readers to quietly sip and read.
  • The people—Wow—the people who work in that store really know their stuff—they are fans as well—they love to read the galleys so that they know what books they can recommend to people before they come out—they have very specific tastes and even if they don’t read the types of books that you do, someone very close by will be able to help you.
  • The owner works on the floor. This is important. The owner talks to readers/customers every day—the owner knows what the customers want. The owner cares about you, the books, the authors. The employees and the store.
  • A newsletter from the store and community postings. This bookstore is all about the community—but not in a “self-serving, we only want to sell you stuff” kind of way.

There is so much more about this store that’s incredible but I think you should check it out for yourself to see:

Prairie Lights Bookstore

15 South Dubuque Street

Iowa City, IA 52240

http://www.prairielights.com/

I’d love to hear from others about what makes a bookstore great for them — , and then I’ll compile a list of the top 50.

And Juliet Grames — I want a post on “Why I’m a Borders Girl.”

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The Literary City

Ian Huebert drew a really fun interpretation of San Francisco for the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review last Sunday, creating a map of literary quotes from the writers that brought it to life. Imagine navigating the rolling hills with just this and a couple of paperbacks…

The Literary City by Ian Huebert for the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

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4 Books, 2 Weeks, 1 Vacation — Not a Lick of Paper

Debbie's reading spot in the Virgin IslandsI just got back from two weeks off. In the past I’d travel with a suitcase full of books to alleviate any fears that I might not have something good to read (nothing worse than not liking your vacation book). Summer 2009, I traveled with 1 Kindle, 1 iPhone, and 1 Blackberry. I read books, blogs, magazines and newspapers on all 3 devices. It was glorious in every way, though I do have to admit to having one sinking feeling on the plane when I realized I had nothing to read during take off. Besides that moment, the transition to digital reading is complete. I loved being able to download a book from a boat when I finished one and was ready for the next.

Here’s quick and dirty re-cap of what I read:

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah — I loved it. I realize I’m late to the party on this one, but I never got around to it when it first came out, and now my son has to read for school. I sobbed and sobbed numerous times. I had one moment of thinking “is this all true?” — and when I looked up online and saw controversy, I clicked off quickly. I don’t want to know. To me it was real. Takes a powerful book to move me like that.

The Odyssey — Again, Summer assignment for my son. I read quickly, had trouble enjoying. Will go back and re-read when he gets home and try to find the joy (suggestions welcome). I did read this in college and remember the gist — I’m looking to find the joy though.

Lies My Mother Never Told Me by Kaylie Jones — This is a memoir by the daughter of the prize-winning novelist, James Jones that comes out on August 25, 2009 from William Morrow. I toggled between this and The Odyssey. It’s about a young woman’s struggle with addiction (her own and her mother’s) as well as her coming of age as a writer. Set in Paris, New York, and Sag Harbor with characters such as Bill Styron and Norman Mailer throughout the book, this is a lot of fun to read. (Full disclosure: I haven’t quite finished, but I’m looking forward to getting back to it).

Double Take by Kevin Michael Connolly — comes out from HarperStudio on October 13. I’d read this before on the fly, but wanted to re-read in the comfort of a hammock overlooking the ocean. Loved it every bit as much the second time around. This is the story of young man born without legs who traveled the world with his camera- and found out what it truly means to be human along the way. I think this is going to be big. Great quotes just in from Sara Gruen and Lee Woodruff.

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Dispatches from Kabul: The 1,000 Person Wedding

Wedding by AP Photo/Samir Mizban

The other morning I was invited to do an interview over breakfast at the home of a shopkeeper whom I had already interviewed several times at his work, a trendy, four-story Kabul department store selling elaborately beaded dresses from India ranging in price from $200 to well over $1000. Brides often come with their families to choose one of several outfits which will be worn during what are usually two days of wedding celebrations.

After my generous host wheeled out a delicious continental buffet of chai, naan bread, yoghurt, and cherry jam from Iran, we spoke of his family; he has four children, three of whom were toddlers during the fighting which took place in the country’s north during the Taliban years. He then asked me whether I was married, to which my mischievous colleague, who also serves as my guide and chaperone here, answered, “Yes, she is. Ask her how many people were at her wedding!”

My mild-mannered host looked at me with an expression that formed a question mark, compelling me to elaborate. Yes, I answered, I was married about a year ago. And we had 18 people at the wedding.

“18?” Disbelief and laughter followed. He shook his head and marveled that the number was only double-digit — and low double-digits at that. “Do you know that Afghan weddings are usually at least 1000 people? A small wedding here would be 500 or so guests.”

Now I was in awe. I had heard for years about big and marvelously fun Afghan weddings with music and food and an overflow of family and friends. But 1000 seemed an extraordinarily large number.

“Oh, yes,” said my host. “1000 at least; sometimes much more. And you have to feed all those people!” This means ordering sacks and sacks of sugar and rice and vegetables and meat weeks ahead of time; no big-box super stores here to turn to for last-minute supplies. Over-sized party sites large enough to fit thousands and featuring glamorous monickers such as “Kabul-Paris Wedding Hall” are serious — and lucrative — business here in the capital.

“But that must cost a fortune,”I asked. “How does anyone afford it? In the States weddings are quite expensive; that is part of why people try to limit the guest list. Five hundred people is an enormous wedding in America!”

Weddings are very expensive here, too, said my host. Too expensive. My colleague agreed. People save up for years to afford them. And sometimes the price of a wedding stops the marriage from happening at all. In Kabul, weddings can run upwards of $10,000 to $15,000. An unmanageably large sum for most.

Still, he said, 18 people was too small! If I wanted to have a more affordable wedding with everyone I wished to invite, I should come to Kabul. For the same cost as my small, State-sized nuptials, I could have 1500 people and lots of good food and music here in Afghanistan. Never mind that I am in my mid-30s, well beyond the usual age for marriage here.

“Next time!” I joked, knowing that most Afghans do not share the American belief in multiple attempts when it comes to marriage. “You know we Americans often try two or three times to get it right.” My host broke out into a rolling round of morning laughter. And so did I.

- Gayle Tzemach

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Here is New York

For the adventurous book-lover, check out New York Times Book Review’s Literary Map of New York. Discover where your favorite literary characters once lived, worked and visited.

literary map of manhattan

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Notes from Kabul #2: Driving in Afghanistan is Darwinian

Gayle Tzemach is a journalist currently living in Kabul where she is at work on her book The Dress Maker of Khair Khana:

Today as we battled our way back from Kabul University in inch-by-inch traffic, I heard a police siren. Turning around to see what was happening, I watched a jacked-up grey pick-up truck pass us on the left. Turns out you can buy horns which sound like sirens. My fixer told me they are very popular.

A motor hierarchy governs the roads. Big white SUVs toting foreign VIPs, government officials, and all of the UN officials are the bullies, regularly cutting off with bravado anyone smaller.  We play chicken daily with an assortment of battered mini vans and station wagons, but when it comes to trucks and buses, my driver lets them have their way. Creative maneuvering is his specialty: The other day we drove our car in reverse for two full blocks when we overshot the pale guarded gate of the foreigner’s restaurant where I was meeting a friend for lunch.  Those who loved “A Bronx Tale” would be proud.

Safety standards are different here than in the developed world…. 

(more…)

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