Yesterday I spent the day at the ALA Midwinter meeting. Early in the morning I had breakfast with booksellers. We met at the U.S. Grant Hotel, and the conversation flowed instantly. Put book lovers and coffee together and off we go. We talked about The Silver Boat, and I was thrilled to hear they plan to recommend it for book clubs. I love and am honored to know that readers discuss my novels, using my stories to reflect on issues in their own lives. No Woman is an Island; that's my motto.
Publication of The Silver Boat, once seeming forever-off, is just around the corner in April. It was wonderful to convene with such great book people. Tom Benton of Penguin (a recipient of Publisher Weekly's Sales Rep of the Year award) organized the breakfast, where nourishment came much more from the booksellers' warmth and love of books and my appreciation and love of booksellers than the (absolutely delicious) muffins.
Heading to the Convention Center, I was greeted by the elegant, kind, and incredibly delightful Dominique Jenkins, whom I absolutely adore, and who did so much to ease my day and welcome readers to my booth signing. She stayed so vigilant on my behalf, waiting to hear from a friend trying to park outside, guiding her (a Facebook friend turned actual friend) Machel Penn Schull, through the maze of displays so we could finally meet. Machel is a talented, dear-hearted, compassionate friend and writer.
The Penguin booth was a haven where along with Dominique, I got to hang out with Howard Wall, instant best-friend since the Penguin 75th anniversary party at Vroman's and the Keeper (librarian in his own right) of Penguin History; Alan Walker (rock star when not overseeing major events such as ALA...humble rock star at that; it took my mentioning guitar lessons for him to tell me just a little of his music life. The man and his band have played everywhere,) and the luminous, efficient, and visionary Tanya, with whom I enjoyed deep conversation between signing copies. Publishing people are angels, pure and simple.
Many visitors to the booth commented that it was great to know that I'm back at Viking, working with Pam Dorman. Over and over I heard how wonderful Pam is (it's so true,) and people who know our history together remarked that Pam knows me so well, and is doing such an amazing job publishing The Silver Boat. I couldn't agree more.
Hildy Barger, one of the first people in line, told me I was her favorite writer, completely making my day and causing me to hand Dominique my camera and ask her to take Hildy's and my picture.
The librarians! Many stopped by to talk about and pick up signed advance-reading copies of The Silver Boat. They were so kind and enthusiastic, and I thank them all. Two have inaugurated what I believe to be The Silver Boat's first official Book Club selection.
Here we are, Robin Hoklotubbe of the County of San Bernardino Library and her friend Carole Macias. They belong to the Girlfriend Book Club in Corona, CA, and I'm so excited to know they've chosen my novel to discuss.
Another librarian told me she has sisters and is going through something similar to the sisters in The Silver Boat, having to do with the death of their mother and the sudden reality of being left with her house, a place where they'd all gathered and been happy, spent holidays together, and now what? Having gone through that situation in my own life, I've drawn on it in fiction.
I was happy to meet Meredith Myers of StandUpLibrarian.com, whose business card reads, "So a comedian walks into a library and decides to work there."She wore the cutest hat. She's not your grandmother's librarian, but then again, who is? Librarians are hot. That's the truth.
At one point I was interviewed and asked who my current favorite librarian is. Very difficult question. But Amy Rhilinger of the Attleboro (MA) Public Library is up at the top of the list. Amy uses her art and creativity to enhance the reading experience; recently she instituted a poetry program for middle schoolers, and any librarian who gets an eighth-grader into W.B. Yeats, Mary Oliver, Charles Bukowski, fringe poets, romantic poets, haiku poets, activist poets, any poets-- is great by me.
The Gala Author Tea, (sponsored by ALTAFF) was enchanting, literary, and so important: encouraging love, use, and support of libraries. I shared a panel with Conor Grennan (Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal); Paula McLain (The Paris Wife); Richard Louv (The Nature Principle.) We were welcomed by Marilyn Johnson, (This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All.)
The writers' presentations were varied and incredibly interesting, and I feel so lucky to have signed books from all. Susan Schmidt, Division Councilor of ALTAFF, gave me perhaps the most wonderful introduction I've ever had. Thank you, Susan, for seeing me that way...
After the tea, it was great to speak with Carol Fitzgerald. Founder and president of Bookreporter.com, among other sites, Carol gives so much time, wisdom, and support to writers and readers, bringing us together. She is dynamic and wonderfully warm, and I only wish we'd had more time to spend together.
P.S. I love our surprise visitor in the photo, but she was on her way before I could get her name. Hi! I love you.