When I was an avid reader growing up, Paul Bacon's dust jackets fired up my young imagination. From John Jake's North and South trilogy, to Joseph Heller's Catch-22, and James Clavell's Shogun among others, he pioneered bold book designs that featured large lettering and minimal illustrations. In a time before Adobe Illustrator and similar programs, he did all his designs, including the lettering by hard! While I am saddened by his passing, I'm grateful for this lasting contributions to the world of books. Read the in-depth obituary here.
Yesterday The New Yorker published an article about some amazing new studies that reveal that (as many of us have suspected) reading is therapeutic and live-enhancing. Witness: "Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers. 'Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines,' the author Jeanette Winterson has written. 'What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.'"
Read the full article here.
Music lovers have Coachella. Comic lovers have Comic-Con. We book lovers have Book Expo America (BEA). It's an annual showcase of the best in publishing, featuring all matter of author and book-related events from panels showcasing upcoming titles, to workshops for industry professionals, to appearances by top authors from around the world. This year promises a huge line-up of new and established authors as well as celebrity authors peddling memoirs and cookbooks. Additionally, every year there's a spotlight on the publishing craft in another country and this year, that country is China. More than 10,000 kinds of Chinese books will be on display! I'll be there, right in the mix, so if you see me, be sure to say hi. Below is a special primer to make your book-loving mouth water.
This time of year, like a mammal about to hibernate, I surround myself with plenty of reading to get me through the cold months. There are so many great books to recommend this season and below are just a few that I have enjoyed or am looking forward to reading.
1. We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas: What a debut! If you aren't reduced to a puddle of tears by certain passages, you are immune to emotion. I loved this book.
2. Some Luck, Jane Smiley: Jane Smiley tackles nothing less than the 20th Century. It's an ambitious undertaking but she clearly has the capability.
3. Nora Webster, Colm Toibin: Another master working at his peak. I'm excited to dive into this one.
4. Prince Lestat, Anne Rice: The genre-busting vampire who captured the imagination of many over the course of ten previous Vampire Chronicles returns just in time for Halloween.
5. Us, David Nicholls: The man who brought us the hilarious and heartbreaking One Day is back examining the ups and downs of marriage and family life.
I also recently had the great fortune to meet the wonderfully talented authors below. It's inspiring to see them at the top of their game and to have the chance to ask them questions about their own inspiration and craft.
I have been busy most of this year working on a new book and I'm happy to report the first draft is in the can. What follows is a heck of a lot of rewriting and editing. I am going to keep you posted here and on social media, so stay turned. I can't reveal more, but I will say that my new novel charts some emotional territory I've wanted to explore for a long time.
One thing I've learned about BookExpo America is that it's impossible to meet every author, pick up every galley, attend every booth, or sit through every panel. I would need an army of clones to accomplish this and since I don't have one, I have to be judicious and not kick myself for missing X author or missing X panel. Yes, BEA can sometimes be like a rich dessert: too much of a good thing!
As BEA unfurled, the subject on the minds on many authors and publishers was the ongoing e-pricing negotiations between Hachette and Amazon. At stake is consumer freedom of choice as well as the role of specific vendors in the marketing and distribution of books. These are heady days for the publishing industry.
This year BEA included bundle of exciting author appearances including John Grisham, Colm Toibin, Carl Hiaasen, Richard Ford, Jane Smiley, Sue Miller, Lemony Snicket, Hampton Sides, and Alan Furst. As always, celebrity authors were in abundance, including Neil Patrick Harris, Alan Cumming, Debi Mazar, Anjelica Huston, and Billy Idol.
I'm also thrilled to have met some amazing up-and-coming authors including Matthew Thomas (We Are Not Ourselves), Jeff Hobbs (The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace...), Malcolm Brooks (Painted Horses), and Terry Hayes (I Am Pilgrim).
This year also marked the debut of BookCon. A one-day-only lovefest for authors and readers, it had a robust turn-out from avid readers who flooded the Javits Center looking for swag, authographs, photo-ops and related goodies.
All in all, it was a jam-packed and satisfying week that gave those like me who love books a chance to plan ahead for a busy year of reading. I would need an army of clones to read all the books promoted of BEA!
I want to thank the terrific folks at BEA for putting on such an amazing show. I'm already looking forward to the next one, May 28-30, 2015!
Enjoy some pics below.
For rabid bibliophiles, BookExpo America, or BEA, is the annual New York City gathering of the publishing industry's best and brightest as they launch titles that will be influential throughout the remainder of the year. This year, a special component, BookCon, is premiering on Saturday, May 31. Featuring special panels and author appearances, it's designed to create an environment for book-lovers and booksellers to enjoy a feast of interactive book content.
I will be at the Javits Center starting Thursday to be part of the action. My publisher, Diverison Books, will also be there, along with tons of other publishers and authors. If you are going to attend, please say hi. I'll be the one with the huge grin on my face and a mountain of books under my arms. Wait: I just described every one else who'll be there!
Here are some moments from last year's BEA. Check my Instagram and Twitter feeds to keep up with all the latest.
You never forget the first time!
Today is the one-year anniversary of the publication of Pieces of Tracy. I want to take a moment to thank everyone who's read the book and offered kind feedback. A year ago, I had no idea how it would feel to be published, to have my contribution out there in the world. But now, I truly appreciate how rewarding it is to have a readership and to know that people from all over have taken Tracy and her story to heart.
Lately I've been working very hard on a new book and although I can't say much about it, I can say that I'm enjoying the process immensely and I'm excited to share the results. Until then, Pieces of Tracy is available wherever digital books are sold. If you haven't read it, yet, give it a try. I think you'll like it.
I'd like to thank all the folks are Diversion Books and my amazing agent, Melissa Sarver White, and the team at Folio Literary. Thanks also to everyone who's followed me on social media. I love connecting with other writers, artists, readers, and more. Every day I'm astonished to connect to such a wealth information and talent. I'm constantly inspired and motivated by you!
Eileen Palma's debut novel from Diversion Books is entitled Worth the Weight. Taking its cues from big screen romantic comedies, it follows Kate Richards, who successfully promotes keeping kids healthy, as she flirts with Jack Moskowitz, a man whose company profits from childhood obesity. If it sounds like a recipe for mismatched love, mistaken identity, and romantic entanglements, it is!
I recently had a chance to ask Eileen about New York, the book's origins, and, of course, writing advice.
We have something in common since we both studied writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Tell me a little about your experience in SLC’s The Writing Institute.
I have to admit I was a little intimidated to walk into a novel writing class at The Writing Institute and announce that I was writing a romantic comedy. Especially after I found out one of my classmates was an oncologist who was writing a sociopolitical satire about Pakistan and another was writing a memoir told in poetic prose. I felt a little out of my league. But, my teachers and classmates took my turn to workshop as seriously as my classmate’s historical fiction book about the changing society of Sao Paulo. I learned many things about the writing craft including plot structure, story logic, character development and word choice.
The workshop process taught me to take the emotion out of it and to let go of words, sentences or even pages that don’t work. My instructors, Patricia Dunn and Jimin Han, didn’t just teach us to be better writers, they also focused on the other things that are a part of the business of being a writer, like social media, query letters, and pitching. My classmates and I formed a tight writing group that meets outside of Sarah Lawrence on a regular basis. David Donnelly, the director of The Writing Institute, was kind enough to invite me to do a reading and Q&A with another alumna. My teachers and classmates made it in my acknowledgements because they were an integral part of getting Worth the Weight ready for publication.
You wrote much of Worth the Weight while your daughter trained at the Chelsea Piers gymnastics team. How important to your novel is the Chelsea location and did it take a lot of effort to bring its locations to life?
Chelsea is a vibrant part of Manhattan where you are surrounded by contradictions, you have centuries old brownstones next to brand-new high rises, cars shooting down the West Side Highway that runs alongside the tranquil Hudson River. Then you have this dog park right in the middle of it all with manufactured concrete hills and dogs racing back and forth while cars race by and people run, skate or bike past. The perfect place with just enough commotion for a mistaken identity romance plot to start. My husband and I went out to lunch at The Frying Pan, a floating restaurant on an old vessel and I just knew Jack and Kate needed to have their first date there. I ordered a burger with no bun and a side salad at New York Burger Co. at least twice a week and wrote for hours there, so of course that was Jack’s favorite burger joint.
I was parked on a side street one night waiting till it was actually legal to leave the car there and I looked up and saw a homey looking brownstone with a stoop lined with potted mums and thought this is where Jack lives. The only place I haven’t been to yet that is featured in the book is The New York Trapeze School because like Kate I’m too much of a control freak to voluntarily fly through the air. The rest of these Chelsea hot spots just found their way into the book as I experienced them myself.
You have used examples of real actors and actresses as influences for the physical aspects of your characters. When you wrote your book, how much did movies, specifically romantic comedies, influence you?
I’ll never forget seeing When Harry Met Sally... in the movie theater when I was in middle school. I was glued to my seat, laughing one minute, then tearing up the next. I instantly became a Nora Ephron fan. I loved the way she took the romantic comedy genre to the next level by asking larger questions like can men and women really be friends? I went on to love Sleepless in Seattle and, of course, You’ve Got Mail. It’s funny because I didn’t intend to create a modern take on You’ve Got Mail when I wrote Worth the Weight, but it ended up having two of the same major themes of mistaken identity and career versus love. It goes to show you that the books and movies you adore influence you sometimes when you don’t even realize it. In general, Nora Ephron’s works taught me that it isn’t enough to just have slapstick comedy. A solid rom-com needs to have depth and meaning that the audience can connect with.
Talk a little about your experience finding an agent (Eric Ruben of the Ruben Agency).
Most people want flowers or jewelry for Mother’s Day. I asked my husband and daughter for a writing conference for my present. So I signed up for the Connecticut Romance Writers of America conference and registered for four pitch sessions. I researched the agents and I chose a pitch session with Eric Ruben because he had a background in humor. I also signed up for an American Idol type thing where you submit your first few pages and have them read in front of hundreds of other writers and a panel of agents and editors.
I was sitting in my seat having a panic attack after the panel had torn apart the first few submissions, when they read the first few pages of Worth the Weight aloud. Eric Ruben interrupted the reader and said, “I like this. The author has a funny voice and that isn’t something you can teach. They either have one or they don’t.” An hour later I introduced myself to Eric at my pitch session by saying, “I’m the one who wrote the supersized stroller story.” He said, “You don’t have to say another word. Send me your manuscript.” A month later on Father’s Day, I was relaxing on the beach with my family when Eric called and signed me as his client.
What advice to you have for a budding author who’s eager to be published?
One of my favorite novels from last year was Jamie Ford's Songs of Willow Frost. Set in Depression-era Seattle, it tells the tale of an orphan boy in search of the mother he lost. A bestseller in hardcover, Songs of Willow Frost is now out in paperback. I highly recommend it.
Jamie, like me, is huge comic book fan (you know, the kind who keeps his comics minty-fresh in a plastic sleeve!) so when I caught up with him for a 5-in-5, we geeked out a bit.
Jamie is also my social media role model and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et al. Make sure you follow him.
1. Do you read current comics or re-read the comics you loved when you were younger?
I re-read a lot of stuff from my youth, but also read a lot of newer graphic novels.
2. Did any particular super heroes or storylines have a big impact on you?
The Dark Phoenix saga and Frank Miller's run on Daredevil were my favorites as a kid.
3. How has reading comics influenced the way you write/look at your fiction?
I think about telling a story first and lest about the clever arrangement of words on the page. I'm less into linguistic, literary jiu-jitsu, and more into pure storytelling.
4. Advice for an unpublished author?
Don't read your favorite authors while you write. That's like reading Vogue while trying to lose weight--you'll die a death of comparison.
5. What's next for you?
More travel! More touring! More airline peanuts and sleepless nights!
Some call it the Writing Cave, or the Writing Cubby, or the Writing Well. I call it the Writing Bubble, that special place that writers go to do the thing they love the most. After last year's publication of Pieces of Tracy and all the related online activity, I'm switching gears and retreating (somewhat) to the Writing Bubble in order to devote myself to my next book. While I would love to share details, now isn't the time. But I do have a story that's coming along nicely and even a working title. That's all I can say for now. I want to thank everyone for understanding why the entries might be coming a little less frequently. However, I'm still active on social media so please say hello on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram when you see me!