Book Expo America 2007 - Literati Glitterati Shine

Book Expo America, the publishing industry's biggest gathering outside of the international show in London, celebrated another highly successful event this year in its Big Apple venue.

A. J. Jacobs, author of "Year of Living Biblically," with friend, St. Martin's Press author Steve Cohen

Jacob Javitz Center's exhibit halls invited with booths of what seemed to be thousands of industry exhibitors and, whether it be an ABA, book seller-related educational event or an author autographing, there was something exciting going on at any given time. 

Traditionally a preview show for members of the retail book selling trade and librarians, Expo boasts hundreds of author signings over the three-day event. 

Author Tom Perrotta ("Little Children" and now "The Abstinence Teacher")signs his latest book and mugs for the camera with book seller friend, Tim Huggins


This year's signing roster included from stage and screen Alan Alda, Robby Benson, Bruce Dern, ABC Channel 7's Bill Evans, Charles Grodin, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., John Lithgow, and Russell Simmons, among others.  Wildlife spokesperson Joan Embery was there, too, with hubby Duane Pillsbury, promoting Merck's new guidebook for companion animal care, 'The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health, Home Edition,' and handling a handsome live toucan.

Wildlife champion Joan Embery introduces a pal

Literary glitterati included Margaret Atwood, who appeared 'virtually' via LongPen from Vancouver, BC.  Unveiled at this year's London Book Show, LongPen is Atwood's brainchild allowing authors to do signings via Internet.  LongPen was well received as it made its BEA debut this year, having previously earned a seal of approval from Dean Koontz, an author renowned for never traveling, who signed at the London event from his living room in Los Angeles.

Authors Adams and Heath with their co-production "Why We Read What We Read" (Adams Media)

'Because they like technology so much, the children really love this,' Grace O'Connell, Marketing Manager for LongPen, told me.  'And what could be better for encouraging literacy?'  I couldn't agree more. 

Random House (Bantam Dell) authors Koontz, George RR Martin, and Diana Gabaldon also signed at BEA via LongPen from Santa Fe, NM, Newport Beach, CA, and Scottsdale, AZ, respectively.  So did authors Douglas Preston (Grand Central Publishing), Patrick Carman (Little, Brown), and Tracy Chevalier (Dutton) signed from Round Pound, ME, WallaWalla, WA, and London, respectively. 

In-person signings included Mike Berenstein, July Blume, Jan Brett, Deepok Chopra, Mary Higgins Clark, 'Dr. Ruth,' Westheimer, Patty Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul author/editor), Joyce Carol Oates, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus ('The Nanny Diaries' authors), Luanne Rice, Rosemary Wells, Dennis Wholey, and many others.

Gail Tsukyama signs her new book "The Street of a Thousand Blossoms"

Lines for autographs by St. Martins authors Gail Tsukiyama ('The Street of a Thousand Blossoms') and Tom Perrotta ('The Abstinence Teacher') wound around and around their booth.  After his success with the adaptation for 'Little Children,' Perrotta told me he is busy these days penning the screenplay for 'Teacher.'

"skirt!" publisher Niki Holmes, now promoter of "skirt!" Books (Globe Pecquot Press) signs new imprint's first title

Television sensation Rosie O'Donnell hosted a breakfast panel that included Paulo Coelho, Alice Sebold, and Ian McEwan- an interesting combination of literary and screen talent at one table.  O'Donnell's book is 'Celebrity Detox' (Grand Central Publishing).

McEwan was his usual elegant self and spoke about his new- and short- novel, a sea change of sorts from his original 1100-page effort he turned out in his 20's that caught editor, Nan Talese's eye. 

'You can feel the architecture more in a short novel,' McEwan said.  'It has an immediate sensual quality.'  His latest book, 'On Chesil Beach' (Doubleday), is about two virgins- as he describes them- who marry and take their honeymoon at a small seaside hotel.  He joked, 'Their marriage only last(s) about six hours, so the short novel seemed the most appropriate.'  He added that the novel is one of failure.  'I hope,' he said, 'one of very tender failure.'

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen take a moment from the LONG signing line for a photo

Speaking of the extreme opposite of failure, publishing industry stars Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were there, signing copies of their latest Chicken Soup for the Soul volumes, 'Beachlover's,' and 'New Mom's.'  Somehow, the pair got scheduled for back-to-back signings, so I walked-and-talked with them as they made their way from booth to author signing area downstairs. 

'Ever been downstairs?' Hansen joked, knowing that I, being a former bookseller, was well acquainted.  As we navigated the throng of fans, I asked him how things had gone at the Show that week.  Despite all he'd been involved in:  signings, appearances at publisher HCI's booth, and his 'Mega Book New York' seminar, he wanted only to praise BEA coordinators.

'Our projects got their start at BEA,' Hansen reminded.  Of course, there is more to the Chicken Soup for the Soul success story than that, including a $100 church tithe, and then there is that itty bitty 'Secret' thing in which Jack Canfield's now- mega-successfully- involved.  But Hansen was focused.  'This is a big event, this BEA- a very big event,' he said.  'Lance Fensterman (BookExpo America Event Director) is really on top of all of this and does an amazing job every year.'  I couldn't have said it better myself.

As we walked through the backstage portion of the signing area I glanced through the stage curtain to see more fans waiting in a long, velvet-roped line.  From humble beginnings to rock star status' You'll be hearing more about these publishing stars' plans and future adventures here shortly.

New Benjamin Franklin Book Award winner ("Best First Book) Larry Sager shows off his "No Guns, No Knives, No Personal Checks..."

San Francisco attorney and first-time author and BEA attendee Larry Sager was at the show signing copies of his novel 'No Guns, No Knives, No Personal Checks:  The Tales of a San Francisco Cab Driver.'  The title had just, two days prior, received the coveted Publishers' Marketing Association's highest honor of a Benjamin Franklin award for 'Best First Book.'

'I cannot believe what's been happening,' Sager told me.  'We won the award, which is fantastic, but I've had so much interest here at the show, and several discussions for adaptations already.'

As for literati glitterati, perhaps another rising star is born!

Text and photos copyright M. D. Caprario

M. D. Caprario is a writer working in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, and wherever there is good news to be written about books, film and entertainment.  Reach her at [email protected]


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