Sunday, October 7, 2007

Midwest Beauty, Bookselling, and Bummer

Put the bummer right in the beginning. Four hours at O'Hare last night (which is when I started this entry, hence the Sunday date). I could have driven to Madison, Wisconsin. But that's not why I've got a picture of Hell's Kitchen here. This is a good Hell. It's where I ate breakfast yesterday morning in Minneapolis (Hell's Kitchen motto: "Damn Good Food" -- they were right). I had the crab cake with poached eggs and Paul had the Huevos Rancheros. The hot sauce on the table was called "Bottled Hell." The decor was hip and funky and the line was out the door. Good thing we had reservations.
It's good to walk a city with someone who knows it. Paul Von Drasek grew up here. His dad was a doctor in a small nearby town. Paul is the oldest of four boys. "We couldn't get away with anything," he said, "because my dad was the town doctor and everybody knew him!"

Paul knows Minneapolis. "I think this is Loring Park," he says. It is.

Fall is everywhere.

It's easy to forget there's a booksellers' convention going on just blocks away.

Somewhere over there:

After a too-brief peek into the sculpture garden at the Walker Art Center, we take ourselves back to the convention center where The Moveable Feast of Authors is about to take place.

Booksellers stay put at round tables during lunch. Authors.... move. Every ten or fifteen minutes. The first time I participated in a Moveable Feast, I was so shy and so new to publishing -- everything was scary. It was 2002 in Fort Lauderdale during a SEBA (Southern Booksellers) conference. I sat in a room full of authors, listening to Executive Director Wanda Jewell explain how each of us would move from table to table during the evening's meal, meeting upward of forty new people in under two hours, and I said (under my breath, I thought), "Oh, that's awful!" and Wanda swiveled in my direction like a machine, clapped her hands once with command, pointed to me, and barked, "NO IT'S NOT. YOU'RE GOING TO LOVE IT."

And I did. It's a joyous, fast-paced affair, sort of like speed dating. Here in the Midwest, Susan Walker is executive director of MBA and she pairs two authors at each table, so I have a partner each time and not only meet booksellers, I meet a different author each time I move and learn about his/her new book. Bliss.

This is Joyce Sidman with her new Houghton book, THIS IS JUST TO SAY: Poems about Apology and Forgiveness. It's such a fabulous book. The premise alone is fantastic; the poems themselves are little jewels. The art is just-right. The... well, you'll have to see for yourself.

I remember discovering Joyce's SONG OF THE WATER BOATMAN AND OTHER POND POEMS two years ago on book tour with LITTLE BIRD. Yvonne Rogers at Lemuria hand sold it to me. I am still madly in love with that book. It won a Caldecott honor for Beckie Prange. I want to shower honors on Joyce's poetry.
One last photo. These are brand-spanking-new booksellers. In a day when independent bookstores face such difficult challenges in the marketplace, along come entrepreneurs who plunge right in. Let's all go buy books from Novel Ideas in Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin and Cate's Books and Stuff in Louisiana, Missouri.

Minneapolis: My work here is done. O'Hare awaits, and you know that story. I have had bad airport luck this season; some seasons are like that. But finally, late last night, I got to Madison, Wisconsin where, smiling at the bottom of the escalator and holding her copy of LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER, was Chris Antonuzzo, librarian at Rome Corners Intermediate School in Oregon, Wisconsin. I'll be spending the day with her fifth graders on Tuesday.

Today, Monday, I'll be in the School District of Belleville. I want to tell you all about these schools, and I want to talk about school visits -- I Have Opinions. First I'll get myself ready and out the door. My throat is sore. That joyous Moveable Feast involves much shouting in a room with lots of noise. I've got my water and Ricola with me today. No airports, thank goodness. I can't believe that I return to O'Hare tomorrow, however. May the travel gods be peaceful. Today, may the school-visit gods smile.