This is my introduction and explanation of what I hope will become a regular series offering a quick look at the glossy presentations authors give in public appearances. In addition to my super-secret-identity as the undiscovered next-big-thing novelist, my part time day job, and my full time parenting gig, I’m also just another New Yorker strapped for cash, looking for a little fun. What better way to get out of the house than to start tracking down some of the numerous author events popping up all around the city? They’re free! They’re close to public transportation! They’re practically begging to be hit up!
Over the summer, I owed my sanity to the Bryant Park Reading Room. Thanks to those good folks, I was able to get out of the house with my infant daughter, catch some sun, and learn from the likes of Mira Jacob, Courtney Maum, Ted Thompson, Tiphanie Yanique, Kevin Smith, Robin Black, Marie-Helene Bertino, and Scott Snyder. (Due to my baby and my questionable organizational skills, I missed many of their other talented assemblies.)
Now that their season has wrapped, The New York Public Library grabbed the torch with its Books at Noon series, barely a hop away in their beautiful Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (confused by everyone outside of New York as “THE New York Public Library” rather than it’s stylish figurehead). This will help get me through November, but I’m discovering that plain ol’ Barnes and Noble is none too shabby in this department either.
So, why exactly am I using the little free time that I have to hunt down all the events I can feasibly fit into my schedule? And why do I think you would like to share them with me?
What seems like a lifetime ago, in the context of the publishing world, Suzanne Collins changed my perspective. No, not the Hunger Games, although that series certainly made an impression: it was actually Suzanne Collins herself. I took the day off from work to be at Borders the day Mocking Jay was released: to hear her speak, pick up my signed copy, and, of course, start in on it before my wife got home and I’d have to share. The thing was: Suzanne Collins was just a person. She was a person who handled herself better in front of the crowd than I could, but she still just a person who had the spark to start in on something that eventually became a smash-bang finished product. It was the first time I had a concrete glimpse at the separation between that hard-and-fast-printed-in-stone-final piece and the human being who sat on a couch, drowsily flipping through the tv channels.
It was inspiring.
And it was possible, in part, because I lived in New York, where there enough dollars and people to justify events like the one Borders hosted that day. I’m not pretending that I will learn these author’s intimate motivations or even if they picked their own outfit to wear that day. The thing is: watching Maggie Stiefvater bounce around on stage like a puppy blessed with superior language skills, listening to Colson Whitehead ramble like the last guest at your dinner party, and wondering at how much Elizabeth Kostova sounded just like the historians she was writing about helped bring home to me that, unlike their works we bring home to read, even the most successful authors are far from being stylized, finished products. So I’d like to share some of this inspirational relatablity with those of you can’t make it to some of these events- or, even if you can and wind up sitting right next to me (and wondering why you got stuck sitting next to the jerk who brought a baby to this event), I’d still love to share the experience with you. (Although in the latter case, please spare the expletives in front of my daughter- she’s young, and I’ll be trying so very hard to keep her quiet!)