Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Brooklyn Book Festival

Elizabeth Zelvin

The weather was perfect. The readers were buying. And book lovers were out in force at the Brooklyn Book Festival in Borough Hall Plaza in downtown Brooklyn, right across the river from lower Manhattan. This was my third year participating—selling and signing books at the Sisters in Crime’s and Mystery Writers of America’s New York chapter booths—but never on such a sparkling day (it poured buckets a couple of years ago, very disappointing for visitors and discouraging for vendors). Nor do I remember ever before making enough money to feel more than compensated for lugging many pounds of hardcover books up and down subway stairs—and going home at the end of the day with a delightfully lightweight roller bag.

My first stint, at the Sisters in Crime booth, was at 11 am, but I arrived in time to stroll around the plaza, getting the lay of the land, seeing who-all was there, and getting myself a few books. The National Book Foundation, which gives out the ultra-prestigious National Book Awards, had a bulletin board and blocks of Post-its, inviting passersby to tell the world what we’re reading. The items submitted so far ran heavily to classics and literary fiction—Moby Dick, The Grapes of Wrath, Siddhartha, if I remember correctly—and I wasn’t sure I believed them, but I redressed the balance by putting up a sticky citing my own Death Will Get You Sober. I really am rereading it—checking for typos in anticipation of a new e-edition soon. And just to show I can match weight with the literati, I put up a second sticky for the last literary novel I read, Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies (sequel to the Man Booker Prize winner, Wolf Hall), which I really loved. The Foundation was also giving away copies of National Book Award finalists. I got to take home Paolo Bacigalupi’s Young Adult novel, Ship Breaker, “a top-notch dystopian thriller,” according to one of the blurbs, that I’m looking forward to reading.

Shopping for the grandkids is one of my greatest pleasures these days, and now that both of them are reading, the pleasure is doubled. Knowledgeable booksellers helped me choose The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente for the 8-year-old and What is Dreaming? by Etan Boritzer for the 5-year-old. I had time to say hello to fellow mystery writer Grace F. Edwards, who was signing at the Harlem Writers Guild table, and buy a copy of her Do or Die.

At the Sisters in Crime booth, our latest anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices was selling like, well, fresh slices, which I hope you denizens of the wild lands beyond the Hudson River understand means pizza. Some passersby were attracted not to my three mysteries or my album of original songs but to the Outrageous Older Woman button I was giving away with the CD of the same name. (At least three people told me I should tell customers that the button cost $10 and the CD came with it for free.)

Our booth wasn’t far from a stage where poets were reading from their work—pleasantly, but not obtrusively. When my stint was over, I joined the audience at the Youth Stage and had lunch sitting in the sun and listening to a panel of middle grade authors tell how they weave their own childhood memories, experience, and traumas into their work.

In the afternoon, I joined a lively crowd at the MWA booth that included Annamaria Alfieri, Reed Farrel Coleman, Laura Joh Rowland, Katia Lief, Andy Siegel, Al Ashforth, and Lyndsay Faye
(with me in photo, shot, er, taken, er, snapped by Andy Siegel), who was selling the UK paperback edition of her hot new thriller, The Gods of Gotham, for practically nothing, another irresistible buy that I can’t wait to read.


Sandra Parshall said...

Sounds like you had a great time. I've already bought your album, so where's my button??

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Next time I see you, Sandy. :) Forgot to mention when the Festival took place--last Sunday. There've been a flood of emails among the MWA members who attended about what a great time everybody had. I think the weather gods smiling had a lot to do with the festive spirit that day along with good organization by Rosemary Harris and Annamaria Alfieri at MWA and Catherine Maiorisi and her team at SinC.

Leigh Neely said...

Sounds like a great day. I truly missed being there this year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks bunches for sharing this!!!!