BookExpo 2010, New York City: A Guest Post by Ken Waldman

When I left Anchorage in June, 2001 to head on tour, I had a book of poetry and two CDs. Nine years later, I still work full-time as a touring artist, and am fortunate to have several more books and CDs. The past year I’ve spent most of my time in New York City—long story!—which allows me to attend events like BookExpo——the annual gathering of the book trade. I’d gone last year, and sent a few observations to 49 Writers. Here’s some of what I found this time around.

Signs of the book business:

Last year’s exhibit hall was open four days and filled most of two convention center floors. This year, the hall was open just two days with a single floor of booths. Though all the major publishers were present, there were a fraction of smaller presses. Attendance was estimated at 30,000. That’s plenty of booksellers, librarians, publishers, authors, and more. All those people walking the floor—it certainly felt busy.

Alaska and the North:

At Red Hen Press, I leafed through Peggy Shumaker’s just-published book, GNAWED BONES.

At Duke University Press, I browsed the 2009 anthology, THE ALASKA NATIVE
READER: History Culture, Politics.

I also picked up several catalogs and found these upcoming titles:

University of Nebraska Press (same publisher that recently released books by Marybeth Holleman and Jennifer Brice), THE HARD WAY HOME, by Steve Kahn, coming this October.

Sasquatch Books (this Seattle publisher has long had a close relationship with Alaska writers), SOMETHING FISHY THIS WAY COMES, the artwork of Ray Troll, coming this October.

Counterpoint Books (a Northern California publisher), GOLD DIGGERS, Striking it Rich in the Klondike, by Charlotte Gray, a Canadian writer, coming in September.

Douglas & McIntyre (a Vancouver B.C. publisher), INUIT MODERN, edited by Gerald McMaster, coming in November. Art from circumpolar Canada.

Also, I understand Tony Hopfinger and Amanda Coyne have a book coming out this October, CRUDE AWAKENING, with Nation Books. It’s not mentioned on the Nation Books website, but is on the site of literary agent Gail Ross (I haven’t seen any previous notice here at 49 Writers).

Apologies to Northern writers whose new books were listed somewhere at BookExpo,and I didn’t find. But the conference remains huge. By the way, University of Alaska Press did not attend—nor did University of Chicago Press, which widely distributes U. of Alaska Press titles. And Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, another source of Aalska-set titles, went bankrupt this past year.

Last observations:

Though I had no appointments, it invariably feels useful to attend events like this, especially since I was already in the city. I visited a few people I’d met over the years, publishers and editors like Bobby Byrd of Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso, Mark Cull and Kate Gale of Red Hen Press in Pasadena (Kate mentioned she’d be in Anchorage this summer to participate in the UAA low-residency summer session), and introduced myself to new ones. Librarians might appreciate I saw librarian-turned-best-selling-author Nancy Pearl, for the first time in a number of years—years ago she’d invited me to the Seattle Public Library. I also ran into booksellers who’d previously hosted me. Though there were celebrities at the convention—from Barbra Streisand to Jon Stewart—and plenty of lines to get signed copies of pre-publication editions, I went my own way. The only book I picked up was from long-time acquaintance, Ryan Van Cleave, who was autographing his new memoir, UNPLUGGED, My Journey into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction.

Late in the afternoon, I stopped by the table of Bellevue Literary Press. I didn’t stay long, just to meet a writer there, Paul Harding. He’d written a novel, TINKERS, that had been rejected by every agent and editor he’d queried, so had put it away for several years. On the suggestion of a friend, he’d sent it out one more time. This last publisher didn’t take it, but recommended it to a start-up, Bellevue Literary Press. That press published it, and Paul Harding has just won a Pulitzer Prize for the book. The system may be difficult and random, but as long as we continue, at least there’s the possibility of hope. Often that’s enough.

1 thought on “BookExpo 2010, New York City: A Guest Post by Ken Waldman”

  1. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    That was fantastic, Ken. I appreciated hearing about forthcoming Alaska books that I didn't know were coming soon, and the story about TINKERS (which I hope to read) was inspiring as well. Good reporting. Thanks for doing it!

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