Just back from New York City and The Jewish Book Council's annual Meet the Author event. I think it was a very well-organized program and a great way for authors to connect with festival organizers and other leaders interested in inviting writers as guests to read and speak.
Authors and festival organizers came from all over the U.S. There were a few of us from Canada and a very small representation from abroad as well. I was proud to represent a rocking independent publisher from here in Canada and I'm sad and sorry to say, there were hardly any small presses present.
We began with our two-minute pitches epitomizing our books and ourselves. Everyone had their own style. They were mostly interesting and well done and the two hours or so passed by--I won't say quickly--but engrossingly. Stand-outs were Alison Buckholtz chatting about her memoir Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War, Gregg Drinkwater, Josh Lesser and David Schneer's Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Bible, a collection uniting voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight-allied writers. Other highlights: Sara Houghteling spoke with grace about her compelling debut novel, Pictures at an Exhibition, which tells the story of a son's quest to recover his family's lost masterpieces looted by the Nazis, Ari Y. Kelman pitched with panache and humour, Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio in the US, and Peter Manseau spoke with modesty and charm about his novel,Songs for the Butcher's Daughter,a fiction debut.
Despite my pics and prefs, there were very few fiction writers, perhaps a handful at most. (Peter btw, will be coming to the Jewish Public Library here in Montreal).
After our presentations, we all schmoozed at a buffet dinner. Discussions ranged from what makes a triple-threat festival,to what makes a "Jewish Book?" A number of the authors were not Jewish, Peter Manseau with a French Canadian background is a good example, and he just won the National Jewish Book Award in Fiction for "Songs." Here's another brain-teaser: is a book Jewish simply because its author is? I had a great chat with the editors of Queeries on the difference in attitudes toward gay people in US synagogues versus those here in Canada. My own cool shul, Dorshei-Emet as a glimmering exception,(I am certain there are others), the US comes out way ahead of Canada on this one. Sorry.
One wonders with all these interesting and varied writers and books: how will the festival folks choose? Fortunately, it's the mix that makes for a great festival.
We're all included in a bound book of the Authors on Tour for 2009-2010, each with our own page, and you'll find me on page lucky 21. Also take a look at this summer's issue of the glossy review journal, Jewish Book World. A number of the titles including The White Space Between are reviewed in the current issue.
My only regret: not being able to linger longer down in the Village. Sigh.