The typewriter sat on the counter. Beside it were the words Freewrite. There were no cords coming out of the back, nothing particular lit up. A small screen sat above the clean white QUERTY keyboard and as the guest hit a key, the letter appeared on the screen. When a sentence was typed out to the clickey-clak of the keys, it too appeared just as quickly on the screen. “So, what IS this,” the guest asked the rep behind the counter. “It’s the minimalist, distraction-free way to get your writing done.” Imagine a typewriter and a laptop had a baby. There’s no internet, no Facebook, no pings or blips, or any other sound announcing an incoming message. Even if tempted, there was no way to get onto the Internet. A charge lasts about a month. Your work is saved, and costs about 500 dollars. It’s lightweight, and ready to go anywhere with the author. Brilliant!
That’s why the Book Expo, the annual booksellers event (held this year at the Jacob Javits Center last month) is so much fun. It’s just not books, though about 95 percent of it is; it’s more the “what’s new” in the writing world. No matter what part of publishing one represents: writer, journalist, librarian, new author, book seller, or book lover, it’s like being a kid in the best candy shop ever. And, sometimes you learn of a “candy” you never knew existed. Franklin Fixtures was one such flavor.
Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly discuss their book, part comedy, part memoir: The Best Love Story Ever Told.
For thirty years, Franklin Fixtures has been creating and designing independent book shops. They’ve been working behind the scenes helping indie book shop owners redesign the interior so in one corner there may be a juice bar, in another a children’s play area, with a section for sidelines – games and puzzles based on popular books. And, then, of course, a cozy sitting area for those who want to familiarize themselves with a new author. The good news, according to the opening keynote by the chairman of Barnes & Noble, Len Riggio, “The state of the brick and mortar book store is strong.”
When one is not walking up and down the aisles with their elaborate and carpeted stations, shelves of display books, there may be a presentation at one of the three main stages on the massive Javits top floor. When that’s over, there may be a book signing by a favorite author, like Nicholas Sparks, Barbara Kingsolver, or Mary Higgins Clark. Sometimes a surprise new author is suddenly put on the schedule as is what happened on the Expo’s final day when it was announced that Sally Field was going to sign samplers (a chapter or two), of her upcoming memoir.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry waits for Doris Kearns Goodwin to sign his copy of her book.
Yet, at the same time, Doris Kearns Goodwin was signing advance copies of her latest release, Leadership in Turbulent Times, where she studies the qualities of Presidents Lincoln, Roosevelt (both Teddy and Franklin), and Lyndon Johnson. What a paradox for fans who enjoyed the movie, Lincoln, which was based on Kearns’ Team of Rivals, and Field, whose stunning portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln was nominated for an Academy Award. Tough choice!
Throughout the day, new and established authors have been given an hour or so to sign as many books as they can for fans, or those looking to find a new favorite author. Twenty tables are set up with snake-like, aisles to control the lines of fan who queue up long before the signing begins. Handy Javits floor helpers carry large signs that read, Line Starts Here or Line Break (a necessary space so passersby can pass), or the book itself for those who want to see what’s being given away. Librarians use this Expo to browse new selections for their libraries and every genre is represented, including YA market, adult fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir, romance, graphic novels, and the like.
One of the most anticipated books is 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die or what author James Mustich suggested should be changed to 1,000 Books To Read and Argue About.
The massive reference sure to become a classic, is just under 1,000 pages! Mustich worked on this for fourteen years, making lists, reading reviews, asking those in the industry, and made a point to hit every book that, he says has “survived the test of time.” An essay accompanies each selection explaining why the book was chosen, and suggestions of similar reads if curiosity has been piqued.
Whether the 2019 Book Expo America will be held again in Manhattan has not been announced.However, to read more of what it’s all about, visit bookexpoamerica.com.
All photos by MJ Hanley-Goff