Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Hillary Clinton

Book Expo 2017: The Javits Center Hosts the World’s Book Industry


The 2017 Book Expo’s big celebrity appearance was not your traditional top-selling book writer, but none other than former first lady, former presidential candidate, and now full-time grandmother, Hillary Clinton.  Of course there was a book to promote – two, in fact.  Her experiences from the recent campaign combined with her advice and encouragement for the country, and a children’s book based on her 1996 bestseller, It Takes a Village.  She sat with another equally bestselling author, Cheryl Strayed (Wild) who, as moderator, asked Clinton about how she dealt with the blow of receiving 65 million votes yet, lost the election, and the direction the country is taking. Clinton remarked that her post-election days were filled with long walks and Chardonnay, and then shared her real fears for America due to the policies being put into place, “that may do irreparable damage, and that will test our Constitution.”  She encouraged the SRO auditorium crowd to stay involved.  The one-hour event was a “feel good” experience, and an opportunity for her supporters to stand and applaud the first US woman presidential candidate.  It ended with Strayed inviting Clinton to hike the Pacific Coast trail with her, to which Clinton seemed to genuinely accept.

Mary Higgins Clark

But, back to the Expo. Every year, usually in Manhattan, most everyone in the publishing industry attends this three-day book festival to promote new books, new publishers, new writers, or new gadgets. It’s librarian “heaven,” as representatives are feted big time with their own comfy rest area, special events, and discounted prices for bulk orders. Lines are the norm as popular book giants like John Grisham, Scott Turow, Mary Higgins Clark, and Lemony Snicket signed copies of their latest, or in the case of astronaut Scott Kelly, a picture souvenir in anticipation of his upcoming memoir.

Neil Patrick Harris

Since the mid-2000s, there has been less and less exhibitors each year, and the poor new exhibitors are always relegated to the Siberia of the immense Javits’ main floor.  The printed material handed out to inform press and attendees is not as helpful as it used to be when short blurbs of the books being given away were included.  If anything, the Book Expo’s event booklet has the opportunity to show the need for printed material.  For instance, at any one time, there may be 50 books being handed out either at autograph tables, or specific exhibitor booths.  How does one decide which book to get?  If you’re a librarian making purchases for the YA market, you’re out of luck, unless you physically go to the booth to see the book.  The frenzy of the event makes the app, which involves four “click-ons” to get to the book blurb, frustrating and annoying.   (Plus, though there are charging stations, most of us would want to save precious cell phone battery for picture-taking, and keeping up with colleagues rather than sit for half an hour while the phone recharges.)

Maria Shriver

However, I’m not here to bash this wonderful, much looked-forward-to event.  Other highlights of the annual event include the quest for the hottest tote bags, like Capstone’s “I love reading” heavy duty bag, and the McGraw-Hill’s blood red bag, zippered and super-sized.  Once a good collection of bags are dangling from our shoulders, the quest begins for books and more books autographed by the author, where possible.  Some require tickets, like Neil Patrick Harris’ The Magic Misfits, Mary Higgins Clark’s new release All By Myself, Alone, and Nelson DeMille’s The Cuban Affair.  The one surprise was Maria Shriver’s Color Your Mind: A Coloring Book for those with Alzheimer’s and getting thisclose to a Kennedy relativeBesides the books, there are lectures and panels throughout the day on subjects ranging from “how to build your author platform,” to the Monks of New Skete (with doggies in tow) who spoke about their successful dog-training tips and stories, all featured in their collection of books and training videos.   Ed Asner appeared with Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss their new politically-slanted books; Alan Alda and James Patterson appeared at the Audio Publishers Association tea geared to librarians.

BookCon 2017, a similar event specifically for the public happens the two days immediately following the Expo, and was only introduced in recent years.  Something is telling me that both events will eventually morph into one to cut costs and allow exhibitors to get more bang for the pricey exhibitor bucks.  However, one thing is clear, we are reading and writing more than ever, we’re still all very excited about books.  And, at the end of the day, for those that love them, that’s the best news ever.

Oscar de la Renta Honored with Fashionable Forever Stamp


“Oscar de la Renta was an immigrant and aren’t we proud and grateful that he was?” Hillary Clinton

On the final day of Fashion Week, February 16, the United States Postal Service unveiled a forever stamp to honor iconic designer Oscar de la Renta, who died on October 20, 2014, at age 82. The first-day-of-issue ceremony was held in Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall.

While one of the stamps features a black and white portrait of the designer, the other ten showcase what he was known for – the beautiful and colorful fashion worn by a who’s who of women from many professions and countries.
Besides Clinton, the officials who spoke included former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Anna Wintour, Artistic Director of Condé Nast and Editor in Chief of Vogue. CNN’s Anderson Cooper introduced the speakers.
The stamps are now available for purchase.

The Press Takes a Hard Look at Itself this Saturday


How responsible has the media been for the success of Donald Trump’s candidacy? Is the “rigged media” now being unfair to him as the candidate suggests? Was the press unfairly critical of Hillary Clinton at the start of the race only to be supportive of her candidacy now?

These questions, and many others, will be addressed this Saturday, October 29, as members of the press provide an honest assessment of how well the media has covered the election. Members of the press from Democracy Now!, Fox News, Huffington Post, The Hill and the National Review will participate in a panel discussion on The Press and the 2016 Presidential Election at the New York Press Club Foundation’s 24th Annual Conference on Journalism.  The conference takes place at NYU’s Kimmel Center, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

In addition to the panel about the press and the election, several breakout sessions throughout the morning will cover many topics that are important to journalists and those interested in how media work to bring us the news.

Millennials and the Media will look at how millennials get their news. Jon Stewart was once the main source of news for the next generation. With Stewart’s retirement, news outlets like mic.com, Vice, even Snapchat for News have arisen to fill the void.  How serious and accurate are these media outlets? Is this the end of “mainstream media”?  Come to the panel and find out.

vargasKeynote speaker Elizabeth Vargas

A recent article in the Boston Globe suggests that Americans are not getting accurate information about what is happening in Syria.  The Globe blames media outlets for drastically reducing the number of foreign correspondents. However, some incredibly brave journalists do put their lives at risk to find the truth and enlighten the world about what goes on in war torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan. Reporters who cover conflict areas on the ground will be at the conference on Saturday to participate in the War and Conflict Reporting panel. Come find out how these astonishing reporters cut through the fog of war, keep safe, and uncover the facts in this not to be missed panel discussion.


If food is your thing, a more light-hearted panel on Food Journalism will be of interest. New York Magazine food writer, Adam Platt, will moderate a panel of food experts and writers, including the former New York Times’ food critic, Mimi Sheraton.

Other panels will include Sports Reporting, Digital Media-Keeping it Legal, and The Podcast Boom, all staffed by experts in their fields of journalism.

Lunch will be served during the Keynote address by Elizabeth Vargas of ABC’s 20/20, who will participate in a Q and A with Press Club President, Steve Scott. Vargas, who has chronicled her career and struggle with alcoholism in a recent book, will answer questions about the election, her career and how she is dealing with her addiction.

For more information about the New York Press Club Foundation’s Conference on Journalism and to buy tickets, visit the website.

Hot Sauce Expo Is a Fiery Event


Democratic Presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton revealed what she always carries in her purse –  a bottle of hot sauce.  In fact, when she was first lady, she had more than 100 different varieties of hot sauce made available for her use. Of course, Hillary’s not alone in her love of the spicy condiment. We’re living in a world where concepts like global trans-culturalism have gone beyond the workplace and social circles and are now on our dinner tables. As the world is getting smaller, our palates are becoming more international and the evidence is clear; more and more people are replacing their ketchups and mustards with Srirachas and Cholulas. But if you’re looking for something more potent and powerful than the usual spicy condiments, you should attend NYC’s annual hot sauce expo.

The Fourth Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo was held on April 23rd and 24th, at the Brooklyn Expo in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  This aptly named event caters to hot sauce aficionados who will travel anywhere for a dose of divine damage. The exhibition can best be described as rock/punk meets culinary arts resulting in a quaint, tear-jerking and mouthwatering atmosphere.

Ice Cream

Ice Cream Vendor Promotes a Cool Down

Since its inception in 2013, this event has been refined to accommodate its fiery-loving attendees. For instance, during the first year, milk and ice cream stations were absent which got people running for cool relief to the nearest bodega outside the venue. Food stalls were scarce making it disconcerting for patrons who were looking to pair their new-found spicy condiments with some lunch items. But the worst of all were the privies – those god-awful stinking modern-day conveniences also known as a port-a-potty. Thankfully, all of these and more have been rectified thus making this one of the most sought-after events for thousands of tongue-searing hot sauce fans; rookies and the vets alike.


Hot cocktails

I attended “day one” of the event, knowing all too well that I would spend the next day comforting my tongue and tummy. The Brooklyn Expo Center had a bazaar like feel where over four dozen hot sauce vendors from all over the country had gathered to display hundreds of concocted spicy salsas. The booths snaked through the hall. Milk and ice cream vendors staged themselves at prime locations serving as recovery points for the gasping hot sauce junkies. Also on hand were local food and beverage vendors who showcased their hot sauce infused eats and drinks.

My friends and I have attended this festival since its existence four years ago and, as patrons, we know the process, the peppers, and the most effective pacifiers.  We’ve learned to equip ourselves with Tums and drinkable yogurt and, most importantly, we’ve mastered the art of pacing ourselves systematically whereby we’re actually enjoying the taste of hot sauce rather than swigging it with a gallon of milk.


Fans with the event’s official poster

A $10 admission ticket also includes a complimentary hot sauce poster. The tastings are free, but hot sauce bottles cost between $7 – $25, and the drinks are priced around $6. The $100 VIP ticket, which includes a complimentary hot sauce bottle, a few other knickknacks, and an open bar, just seems grossly wasteful.

At this point, there is no smell or sight that will actually shock me at this event. I have eaten the Carolina Reaper aka, the world’s spiciest pepper, a title bestowed by the Guinness Book of World Records. I have participated in the spiciest brownie eating competition and sampled several ghost pepper extracts.


Mixing drinks

So, out of experience I can tell you that if you’re looking to prove your machoism, this is not the place to do it. I have seen grown men heave, hurl, and sob like babies, I’ve witnessed people seeking medical attention, or worse – rushed to the ER. The fans who come here are not calorie conscious but scoville attentive. Similar to an instrument that measures weight or temperatures, the scoville scale measures the “hotness” of a pepper. Just to give you an idea – a habanero chili is rated roughly 100,000 – 300,000 units on the scoville scale, but a Carolina Reaper has a record breaking heat level of 1.6 million units! Thankfully, the spiciest hot sauces have the most ominous sounding names so you will think twice before trying the Voodoo Prince Death Mamba or the Edible Lava.

Although the event revolves around everything there is to know about hot sauces, the founder, Steve Seabury and the other organizers have made it more than just sampling and sobbing. During the two-day event, patrons can participate in competitions such as the chicken wing eating competition or the Grimaldi’s pizza eating contest. To administer these spicy trials and painful tribulations, the host dresses in biker gear and a punk rave coat and announces the rules and countdown while the participants prepare themselves for the some of the most painful minutes of their lives. Winning these competitions is extremely tough – winners are not just judged on how many they’ve consumed, but on their ability to keep the fiery food from coming back up again.


Inside the hall

The Brooklyn Expo is the most fitting venue for such an event. This 25,000- square-foot warehouse with floor to ceiling glass windows is large enough to comfortably accommodate hundreds of fans and yet small enough for people to run into their hot sauce idols. In my case, I was fortunate to meet the greatest hot sauce savant, Ed Currie, the founder of the Carolina Reaper. When the room gets too hot, the backdoor opens to a spacious outside arena. Although no chairs are provided for the general admission attendees, people are fine with sitting on the concrete ground and to enjoy the lucent rays of the sun while trying to balance their PH levels with beers and oysters.

If you feel like you’ve missed a breath-taking event, not to worry as I can assure you that next year’s event will be an even larger and bigger piquant party. Just keep your eyes and ears open to updates which will be announced around February and in the meantime dabble around a few hot sauces because, who knows? You may discover someone has produced something even spicier than the Carolina Reaper.

Photos by Poornima Vuppuluri

For more information, go to the website for the Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo.

The Women of Irish Literature


Ireland has long been rightly renowned as a country of storytellers that has birthed such legendary authors as Johnathon Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce. But with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner and this being the year of Hillary Clinton’s historic candidacy it seems appropriate to consider some of Ireland’s leading female authors. Many of the books by these authors are out of print, but a handful have been reissued for succeeding generations to enjoy. Click on a book’s cover to learn more and order on Amazon.

Anne Burke (1780-1805) Anne has once worked as a governess and after finding herself widowed with a son to support she took up writing. She specialized in Gothic novels and was one of the earliest women writers in the genre.

Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921) Also known as Lady Gilbert, Rose was a novelist, poet, and playwright. She originally wanted to be a painter but received encouragement in her literary aspirations from Charles Dickens! Dickens greatly admired her work and encouraged her to continue. Her first novel Dumana was published in 1864 under the pen name Ruth Murray.

Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Martin (1862-1915) These two ladies were cousins who wrote under the pseudonym of Somerville and Ross. Together they published a total of fourteen novels and collections of stories until Violet’s death in 1915.  Whereupon Edith continued to publish works under “Somerville and Ross,” claiming that she and Violet continued to collaborate via spiritualist séances.

M.E. Francis (1859-1930) M.E. Francis was the pen name of Mary Elizabeth Brundell an astonishingly prolific novelist who published dozens of works, she was described as being the best known female novelist of her time.

Jesse Louisa Rickard (1876-1963) Though she didn’t publish her first novel Young Mr. Gibbs (1912) until she was 36, Jesse was an extremely prolific writer who published over forty novels ranging from light comedy to crime novels.  She was a founding member of the Detective Writers Club along with Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, and Agatha Christie.

Kate O’Brien (1897-1974) Kate was an novelist and playwright whose books dealt with themes of female agency and sexuality. At the time this was quite controversial, in fact it was so controversial that her 1936 novel Mary Lavelle was banned in Ireland and Spain while her 1941 novel The Land of Spices was banned in Ireland on publication.

Deirdre Purcell (born 1945) Dierdre is a former stage actress as well as having done tv and press journalism. She has published twelve critically acclaimed novels all of which have been best sellers in Ireland.

Anne Enright (born 1962)  While Anne had won the 1991 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and the 2001 Encore award she was still relatively obscure until her 2007 novel The Gathering won the 2007 Man Booker Prize-a decision that was made unanimously by the jury. Since then she has written two more novel The Forgotten Waltz (2011) which was short-listed for the Orange Prize and won the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and The Green Road (2015) which won the award for Irish Novel of the Year.

Tana French (born 1973) Tana is a theatrical actress and novelist whose debut novel Into the Woods (2007) won the Edgar and Anthony awards for best first novel.  She is referred to as the First Lady of Irish Crime and she has another novel The Trespasser scheduled for release this August.

Eimear McBride (born 1976) Eimear wrote her debut novel A Girl is a Half Formed Thing in just six months but it took nine years to get it published. The book then went on to win numerous awards including the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction and Desmond Elliott Prize for debut novelists.