Book Expo America: Soul Food for Authors

The following is a guest post from Susin Nielsen. To learn more about Susan and her books, please visit her website.

I just got back from Book Expo America, which was in New York this year. My publisher, Tundra, brought me in to do a signing of Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of my new novel, The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen.

It was an incredible experience. First, the Tundra gals are fantastic. Here we are (me, Tara Walker, Alison Morgan and Pamela Osti) in Chelsea, outside the Joyce Theatre, where we saw an incredible evening of dance by American female choreographers.

Next up, there was our hotel. Now this may be disillusioning to aspiring authors out there, but generally speaking — unless we are J.K. Rowling, perhaps — we are not put up in elegant accommodations. Publishers (at least, Canadian publishers) don’t have a lot of extra cash to throw about. So imagine my surprise and delight when we were put up at the Essex House on Central Park!

Next day it was BEA. Having never been before, I was overwhelmed at the size of the event. Hordes of book lovers, book sellers, authors, librarians, reviewers, publishers…. This photo will give you a taste.

But for me, the thrill was in the special events. At lunch on Wednesday, I went to a “conversation” between Neil Young and Patti Smith. Yes. You read correctly. NEIL YOUNG and PATTI SMITH. Here is my terrible photographic evidence, taken with my phone.

It was awe-inspiring to hear two artistic souls talk about their song-writing and their memoir writing. Patti even got Neil to talk about the how/when/why he wrote the iconic song, “Ohio.” He described his creative process as hunting a rabbit… sitting by the rabbit hole… and just being patient, waiting for the rabbit to emerge… but never looking him in the eye… sitting there all day if he has to…. They talked about the changes in the industry, the good the bad and the ugly, and the fact that everything is product these days — but that, in Patti’s words, “We don’t create product. We create feelings.” Oh, sigh. It was a great afternoon.

The following morning I went to a very early morning author breakfast, hosted by Kirstie Alley (!). (She, too, has written a memoir). Lo and behold, at every seat was a stack of books by the authors who would be speaking (minus Kirstie’s and Zadie Smith’s). First up we had a brief interlude by Jimmy Fallon — my and my son’s favorite talk-show host.

He read a bit from Thank-You Notes 2. I brought the book home to my son, and became his hero for a few short minutes. (it’s hard to be your kid’s hero when he’s 15.)

Next, three literary giants talked for about 15 minutes each about what inspired them to write their new novels: Michael Chabon (!! He is one of my all-time favorites), Zadie Smith (I fell a bit in love with her that morning) and J.R. Moehringer, whom I did not know, but whom Susan Juby had told me to look out for. Here are their photos:

Like the Neil Young/Patti Smith conversation, this breakfast was truly fuel for my creative soul. It was wonderful hearing these three incredible authors talk about their process. They are clearly story-tellers! Each one was funny, smart, poignant, and inspirational.

Afterward I had my book signing, which went fine — I am not a known entity yet in that world (of America), but that’s why I’m so glad Tundra invited me. A lot of people came by and picked up my book, and hopefully word will travel throughout the States!

Oh, I also saw Michael Connelly but couldn’t get an ARC as they were already out. But I did get books signed by Jonathan Tropper, Naomi Wolf and Karen Engelmann. They were all so gracious to Ms. Book Nerd here.

Here’s me at the Tundra booth.

After that whirlwind morning, fellow Tundra author Shane Peacock and I hoofed it uptown and shared a pastrami sandwich at the Carnegie Deli. I took a quick trip to the MOMA to see the Cindy Sherman exhibit (if I could afford one of her photographs I would buy it in a heartbeat) before heading to LaGuardia. It was only 48 hours in the Big Apple… but I packed it in and had a fantastic time. With my creative soul fed so well, I guess I’d better get working on my fourth book!

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