Book Expo America and Me

categories: Cocktail Hour


That's a big book!

The Jacob Javits center over the old train yards in New York City is enormous, vast.  And BEA barely fits in there, huge booths from hundreds of publishers and distributors and other giants, also little hopeful booths of all kinds, some staffed by a single writer in front of her single title, maybe a little sad.  BEA is Book Expo America, put on, I believe, by the American Booksellers Association, and it’s overwhelming, puzzling, and really lot of fun.  I have been there this week as the guest of Algonquin Books and it’s been nuts.  My only job was to sign books for an hour and a half, like speed dating, quick, really wonderful conversations with I don’t know how many people, though I know Algonquin was aiming to give away five hundred bound galleys of the new book.  Bound galleys are advanced reading copies (ARCs), and a lot of people come to the expo just to get them.  And tote bags galore.  But tote bags aren’t enough.  In fact, there’s a corral downstairs where people check their roller suitcases.  I saw more than one filled entirely with books.  And nice to know mine are in there.  Life Among Giants will be published in November–but BEA offers a chance to preview things.  Plus we made the Publisher’s Lunch BEA Buzz Books list, and they offer a teaser here.

Dinty Moore, who was there for his book, "The Mindful Writer."

Some folks are fans, many are bookstore people.  And in my line were friends, as well.  One of them said, “I haven’t seen you since fifth grade!”  It was Sally Hart!  (Now Sarah).  Whoa!  That’s a tough two-minute conversation, with tears in my eyes.  In some ways you know your fifth-grade friends better than anyone else you’re ever going to know in life.  And then there are the E-Bay bandits, these men with cold eyes who say, “Just a signature and a date, please.”  Or one, more honest, who said, “Inscribe it to Pal-Pal.”

My brother Neil

Well, at some point that beautiful, hard-won galley will make its way to a reader!

And former students, most working in the industry.  And the industry, judging from BEA, is feeling pretty optimistic.

And writers galore, some sweet reunions, a lot of hellos.

Patty and Neil

Most enjoyable of all was meeting the Algonquin and Workman people who’ve had a hand in the production of the book, and those who are to have a hand in the promotion and selling of the book.  It’s heady stuff, and I’m feeling very lucky to be in such good hands, the hands of all my first readers.

Neil Young has a memoir coming in Octobe

r, and he

Javits Center, with Hudson River and retiring Space Shuttle in flotilla in background, also New Jersey. From the hotel.

was there–a big attraction, sitting in a conversation onstage with Patty Smith.  Yup.  It was awkward at first, but these two charming people got to some very deep stuff, all while being funny and so smart on so many levels that you realize how they’ve done what they’ve done: brains.  And of course fortitude.

Lunch with my editor, dinner with my agent, the Workman party.  Fun.

And that huge poster of my book.  Mine.  And theirs, of course.

BEA Buzz Books, 2012:
* Neil Young: Waging Heavy Peace

* Peter Heller: The Dog Stars
* Matthew Dicks: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
* Hanna Pylvainen: We Sinners
* Barbara Kingsolver: Flight Behavior
* Bill Roorbach: Life Among Giants

In good company at the Algonquin booth

* M.L. Stedman: The Light Between Oceans
* Sarah Maas: Throne Of Glass
* David Levithan: Every Day
* Junot Díaz: This Is How You Lose Her

* Shani Boianjiu: The People Of Forever Are Not Afraid
* Amanda Coplin: The Orchardist
* Jasper Fforde: The Last Dragonslayer
* Jessica Khoury: Origin
* Kevin Powers: The Yellow Birds

* Lawrence Norfolk: John Saturnall’s Feast
* Lance Weller: Wilderness
* J.R. Moehringer: Sutton
* Dennis Lehane: Live by Night
* Eric Devine: Tap Out
* Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian: Burn For Burn
* Libba Bray: The Diviners

* Ned Vizzini: The Other Normals
* James Meek: The Heart Broke In
* Mark Helprin: In Sunlight And In Shadow
* Scott Hutchins: A Working Theory Of Love
* Rhoda Janzen: Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?
* Teresa Rhyne: The Dog Lived
* Bee Wilson: Consider The Fork

* Iris Anthony: Ruins Of Lace
* Diana Athill: Make Believe
* Janet Gurtler: Who I Kissed

* John Kenney: Truth in Advertising

  1. Dinty writes:

    Lucky for me, I got an advance copy (see photo above). The novel is super super wonderful smart and disturbing and beautiful and cool.

  2. Richard Gilbert writes:

    I can’t wait to read this novel, Bill. I like the title, an evocative phrase, and recall the last time you wrote about it with questions about the draft title, The High Side—would be interesting to hear the story of how it changed.

    Glad Dinty was there. Recently I reviewed his The Mindful Writer and interviewed him about Buddhism, et al:

    • Bill writes:

      Thanks, Richard. Love the Dinty interview. We got to walk around BEA for a while and it was sweet and strange.

  3. vince p writes:

    That is awesome and a great augury that you are on that list. There is no higher form of buzz then to be on a list called “Buzz List”. It’s assured buzz. It’s ontological buzz. It’s even tautological buzz. I don’t know if you’re ready for late in life celebrity but I suspect your daughter might be ready on your behalf.

    Congrats. I shoulda come see you. But it would have been mucho dinero to get in the place, as I recollect. Which is in short supply. Dinero, that is. Ok, recollection too.


  4. Malcolm Bates writes:

    Patti and Neil! Life among giants, indeed! I have set aside the entire month of November for your book! No Thanksgiving, no fantasy football, nothing! Bring it on! So exciting.

    P.S. I went to fifth grade with Pal Pal!

    • Bill writes:

      Pay Pal seems pretty nice. A little passive, sometimes withholding, but a fella I can live with.

  5. john lane writes:

    Great hearing all these stories. Life among giant book conventions!

  6. Mike writes:

    Great account. Looking forward to reading it, and hearing YOU read from it. Some more.

  7. nina writes:

    Amazing! Can not WAIT to read the novel, Bill.