Monday, September 29, 2008

Land of 10,000 Lakes, and Just as Many Books

As always, the Minneapolis trade show was an awesome whirlwind, and I am tired. Travelling is not high on my list favorite activities; as a matter of fact, I approach the whole ordeal with a great degree of trepidation, and several bottles of Pepto. However, each year, that first glimpse of the Mississippi river quells my travel anxiety. The gentle power of the river provided much inspiration for Mark Twain, and actually seeing what so many authors honored with words, poems and lyrics redefines "breathtaking" for this ex-English teacher. My years working at Golden Ring Folklore Center acquainted me with talented folk musicians who praised the river in song - Pete Seeger, Dan and Roxanne Kedding, and Art Thiem, to name just a few. (I know it's nerdy, but seeing William Shakespeare's little bubble pants, and threadbare brocade vest hanging in the closet of his Stratford home made me a little teary, as well! More on that another time.)

From 5-7:30 on Friday night, there was a cocktail reception for authors, and booksellers. Ten tables were set around the perimeter of the room, where authors sat, ready to chat and sign books. The lineup of authors changed every half hour.

Here's a fuzzy picture of the reception. I was balancing a bottle of water, with a plate of goodies, while attempting to budge my way into a few favorite author's lines. That's Lesley Kagan, author of Land of a Hundred Wonders on the right. Lesley and I were able to firm up the time she will be with us on Nov. 22...11:00. Be here. You don't want to miss her. Not only is her book wonderful, Lesley is high energy, funny, and so anxious to come to Manitowoc.

After the reception, we went to dinner with the Tom's - Maltman and Swift, and Mrs. Tom Swift! Yup, the writer on the far left is really named Tom Swift, and I think he's pretty sick of the lame jokes about his name. He wrote a book about greatest American Indian baseball player of all time, entitled Chief Bender's Burden. His wife just finished her PhD. in clinical psychology, so it was nice to celebrate with her.

Some of you might recognize Tom Maltman, author of The Night Birds. We were lucky to have Tom teaching creative writing at Silver Lake College when his award winning book was published. Sadly, Tom accepted a new teaching position and relocated to Bloomington, Minnesota. He is working on his second novel for Soho Press, a mystery set in Minnesota.

We went to Buca for dinner, along with two booksellers from Cedarburg. If you haven't been to Buca di Beppo, hop in the car and take a drive to the Milwaukee location, on Van Buran, right next to the Bally Fitness Center, which always makes me laugh. This place is wild. Big. Loud. Colorful. Energetic. It's like eating in a big Italian mama's kitchen - and she doesn't let anyone go hungry! Our table filled quickly with plenty of pasta, garlic mashed potatoes, salad, bruschetta, garlic bread, and I think some broccoli even found its place among the carb fest! Of course, there were bottles of Chianti, and peach bellinis...good conversation, and fine storytelling.

Buca pays homage to Italy's finest with colorful, wacky, and irreverent shrines. The honorees include Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Frank Sinatra. There's even a special Pope's table, with a glorious bust of the Pope for a centerpiece. We left through the kitchen and stopped to chat with a nice family dining there. You see, at Buca, if you are real nice to the staff, they let you eat at a special table right in the kitchen where you can catch all the action, and get lots of free samples.

I spent Saturday in the exhibit hall, checking out new books, featured titles offered by publishers, and catching up with friends from other stores. I had my energy upped at a new age publisher's booth. It was near the end of the day, and, in attempt to bypass this particular display, I may have said that I was tired and needed to take a break. Before I knew what was happening, she was on her feet, rubbing a brass bowl with a miniature rolling pin wrapped in felt. She circled me, the brass bowl hummed, and she guaranteed that I would be energized. I was amused...and embarrassed. New Age (sorry if I'm insulting anyone) doesn't speak to me. I think a rock is just a rock, and no matter where you rub it on your body, you are not going to get richer, prettier, or healthier. But I could be wrong.

Trade shows also offer education opportunities, and since I still have a lot to learn about this retail world, I took advantage of those lessons when I could.

So, that was my weekend. I had some fun, spent lots of money, ordered lots of fun stuff for the holidays...and I am glad to be back in Manitowoc.