Selma Hyjek wrote about this lovely article about our trip to lovely Smith.
November 15, Vroman’s, Pasadena, 7pm
The Essential Guide Rocks America Tour Pitchapalooza #5: Death @ the Bookstore – The Murder of Joseph-Beth in Pitsburgh
It’s hard to tell sometimes whether the universe has it in for you, or life is a series of random events. At our first event at Borders outside Washington DC, the manager of the store didn’t know there was an event there that night, and had only 3 copies of our books on hand. Then, two days before leaving for Pittsburgh, we found out that we’d be the last event at the Joseph-Beth bookstore there, as they were closing their doors later in the week.
When we walked into Joseph-Beth, it looked like the fall of Saigon, people grabbing gigantically discounted books hand over fist. The book distributor who supplies the books for the store had moved in palettes of boxes, just waiting to ship out inventory. So we did our event in front of the gallows, with the hangmen waiting to slip the noose around the neck of yet another bookstore . It certainly seemed like a sign from above. Or maybe from below. With all the rumors going around that the book business is going down the toilet, it seemed cruel and ironic that we were dropped down right in the middle of a bookstore execution.
That being said, a bunch of brave writers showed up with dreams in their hearts and stardust in their eyes, ready to jumpstart their publishing career, and have their dreams of becoming successfully published writers come true. And we had two fantastic panelists, Vince Rause, a client of Arielle’s who has written, among other things, the New York Times bestseller, Miracle in the Andes, a truly inspirational book about the rugby team that crashed in the Andes. Our other panelist was the mystery writer, Nancy Martin, who revealed that she has written over 50 books. Suddenly we felt so insigrnificant.
As always, we heard some great pitches. The winner, Candace Bangs, gave an airtight pitch for her YA novel full of tragedy, drama, and paranormal activity. It’s funny how once the event starts, the focus becomes so intense that everything else is blocked out. So while we were listening to and deconstructing all the pitches, the madness raging all around us faded into the background.
Yes, the book business may be going through troubled times, but it seems like human beings will always tell and listen to stories.
Plus we got a great tour afterwards from Vince amd had some crazy good tacos. Pittsburgh rocks hard.
The Essential Guide Rocks America Pitchapalooza #4: Pat Conroy & Scarlet O’Hara On the Road to Pittsburgh
7:30AM came ridiculously early this Saturday morning. Knowing we had to make it from DC to Pittsburgh in our rental car by 1:30 PM, there was no time to lose. As Olive (our three-year-old daughter who is on tour with us) watched Dora the Explorer, we threw clothes into suitcases, computer cords into bags, and food into bellies. The edge of manic franticness finally dissipated as we drove onto the highway and were serenaded by the spectacular explosion of autumnal colors and the soothing sounds of Scott Simon’s voice.
While we basked in the ochres, oranges and burgundies, we listened to a fantastic interview with Pat Conroy, talking about his new memoir, My Reading Life. We were particularly excited when we heard him speak of how his mother read poetry to him when he was a wee lad because one of the projects we’re working on is a collection of poetry for kids to say out loud. His interview confirmed for us the power of the spoken word.
Conroy also told a beautiful story about his mother reading Gone with the Wind to him and how she would relate the characters in the story to the people in their own family’s lives. Naturally, his mother cast herself as Scarlett O’Hara. We loved hearing him talk about how, at an early age, the relationship between art and life was formed through the beautiful soothing voice of his mother reading bedtime stories to the young future bestselling author. It made us reflect on how valuable it is for young Olive to hear the stories we read to her and made us feel connected to that great tradition of passing stories from generation to generation that has been with human beings since we lived in caves.
Come join us for PITCHAPALOOZA in the Big Apple, November 11th at 7PM. We’ll be at the Barnes & Noble situated at 150 E. 86th Street, New York, NY.
We drove 300 miles in the rain from our home in Montclair, New Jersey to a bookstore in Falls Church, Virginia, just outside DC. We had our freshly pressed clothes hanging in the car, and a box full of books in the trunk. Our first event. I had a bad feeling. In fact I bet Arielle a dollar that there would be less than 20 people in the audience. Still, tingling with excitement, we entered this emporium of books. Imagine our surprise when we found out that the manager didn’t even know an event was scheduled that night. And they only had 3 copies of our books in the store. Their website had two different times for our event. As far as I can tell, they did absolutely no promotion of this event, didn’t try to reach out to the tens of thousands of writers in the area who are our audience. I had to give myself a timeout before I exploded. But even though it was my worst nightmare realized, I was the model of restraint. I smiled and made nice with everyone as I recalled the first stop on our first tour where there were only 2–yes 2–people at the event. One was a mom with three kids running around the store that she had to chase throughout our workshop. The other was an angry drunk man writing a memoir about his horrible father. Sorry, I digress. Turns out this was a huge lesson for me. Trust your own instincts. I KNEW this was the wrong thing to do, but I caved in and did not follow my own instincts. I shall endeavor never to make this mistake again. Sure enough, five people showed up, and two of those were friends of ours. It was an embarrassment. We, the publishing experts draw five people. I was livid. Filled with a furious rage. I must say though that the manager of the bookstore was very gracious and apologized publicly, which made me feel a little better. And our next event is in Pittsburgh, @ Joseph Beth. I just read this morning that the store where we’re performing has been selected for extermination @ the end of the month. They are a walking dead bookstore.
That being said, it was a really fun event. We heard three fantastic pitches. I should explain that our event is called Pitchapalooza. It’s like American Idol for books. Each writer in the audience gets one minute to pitch their book to a panel of experts. Arielle and I are two of the experts, and we have a couple of panelists. One of our guest panelists was a very charming, witty and knowledgeable fellow named Alan Fallow, who is the Features Editor at AARP Magazine. And a long-time publishing veteran. He just could not have been any smarter or nicer. And the other guest publicist was our publicist, Bethanne Patrick, who has read more books than anyone we know. She was able to come up with perfect comparison titles for our three pitchees. The winner, Lisa Lipkind Leibow, gave a great pitch about Iranian women and culture. And everyone who was in attendance, all five of them at any rate, got in-depth expertise about the books they were pitching, and about the publishing business in general. It was actually great fun to do. But we traveled 300 miles to sell three books. That’s 100 miles a book. Something seems very wrong with that. Still, I try to take joy even from these adverse conditions. But it’s a terrible thing to bet against yourself, then win. Valuable lessons were learned. Always trust your instincts. And always bring a box of books.
The Book Doctors are going to be in town to listen to your book proposals.
Here’s a great pitch from the winner of our St. Louis Pitchapalooza, about being a fat bald white guy.