Last Saturday was pretty much the perfect day. How do I measure a good day? Good conversation, time spent with friends, delicious food, and books. Saturday had all four.
I joined a few friends in New York City for the entire day. The women I went with aren’t people I get to see very often since my move, so having a full day in the city with them was magical.
Our first stop was the Hachette Book Club Brunch. My friends had gone last year and had a blast, so I decided to join them this year and I was not disappointed.
Hachette Book Group planned a four-hour event that included panels and discussions with four non-fiction authors and four fiction authors, plus lunch.
Prior to the event, Hachette had mailed advanced reader copies of Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (on sale February 2017) to all of the attendees. My copy was delayed, so while I waited, I went in search of some of the other author’s books and was able to get a Kindle copy of My (Underground) American Dream by Julissa Arce, which I loved (see my review).
As if I wasn’t already excited about the day itself, I was extremely interested in hearing Arce speak. She was in the first panel along with two other memoir authors -- Amy Dickinson and D. Watkins -- and moderator Bill Goldstein. It was an interesting mix of authors that resulted in lively discussion.
Arce talked about the fear of being “found out” as an undocumented immigrant, which permeated her childhood and young adult years. Spoiler alert: Now a U.S. citizen, Arce will be voting for the first time this year.
Watkins opened his talk by stating that his family grew up in poverty but wasn’t poor. Capitalism was always top-of-mind in his family and his brother helped sustain the family by selling drugs. When he died, Watkins took over the business. These days he is a college professor and is passionate about getting stories to children that they can see themselves in. By the end of the session, I had added Watkins’ book The Cook Up to my Amazon wishlist.
Amy Dickinson spoke of her mother’s death and how it impacted her. She later mentioned that she, too, grew up in poverty, but “the kind where you have a bathtub in your front lawn.” Dickinson is the woman behind the “Ask Amy” advice column, which replaced the Ann Landers column more than a decade ago.
The next session featured author Beth Macy discussing her experience researching and writing Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South, a journalistic exploration of the Muse brothers kidnapping. She was positively giddy as she spoke of her first encounter with the Muse brothers’ niece. Macy had gone to the niece’s restaurant hoping to get permission to write the family’s story. Instead, she was shown a sign on the restaurant wall that read, “Sit Down and Shut Up.” Fortunately, over time she was able to get the permission she sought and now has a much talked about book to show for it.
With the nonfiction sessions behind us, we were served lunch and given an opportunity to have books signed by all of the authors in attendance. I was determined to meet Arce and, although I couldn't very well have her sign her book on my Kindle, I jumped at the chance to have a few-minute conversation, during which I gushed about her book and she said “thank you” a lot. I’m not necessarily eloquent in discussions with people I don’t know well, but it totally made my day to chat for a few minutes even if I thought I was doing it badly.
After lunch we returned to the auditorium for the fiction sessions, beginning with a panel including Jane Hamilton, Eowyn Ivey, and Robert Hicks. I admit I haven’t read any of these authors, but I intend to correct that. During this session, I added Hamilton’s The Excellent Lombards and Ivey’s The Snow Child: A Novel to my wishlist. All three authors explained how they built the worlds in their novels and how they came to understand their characters. It was so much fun to hear their thought processes. Ivey charmed me when she said she had been bored with her writing until she had the realization that, as a fiction writer, she was allowed to add magical elements to her stories. It brought life to her writing and she hasn't stopped since.
The event finished with keynote speaker Min Jin Lee. She shared the importance of Korean and Japanese history and mentioned that Pachinko took 30 years to write because it began with an experience she had in school and branched out from there. During the question and answer portion, Lee struck me as humble and engaging. With each audience member who stepped up to the microphone and asked a question, Lee asked, “What’s your name?” then said, “Hi, (name). I’m Min.” So sweet.
Just when I was about to be sad that our time listening to the authors had come to a close, Hachette Book Group handed out goodie bags. And it was probably the best goodie bag I’ve ever received.
The bag itself was a nice canvas tote with a zipper top and outer flap pocket, and it was filled with books. There were six books and a notebook in there. What did we get? Here’s the list:
- The Tourist by Robert Dickinson (just published)
- Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (on sale this weekend)
- Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home by Amy Dickinson (on sale March 2017)
- The Devil and Webster by Jean Hanff Korelitz (on sale March 2017)
- The Arrangement: A Novel by Sarah Dunn (on sale March 2017)
- Spoils by Brian Van Reet (on sale April 2017)
I know. It’s like Christmas here. After hearing Dickinson speak, I wanted to read her upcoming book, and there it was. Also, the day before the event, I had seen an ad for The Tourist and added it to my Amazon wishlist. Seeing that at the bottom of the bag may have made me squeal.
The magic continued after we left. Being that my friends and I are all book lovers (obviously), we decided to visit a bookstore.
A couple of days earlier, I had read an article about 19 Beautiful Bookstores You Need to Visit in America. During our train ride, I pulled up the article and found a store from the list that was in New York City. So off we went to Housing Works, a store that sells used books received by donation and employs volunteers, then uses the proceeds to provide health support and services for HIV/AIDS. Brilliant.
We finished our day at Wine 30 where we split appetizers, sipped wine, caught up on each other’s jobs, trips, and families. We relaxed, we laughed, we ate.
By the next day, I felt a renewed energy about life. It filled my soul’s well and readied me for whatever adventure may come next. It will likely involve reading.
Disclaimer: I have used affiliate links throughout this post, and received some of the books mentioned for free from Hachette Book Group as part of my event ticket price (which I paid on my own). Please see my affiliate disclaimer.