A great way to stay abreast of what’s new in the publishing world is to attend local book festivals. A simple google search of your town or city followed by “Book Festival” will tell you when and where your next one will be! I’ve spoken to Patrick Weir, intern at Melville House Publishing about his experience at the Brooklyn Book Festival, and my very own mother Beth Gabriel about her participation in the Vegas Valley Book Festival. I hope this sparks your interest in going to the next festival near you, as it certainly has for me!
Tallie: Patrick! I know you work for a publishing house and you recently worked their booth at the Brooklyn Book Festival. Can you tell me what your experience was like?
Patrick: I work for Melville House Publishing, an independent book publisher with offices in Dumbo.
This was my second time at the Book Festival, and my first time being on the other side of one of the booths. I went last year, when I was just starting my second to last semester as an English major, although at the time I didn’t know that I wanted to work in publishing. I just went because I liked books, I liked my then girlfriend, and it seemed like a good nerdy date idea. We got there pretty late in the day, after most of the author readings and speeches, but those weren’t really the draw for me. I was more interested in all the booths for bookstores, publishers and the literary mags. I don’t remember much else, except that, astonishingly, I don’t think that I bought any books, and that I was a little bummed that the London Review of Books had run out of free tote bags by the time we got there.
I was much more engaged this time around. I had graduated from unpaid student to unpaid intern, lost the girlfriend but doubled down on the book obsession, and I actually got to spend the whole day standing next to a massive pile of LRB totes. I got there around 9 or 10 with the other Melville House interns, one of the two founders and most of the staff. The marketing guys drove the books over in a white van, and we spent the next hour or so unpacking. Everybody working our booth, which by the end of the day included everyone who worked for Melville, was there to sell books, and our operation pretty much blew everyone else out of the water. I was working the classic novellas table and I- no exaggeration- sold at least 30 books, all fueled by granola bars and lots of lots of coffee. The marketing guys were performing amateur psycho analysis on people to convince them that they were the right person for a certain book. The office administrator sold two copies, the only ones we brought, of an eight-hundred page history of Krautrock. Wandering around for lunch I saw some familiar faces from English classes, met some new interns with whom I engaged in a “book swap.” (We stole books from each other’s publishers.) And all in all I had a pretty great time. I managed to dodge the oddballs who were trying to sell us their manuscripts, (“Excuse me, I happen to have the same birthday as Herman Melville, wouldn’t you like to read my novel?”) I was told that I’m a “natural book seller,” and I got to go out afterward with the team for some killer kebabs. I never did get that LRB tote, but now I have my own Melville bag, and there’s always next year.
Tallie: Amazing. Next year I’ll be sure to come and let you work your magic on me. (In terms of book selling, I mean). And I will expect an LRB tote snagged for me!
Patrick Weir, Melville House Publishing
Next, I hassled my mom, who is not an author but is an avid reader and first time book festival attendee.
Tallie: What was your experience like at the Vegas Valley Book Festival? What specifically struck you, and what prompted you to attend?
Beth: I’m always looking for cultural outings in Las Vegas. The schedule of events was also very appealing, with both musical performances and readings by the authors. I was blown away by two main things: the fact that such high caliber talented authors would come to LV- two were Pulitzer Prize winners!- and that it was free. Secondly, it struck me how well spoken they all were. Unlike some authors who just read a passage and answer questions about their writing regimen, these three authors were animated, sophisticated and funny! Maybe the perception is that writers can only express themselves in written form, but this was not the case. The moderators were equally well spoken and had thought provoking questions and commentary themselves.
Tallie: Did you buy anything? Were you expecting to buy anything when you went?
Beth: Books from all authors were on sale. I had read two books from one author on kindle (one while I was traveling with you!) but bought one again for a gift and will go back and read it again with more insight. I bought books from the other two authors at the event also. I think hearing passages read from their actual voice got me excited to read them with their voice in my head! The books were on sale by the local independent bookstore, The Writer’s Block, and it felt good to support them as well. I follow two of the authors on Facebook now and will look for more of their books, or go back and read previously published works.
I compare it to going to a music concert in addition to just listening to an album.
Tallie: Thanks, mom! You’re the best. I hope one of those “gift books” might be for me! 😉
Beth Gabriel, Cultural Care LCC, Substitute Teacher and Creator of UpDog Yoga Spray
I was only sorry to be hearing about these festivals after they happened, but I can’t wait to go to the Brooklyn Festival next year. Here you can find a handy list of book festivals in the NY area: https://www.nyla.org/max/4DCGI/cms/review.html?Action=CMS_Document&DocID=1163&MenuKey=CFTB, but again, don’t forget to google around for festivals close to you!
And of course, this week’s writing prompt is:
“Twelve is too little.” WRITE.
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Tallie Gabriel is an actor, writer, and BookHive social media maven. She’s a member of InViolet Theatre and works with BEDLAM Theatre in NYC.
She currently lives in Astoria and at the Strand Bookstore.