for the Month: May 2011
Book Expo America 2011 has now come to an end. Hopefully, if you attended the show, you got a chance to stop by the ABRAMS booth and say hello, but in case you weren’t there (or were and missed us) I thought I’d give a photographic journey through our futuristic white-and-red BEA booth (which, according to some unbiased observers, was among the best of the show)…
Even though I’ve covered American Idol since season 1 – for no less than seven different entertainment news outlets including Us Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly and now The Hollywood Reporter – I’ve never actually done the math and figured out how much time I’ve spent watching, thinking, writing, analyzing or criticizing the show. But I’d venture to guess that I long ago reached Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers benchmark of 10,000 hours. That’s the amount of time you need to devote to a subject or craft in order to be a true expert in that field. It’s the number of hours the Beatles put in while playing multiple sets daily in Hamburg during their formative early years and it no doubt covers the nine years I’ve spent pondering the likes of Simon, Paula, Randy, Ryan and the 100-plus contestants to take a stab at the Idol crown.
As you can only imagine, we are running around like chickens with our heads chopped off on this, our first full day of Book Expo America. Things were pretty hectic yesterday at Jacob Javits Center here in New York, when I spent a very physically demanding eight hours putting together bookshelves, hanging banners, displaying books, moving couches and yes, setting up our very own, very cool Wimpy Kid 6 snow globe!
Hope you’ll stop by for a visit this week at Booth #3552 before it closes on Thursday! Events include a wine toast and screening of Oprah’s FINAL show, signings by Tom Angleberger and lots of beautiful books, galleys and giveaways! In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few images of our setting up before we get a full recap from our own Maggie Maggio later this week.
When we published the Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool monograph last fall to accompany an incredible exhibition at the Asia Society here in New York, I must admit I knew very little about this revered Japanese artist. I was, however, in complete awe of his work and began to seek out other work by his Japanese contemporaries.
Nara’s name is among the most prominent in the burgeoning contemporary Japanese art scene. So when the Japan Society opened Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art, a look at 16 up-and-coming and mid-career Japanese artists, a few months ago, it came as quite a pleasant follow up to the Nara retrospective from last fall. And, it seems, it couldn’t have opened at a more opportune or relevant moment, either: Just before the exhibition opened to the public on March 18, the massive earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated northern Japan. These catastrophic events lend a decidedly exceptional significance to a show focused entirely on the work of living Japanese artists.
One of the best perks of my job is the chance to attend the librarian and teacher conferences that occur throughout the year. The list of reasons why is long; I could easily make a top ten list, but I’m going to narrow it down for this particular post:
1) I have the opportunity to visit new cities—and when I plan ahead—the chance to tack on a vacation day or two so I can do a little exploring.
2) I get the chance to meet the people who are actually reading our books!
Last week was one such opportunity. We traveled to sunny Orlando, FL for the International Reading Association (IRA) conference. We had a great show that included a featured speaker presentation by Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney, a mystery panel with authors Tom Angleberger, Michael Buckley, and Jack Ferraiolo, an inspiring presentation by Lauren Myracle and multiple author signings at our booth including Henry Cole, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Marissa Moss, Eric Velasquez and David Ward.
On my first day at ABRAMS, ten months ago, my supervisor walked me around to meet everyone at the company. As we wound through the maze of hallways and peeked our head into each office, I was taken by the diversity of architecture, furniture, and décor from room to room. I retained very few names from that introductory tour, and spent the next couple months referring to colleagues as “the one with the beautiful window,” or “the guy with the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.” Having come from a company where office fixtures were standardized, I felt I had stumbled upon a mecca of self-expression, “a worker’s right to choose” in its purest form.
I was going to hear W.S. Merwin—current United States Poet Laureate—read at the Storm King outdoor sculpture park recently with the intention of writing about it. But, the weather was lousy with rain; my own poems needed revising, and the prospect of reading, writing, errand-running, and cooking on a free weekend was more seductive than the lure of Merwin’s rare appearance in New York far from his Hawaiian home. My loss, I’m sure. But time spent with cats, or better yet, with books and one’s self, is never wasted, to paraphrase Sigmund Freud.
This is a small story that tiptoes up to a big subject.
In 2009, I went to Japan to visit the birth place of Manjiro, the protagonist of my historical fiction novel, Heart of a Samurai. I thought I was finished writing, but it turned out, and I knew it as soon as I got there, I was wrong.
So, sitting on the tatami floor at a friend’s home, which also happened to be a Buddhist temple, I spent some time rewriting, or, more often, staring out the window. I was supposed to be writing about this small boy who accomplished the impossible. It felt, however, that I had set myself an impossible task. “Spin straw into gold!” said the ugly little man in my head. It was all so messy and disorganized, a tangle of conflicting stories, a bunch of weedy chapters, some growing mossy from neglect—kind of like the garden in the back of the temple. Somewhere in that tangle of weeds back there, you knew there were the elegant bones of a traditional Japanese garden. Likewise, I knew that in my mess of notes and scribbles there was a good story, but it was all so. . .well, I felt like I needed a machete, not a pen.
Today is my first official blog post and it also happens to be my birthday. I am a person who likes to celebrate birthdays. And being the production person/planner that I am, I tend to organize my own gatherings. For my 30th birthday, 3 of my closest friends came with me to sit in the sun and drink margaritas in Puerto Rico. For my 34th birthday, I organized a trip to ride the roller coasters at Great Adventure. And though I have many memorable birthday celebrations filled with laughter with good friends (and lots of planning), there is one that I wasn’t able to plan one that I treasure most.
It’s not routine for me to commission custom photography for the books I design, but it’s not unheard of. I love to work with a photographer when I can, as it always enriches the project, and adds something very noticeable, and often essential to the finished product. And when I do work with a photographer on a book project, the first person I think of is Geoff Spear. He’s done amazing work for many other books I’ve done, such as Dread and Superficiality, Wacky Packages, and was the co-author and photographer on our book on Captain Marvel Shazam! Geoff co-authored that book with designer Chip Kidd, who he has collaborated on many many projects with, and their long history of working together is how I came to know him and work with him myself, since Abrams has published several books that the two of them created.