Friday, April 15, 2016

Literary Husbandry

Arriving fully formed today was the first sentence of a book? a story? I hadn't known I was writing.

Eating a clementine and in search of new bras, I was driving to Victoria's Secret at Regency Square - a necessity given that the Victoria's Secret at the much-closer Willow Lawn has shuttered, apparently abandoning city breasts - when a wonderfully absurd idea announced itself.

I was still mulling over the concept when, unbidden, that sentence appeared like a ticker tape across my brain. But of course, that's exactly how I'd need to set the scene I hadn't realized I was planning to set. Parking, I scribbled it in my notepad.

Four or five years ago, someone asked me if all this blogging was material-gathering for a book, something that hadn't even crossed my mind.

The intention was always more of a record of a time and one woman's experiences living through it, but also, as more than one person has observed, it's a cultural journal of the goings-on of Richmond over the past seven plus years.

None of that specifically and all of that generally have simmered, it seems, to the point that a story arc has presented itself out of the stewing process. If it was inevitable, I was in denial.

Fittingly, tonight began at Fountain Bookstore for the first in a new experimental programming series, "Judge a Book By Its Spine" or JABBIES, an evening devoted to those curious about the book industry and featuring publishing pros - tonight Michael Reynolds of Europa Editions and Craig Popelars of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill - discussing the behind-the-scenes book world

There were more book-loving attendees than chairs ("Sold out! There we go!" Craig joked, throwing his arms over his head to indicate a score) and a fair amount of knowing nodding over a story about the distinct childhood pleasures of receiving your monthly order from Scholastic Books in elementary school.

Reading geeks, all.

The pros explained their job of making noise around exciting new books, getting authors media coverage and prime placement at Barnes & Noble (that front table at B & N costs "an arm and a leg," we heard). There were tales of fights over book titles and jackets.

"Managing expectations is a big part of this business," Michael admitted, before amazing the audience with the story of a current best-selling author who does absolutely no publicity. They've never even laid eyes on her because she claims the work speaks for itself.

As many times as I've been to Fountain, only tonight did I learn that moderator Kelly, the owner, had gone to school for animal husbandry, "specializing in beef and cattle nutrition and I somehow ended up here," she tells us to laughter, igniting a string of cow jokes.

According to her, booksellers and beer makers are the only industries who routinely praise competitors' products, an insightful observation.

Only at events like this do you hear someone use a term such as "Pynchon-esque" or get advice to "Read passionately, widely and as much as you can." In between everything else I'm doing passionately, widely and as much of as I can, it's safe to say I'm always reading.

"Never trust a man who doesn't make time to read books," a wise woman once told me.

To that I would add, better to finish an evening with one who does. Some habits speak for themselves.

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