Booktopia Santa Cruz, Day One

October 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I’m writing up notes from yesterday during today’s lunch break. It’s been non-stop fun since I got here! Due to last minute cancellations I was able to get a friend into the event with me.

The weather in Santa Cruz is often a bit gloomy, but most of Friday was beautifully sunny and warm. This made it nice for walking between venues. Not that event organizers can control the weather, at least I don’t think they can, but it’s something to appreciate.

The first two modules were Bookseller Speed Dating and a Yankee Swap.

In Bookseller Speed Dating, we divided into four groups and visited stations in different areas of Bookshop Santa Cruz. Three long-time employees presented a half-dozen books each, describing why they loved them. Employee recommendations are possibly the best, most enticing feature of indie bookstores, and this was a great way to get a closer look at the personalities behind the little handwritten shelf cards we love so much.

The highlight, though, was the Espresso printing machine. We got to watch one of the souvenir books for the event as it was printed, bound, and cut. When it came out, it was still warm. (Yes, I sniffed it too). The sides of the machine are transparent. We were crouching on the floor and turning our heads from side to side to get a better look. Imagine having one of these in your living room! Alas, Bookshop has one of the only three in California, and 81 in the world.

I hadn’t brought a book for the Yankee Swap. Well, I had, but I had 100 pages to go, so I bought a new book.

“The Burning House”

It was the first thing that captured my attention. In fact, the cashier asked to take a picture of it to show to a friend later. I came back later and bought a second copy for myself.

The Yankee Swap is like a White Elephant party. All the participants pile their wrapped books in the center of the room. Each player gets a playing card drawn at random, and takes turns choosing a book. After unwrapping it, you can decide whether to keep it or trade it for one that’s already been unwrapped. Meanwhile, the person who brought it stands up and explains why that book was chosen. I wound up with Back When We Were Grownups, which is funny because the last book I finished was also by Anne Tyler. My book went to a person who had contributed a copy of Atlas Shrugged. One book was signed by the author, but dedicated to someone named Karen. The recipient elected to swap it. The lady who gave up her book for it said, “That’s fine because my name is Karen!” There was a lot of laughter and a lot of contention for the single copy of Cloud Atlas. The venue, Art du Jour, had an absolutely charming bricked patio and a fat, smiling Amazon parrot sunning itself on an open birdcage.

We had a bit of time to kill before the final event of the evening. I went around the corner to Game-a-Lot, looking for a copy of Cards Against Humanity. They didn’t have it but they did have Super Big Boggle! It’s still in the wrapper at this time but I look forward to rattling it like a maraca at the first opportunity.

Finally we went to Center Street Grill for the welcome reception. Let me tell you, dedicated readers are a very nice group of folks as a rule. I’ve been to other types of conventions for various reasons, and it’s interesting to people watch and guess who is affiliated with the event or not. Sci fi and comic cons, Apple conventions, multi level marketing, business seminars – all have certain characteristics that tend to make attendees recognizable. The reading crowd tends to be 3/4 or more female. We tend to dress sensibly. I’m not sure I can quite put a finger on why, but I’m pretty sure we can recognize one another when we meet. It was really easy to strike up a conversation with anyone. The authors were all there, and they mingled between tables. We were deep in conversation with Cara Black when I realized I was running late for a dinner date.

I got a chance to see a young friend of mine who is attending UC Santa Cruz. She’s busy but she found time for me. Then I spent the evening playing Super Scrabble with some dear friends. We stayed up until 2:30 playing Jotto, a word game we can play over email if you want me to teach you.

Now it’s time to head back to the event. I’ll have a break later in the day when I can record today’s impressions.

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