Booktopia Santa Cruz, Day Two

May 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From the wayback machine, my account of Booktopia Santa Cruz as of last October.  Ya never know, someone trying to decide whether to attend Booktopia 2013 may find these notes interesting.

Saturday was the day of small group author sessions.  These were indeed all small enough that everyone could hear and there was plenty of time for everyone to ask questions.

I started my day with Cara Black at the Center Street Grill.  She brought her agent and it was fascinating to see what a close connection the two of them had.  It was a real insight into the level of involvement a good agent can have in the development of a book or series.  It was also nice to see someone with whom I had had a personal conversation performing in a professional capacity.

After lunch I attended Ann Packer’s discussion of Swim Back to Me.  I hadn’t read the book, though I knew it by reputation.  Being in that situation drew my attention to the sorts of things that make an impression on readers.  Predictably, there were a lot of questions about “where ideas come from” and the nature of the writing process.

In the afternoon, I attended the session on audiobook narration with Grover Gardner and Simon Vance.  I thought the voices were familiar, and it turns out I’ve heard Grover Gardner narrate The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well as My Antonia.  Simon Vance is currently reading Bring Up the Bodies on my iPhone.  Like many people, I harbor a secret desire to record audiobooks for a living.  The reality of this job, as relayed by these two successful narrators, is that it is very demanding, highly competitive, and beset on all sides by amateurs who deluge anyone in the industry with mediocre demo tapes.  In my case, I know full well that nobody would pay to listen to my voice!

There was a three-hour break between the end of the last session and the beginning of the evening’s Celebration of Authors.  I spent the time browsing for books and eating at Cafe Gratitude.  Santa Cruz is a great boutique town.

Bookshop Santa Cruz is one of my top five favorite bookstores.  It was packed for the Celebration of Authors, and I was very glad I had come early to claim a seat.  I’ll give just thumbnail impressions of each of the authors.

Terry Jones made a great comment about e-reader hysteria: “The Kindle is going to come and drown us in our bathtubs.”  “Art has a mind of its own.

Lynn Cox wrote South with the Sun.  She swam the English Channel.  While she is a riveting speaker and an accomplished athlete, what surprised me the most was that in regular clothing she could be a person of average fitness.  You would never guess.

Grover Gardner spoke about his career recording audiobooks.  I had heard him speak earlier in the day, but still it blew my mind that he has recorded over 800 books.

Ann Packer: “What is it about story that’s so gripping and so powerful?”

Adam Johnson was an absolute laugh riot.  He told a story about meeting a homeless gentleman “and he was working on his novel too.”  We can laugh about how everyone is writing a book, but in North Korea people haven’t been allowed to write books for 60 years.  The only book he was shown in the library there was a 1995 copy of an English language guide to Windows.  Gone With the Wind is basically the only book in translation in English.  Even Solzhenitsyn got to write from the Gulag.

Sarah McCoy wrote her first book in kindergarten and designed the cover herself, with tulips and a house.  She keeps a Moleskine journal.

Tupelo Hassman was the winner of the Santa Cruz Literary Death Match.  For those of us who didn’t know there was such a thing, now we do!

Simon Vance first read Winnie the Pooh into a tape recorder as a young boy.  Now he has read over 400 audio books professionally.

Cara Black’s dad asked her if she ever read any P.D. James.  When she first went to France she knocked on the door of the winner of the Prix Goncourt and he invited her in and gave her her first espresso and her first cigar.

Matthew Dicks was another hilarious speaker.  “I don’t want an introduction.  Just play “Born to Run.””  He recommended that anyone who was planning to buy his book buy a copy of anything by William Shakespeare instead.  He said he would sign Shakespeare’s books and that he had made it a habit to sign other authors’ books.

This was a very fun literary weekend and something I would definitely do again.

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