Thursday, May 21, 2009

After You Read this Event Wrap-up, You Won't Wonder Why I Haven't Been Posting Regularly.

It’s true. From the beginning of our grand opening on Wednesday, May 6, through Thursday, May 14th, we hosted eight events in nine days.

Somebody get me pillow. I am still convinced that I have to be the face at our events, but it gets to the point where you’re running on nothing but adrenaline. I’ve had disappointments, but not embarrassments, and because of that, I now offer our first (and possibly only) super event wrapup.

1.What a joy to host Jane Hamilton! Critics who were surprised that she wrote a comic novel have obviously never met her. Kathleen Dunn graciously allowed me to hawk our opening on during WHAD's one-day pledge drive. (By the way, it turned out to be quite the success). I brought my pledge to the show, but then forgot to talk about it.

2. An off-the-cuff remark to either C.J. or Liam (I forget which) let us to create the first (in our memory) inter-university undergraduate fiction read-off. The students were great, and we wound up having 35 folks attend, and I’m not including the students. Maybe next year we’ll take Liam’s advice and have the school mascots spread team spirit outside the store.

3. Spectacular event with Mameve Medwed, Anita Shreve, and Elinor Lipman , or rather two. In the afternoon they were booksellers, and in the evening, they talked, read, took questions, and of course cut our grand opening ribbons (see photo). The only problem was that it was asking a lot for folks to come in twice, and several people afterwards told me they didn’t come because they couldn’t make it at 3.

It turns out some folks got confused about there being a 7 PM event and thought the whole shebang was at 3 PM. If you work at another bookstore and try this, have the bookselling part be right before or right after the reading/talk/signing, not 4 hours apart.

I would recommend any of our three speakers for a bookstore job, by the way. Ms. Lipman mentioned she had prior sales experience and sure enough, she charmed anyone she talked to into leaving with a pile of books. I think this is another aspect of the Lipman effect. Brookfield customer Patti said that reading Lipman is like getting your favorite soup in a restaurant you love to go to (specifically in this case, it was the chicken tortilla at Water Buffalo, but you must order the large so you get the skewer of grilled vegetables with it).

It is surely a crime that we couldn't bring in Bernard McLaverty's Cal or most of Brian Moore's backlist for Anita Shreve to sell. Note to these rights holders--I bet Ms. Shreve would write an intro for you. The Best Buddies picks are selling well enough that we are keeping the section for several more weeks. Come check out what Shreve, Lipman and Medwed are reading.

4. Saturday’s event with Dwellephant was amazing with one caveat; I wasn’t sure beforehand exactly what we were doing. I marketed the event, a publication party for his book Missing the Boat, as a talk/scavenger hunt. There was no talk, and the scavenger hunt was more like a search for raffle tickets. Instead, the results were a sort of brainy marketplace, with folks from Hot Pop, WMSE, Zewing Girl (pictured), Cedar Block, and Alverno Presents offering their wares, services, and information. The whole thing was very-interconnected; these were all folks that had worked with Dwellephant before. It was a really great event, a mix of camaraderie, community, commerce, and controlled comedy.

(According to Jane Hamilton, a thriller writer told her his editor said to avoid using alliteration in his writing. He asked if she, a literary writer, had such restrictions. It turns out she does not. One genre where it is almost de rigeur to use alliteration by the way, is in self-help books. If you don't believe me, pick up some titles in the psychology, business, or health areas of our store that promise a better you, and you'll likely find some list with a "live, love, learn" type checklist.)

5. My former colleagues at 800-CEO-READ hosted “Business Rx”, a workshop for their book The Best 100 Business Books of All Time. It was a modest affair, but we still handily beat attendance at their previous Milwaukee event at a local chain store. The biggest surprise was an appearance from longtime friend Tom O’Keefe, who drove up from Chicago to see Jack and Todd.
6. Next up, an offsite at the Italian Community Center where I sold China Inc. for a conference of Wisconsin manufacturers hoping to do more business in China. I had a nice chat with Ted Fishman and discussed the delicious dumplings from Taijin with one woman, a government employee of that region. My thanks to my sister Claudia for clueing me into these famous baoza. It was my only multi book sale of the day, and I think she gets some of the credit.

7. Leif Enger appears at the Wisconsin Club for the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library annual Literary Lunch. He was lovely, as always, and charmed every attendee. Since the book was included with the ticket, and we were giving a percentage of sales to the Friends, we set up a mini bookstore to hawk some of Boswell’s bestselling titles. I thought I’d continue my streak of selling an extra Little Bee (sigh) every day but instead, Amie and I had much success with The Elegance of the Hedgehog and the now-in-paper Guersney Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

8. Finally, that same evening we hosted Patrick Jones and Margaret Rozga in a conversation about the Milwaukee Civil Rights movement from the perspective of a historian and a poet (who was also active in the movement.) I was honored to meet at least one other participant. Jones is hoping his book will highlight the local heroes that made a difference in open housing, work laws, and education. It was very inspiring and I was proud to have helped organize the event.

Thank you to everyone who participated. I couldn't have asked for a better program. I'm sad to say that my pictures didn't always come out so well. I didn't post the really crappy ones.

Now we’re down to 2-3 events per week and I can catch my breath.

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