Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm Trying to Feel Better About the Fact That Milwaukee Doesn't Host a Big Book Festival Like Madison Does. And Sheboygan. And Waukesha.

Many years ago when I first arrived in Milwaukee, the pickings for author events were, if not slim, than slimmer.  There were some highlights. I remember Websters hosting the great Robertson Davies, and you're not going to believe this, but we hosted Alice Munro at the Iron Block store and we had about 25 people.  Really! I printed up a whole bunch of personal invitations (I don't remember the exact year, but it had to be before 1993 because after that she would have gone to Shorewood) but I knew so few customers by name and we didn't have any sort of customer database (another indication that it was early on) so...anyway, we all have these skeletons in our past.

When my bookish friends and I wanted to see authors, we used to go to Chicago and Madison. Have you seen the schedule for Prairie Lights in Iowa City? This fall they've already hosted luminaries such as Neal Stephenson, Craig Thompson and Tom Perrotta.  These are the kind of folks you'd see on a Madison schedule.  Every season we'd get the catalogs, and tours would say Chicago, Madison, and Iowa City. No Milwaukee.

It turns out Milwaukee will never show up on official schedules and we all just have to get used to it--unless the book is set here or the author is from here, and even then, it can be touch and go. Usually we have to remind the publishers, and sometimes I don't know until the book's come out, the tour is set, and the marketing budget is depleted. It's only when a book is working particularly well that more cities are added and we get another chance.  For example, I am proud to announce that Craig Thompson, author of Blankets and Habibi, is coming to Boswell on Wednesday, November 16.  It turns out that it made sense for the publisher to add on Chicago and Milwaukee; not only did Thompson grow up in Wisconsin, he attended MIAD for a bit, and yes, lived a few blocks from the store at one point.  He paid a stealth visit to the store in August--good thing we weren't mean!

Madison still gets a ton of author events, but now they concentrate it during the Wisconsin Book Festival, this year running between October 19 and 23. It's run by the Wisconsin Humanities Council, which is a very, very different thing that that portrayed in the novel My American Unhappiness (see below).  Very different! There are some great authors at the show, and when I saw the 16 page booklet (16 pages!) in the Isthmus, I got a little jealous. 

But let's look closely. Here's the schedule for Friday night of fiction, October 21 at 8 pm at the Orpheum Theater.
--Dean Bakopoulos, author of novel cited above, already appeared at Boswell
--Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River, appeared at Next Chapter
--Myla Goldberg, author of The False Friend, appeared at the JCC last fall
OK, I don't think John Burnham Schwartz appeared in the metro area, though I did have a drink with him at a conference in Washington DC last year. His new novel is Northwest Corner.

Here's the selection for coming of age novels at Room of One's Own, on October 20 at 5:30 pm:
--Lesley Kagen, a local favorite, who has already been at many Milwaukee-area stores for Good Graces
--Nina Revoyr, author of Winghooters, who appeared at Next Chapter. Revoyr was recently awarded the Midwest Booksellers Choice award. We recently sold our 40th copy of the book, due to some good word of mouth, and of course recommendations from Sharon and myself.

At 7:30 pm on October 20, Diana Abu-Jaber appears with Jacquelyn Mitchard at MMOCA.  I'm a big fan of Birds of Paradise, but she didn't read around here. And Mitchard was at the Muskego Library about two months ago. But if you went to this, you'd miss Andre Aciman at the Overture.  I actually read his last two novels, Call Me by Your Name (loved!) and Eight White Nights. Go figure. I'd run back and forth between the two, except...

But no need to drive an hour plus, as that's the night we're hosting Chad Harbach (The Art of Fielding) and Stuart Nadler (The Book of Life). The event starts at 7 pm, but stay tuned, because we might move up the event to 5 pm if the Milwaukee Brewers make the World Series. And one fellow book lover scolded me for saying if; my apologies for not knowing how to be a good sports fan.  I was told that saying "if" is a jinx.  I thought it was the other way--if you say you are having good luck, then you'll have bad luck. Maybe it's a cultural thing--I'm a worrier and a pessimist.

And a final note on the kid programming. October 21 is Ilsa Bick and Lisa Albert are appearing on Veronica Rueckert's show, Friday, October 21, at 12:15 pm.  Bick appeared at Next Chapter, and if you want to hear Lisa Albert, she'll be at Boswell on Wednesday, November 2, discussing her novel Mercy Lily.

Speaking of festivals, Sheboygan has a children's festival going on this weekend. It's called the Sheboygan Children's Book Festival. It's October 14-16.  Here's more info.  Jerry Pinkney!

In conclusion:
1. Madison has a great book festival going on.
2. Don't be jealous of Madison. You've got it good here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You'd think that the "Milwaukee Festival of Books" would be a better draw than the nebulous "SE WI Festival of Books," which is held in, uh, metro Milwaukee. Suburban anxiety?