Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Local Connection--The Upside of People Leaving Milwaukee is That They are More Likely to Come Back for Book Events

I just sent out today's email newsletter. In it I mentioned a few kids books that seemed to be getting some nice love from booksellers.  Interestingly enough, though we haven't hosted either author, both were Wisconsites.

Ilsa Bick has been getting some nice buzz with Ashes, her new dystopian novel. An electromagnetic pulse destroys all electrical equipment and also kills billions of people, including Alex's parents. As one of my sales reps said to me, they adults almost have to disappear; it's all about thinking of an interesting way to make them leave. As Jason noted to me, the most interesting twist about Ashes isn't the zombie-like creatures that haunt Alex and her ready-made family; it's that Alex has a brain tumor, and this calamity has come in the midst of her treatment.

And this led to Amie telling me how much she liked Bluefish, by Pat Schmatz.  Pat read at the Council of Wisconsin Writers event we had in 2010 for her novel Mousetraps. I promised, promised, promised I'd read it, and then, well, let's just say I'm reading as fast as I can. But now I might go back to it, as her new novel, the story of a young guy with a secret, and the teacher and fellow student (feisty) fellow student that help him out.

We're hoping we can one day figure out how to get Schmatz back to Milwaukee, but we have to work around her day job. That said, even without an appearance Amie assured me that the book will be back on our bestseller list this fall, due to enthuasiastic handselling.

We just sold books at the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators Wisconsin meeting, which really brought home how much talent there is around here. Sometimes it's folks who come here from other places--our event with Andy Rash for Ten Little Zombies on October 29 celebrates another successful transplant from the Island of Long.*

And we're just putting the finishing touches on our event with area favorite Barbara Joosse, whose Dog Parade is a perfect match for our Festive Friday celebration. Ms. Joosse will be doing a storytime/talk at 4 pm on Friday, December 2, after which she will help judge the famous Downer Avenue doggie costume contest. I don't know if you've heard this but Joosse has taken to writing lyrics to kids songs. I'm hoping we'll have some of the music to play in the store that day (and perhaps even sell.)

But even more often, that Wisconsin connection is in the past. A big part of finally getting Chad Harbach for The Art of Fielding  last week is that we're next door to Racine, where he's still got family. Similarly Craig Thompson not only lived in Milwaukee but pretty close to Boswell.** It turns out he visited the store last August.  We're very excited about our event with him for his graphic novel Habibi, coming November 16.

In the end, I hate losing talented folk to other places, but a little movement in and out of the area sort of increases our pool of possible authors.

Sadly, I end this note with some sad news. We just got word that Kenosha's Florence Parry Heide, author of Princess Hyacinth, The Day of Ahmed's Secret, and The Shrinking of Treehorn, passed away at age 92.

*I refer to Long Island, which includes Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties.

**And there were lots of old friends at Harbach's signing. I thought it was so great to see some of his old friends sitting together, cheering him on, taking a group photo, and having a good time.  Just a few days later, one of my own high school chums (from Queens) whom I hadn't seen in many years revealed she is now a librarian. She learned about the bookstore from our mutual friend Linda at their own mini-reunion; I'm not sure if it involved a book signing.

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