Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Expo America, as Told Through a Bunch of Signs and One Film Still.

The story starts outside the show, with several big billboards advertising titles for the show. Vince Flynn's The Survivor, for example, is coming out in September. But the billboard that caught my eye was the Penguin branding campaign. Inside the showroom also was a Penguin truck and a Penguin newsstand. Our old friend John gave me a tour, and noted that the truck might be coming as close as Chicago in July. Makes you think!

The entry doors had promotions for Amy Tan's new novel, The Valley of Amazement. It's her first book since leaving Putnam, and Ecco seems to be pulling out all stops for it. I know she'll be touring the country to promote it. I've made a good pitch for Boswell--we'll see what happens!

Actually this whole show is one reminder of all the pitches I've made, or still need to make. After winging it for a couple of shows, I decided to heavily structure this one, mostly because last year, I had a lot of touble finding people on the floor. I know that by doing this, I gave up my comfort that I would get to every booth in every aisle, but it turns out that I did have some good down time, and actually found some nice gift items I hadn't yet seen before.

Also from HarperCollins is the new Wally Lamb. I think one of the themes of this show I went to sleep writing this book and I woke up and the world has changed. Two books we're all very excited about are the Alice McDermott (eight years between books) and Donna Tartt (twelve years between books). With those kind of numbers, Wally Lamb's five years makes it sound like he's churning them out.

But he isn't! And we're all excited by Lamb's book as well, which is titled We are Water.

One book you've probably not heard much about yet unless you follow industry buzz is The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It's an Australian title (it's actually part of a mini Australian invasion, which I will talk about in another post, as I've read three fall titles from down under, all of which have a lot of momentum) that has become a bestseller in every country in which it's been published. I'm shocked by how many booksellers have already read it, but that's for another post as well.

Needless to say, there are lots of kids' books being promoted as well. One tidbit I heard from the agent for the Dork Diaries series, is this is an interesting case of a book catching fire in other channels and finally bulding at the indies. I think it's a question of some great media for our channel, some focused promotion, and good word of mouth. Much as you want every sensation to start in the hands of an independent bookseller, I find it very healthy that there are lots of eyes and ears out there helping build and breakout books. 

The almost out new title in the series if Dork Diaries #6: Tales from a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker.

And while I could include 20 more signs if I had the time, I have to go back to the show. Here's one last image, a clip from Louise Erdrich giving us a tour of her bookstore, Birchbark, in Minneapolis. It's one of those stores where every book is carefully curated, and her twin missions of great literature and celebrating Native culture really shines through. I'm hoping to revisit the Twins this summer and have made her store my must see (not like last year when I waited till Saturday evening, only to realize they weren't open late that night).

Ms. Erdrich's newest novel is the prizewinning and beloved The Round House, of course.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Instead of Meeting Deadlines, Daniel Frames and Hangs Some Art.

I'm writing this on the day I leave for BEA. A lot of booksellers traveled in on Tuesday, but Amie and I decided it would be better for us to leave on Wednesday. What with David Sedaris on Sunday, I could count on little else, I still had to get my package of materials ready for my meetings with publishing people.

I also had piles of papers on my desk, donations from offsites to be sorted out, blogs and email newsletters to be written, events to be confirmed, books for events to be bought, books to be read, reviews to be written, and so forth. So what did I do? I decided to spend some time hanging artwork I had framed. This time we used East Side Gallery and Framing Shop, and they did a good job.

1. In celebration of the paperback release of Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (July 2!), I had one the movie posters that were made for the book. You can see the other two on her Tumblr blog. We took a vote as to which one we wanted up permanently in the store and went with "Kissing Cousins", even though Laura is only a bit player in that one. Beautiful, huh?

2. I can't remember exactly what we did for Aaron Boyd that he gave us a thank you illustration, but we got one and it's of Howard Chitters, no less. One day I'll write about Howard at length, but I'm waiting for the okay from Sharon, his co-author.

Aaron framed this one himself, so we simply got protective glass put on it.

3. Keeping with mice, here's a picture of Penny from Kevin Henkes.You may remember her from Penny and Her Marble. We get thank you letters from a lot of authors (honestly, almost all of them, and each one makes me feel like a pig because I didn't send a thank you letter and yes, it's on my "do this someday" list) but holy cow! Just looking at it everyday makes us so happy. I got very creative and used one of the crayon colors for the mat, a lime green that I've obviously been thinking about a lot lately (like our current plastic bags).

I'm looking forward to learning about the books for fall and keeping publishers and other folks updated on the doings of Boswell. At one point I hope to do a post or two about the show, but there's no time for that now!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Presenting Our Father's Day Table, Featuring Jim Gaffigan's "Dad is Fat."

If Easter is late, a bookseller will probably put the Mother's Day table up later than if Easter is early. But after Mother's Day, you'll usually see a Father's Day table fairly quickly. That gives you five weeks of sale, though I think that most folks will only shop for two weeks. But what else are you going to put up in the meantime?

This year we are lucky to have the perfect Father's Day event with Jim Gaffigan appearing for his new book, Dad is Fat, on Saturday, June 15, 7 pm. Now some comedians might not want to be the spokesman for the holiday, but Gaffigan is pretty clear about it; he's got five kids and isn't shy about expressing his opinion on the subject. I should note that mom and dad and the five kids live in Manhattan, in a two bedroom apartment.

Gaffigan saw himself as a single guy, and his earlier riffs talk a lot about eating and well, being a shlub. But with five kids, one is sort of forced into busy mode. And there's a lot you can learn dealing with kids, which is helpful for future parents. Giving kids gum can create a lot of problems, but aside from the potential of rotted teeth someday (hey, we all play the odds), there seems to be no downside to a lollipop, for kid, parent, or innocent passers by.

And what does one exactly do with kids? I thought about where my parents and sisters and camp and schools would take me when I was young in New York, with nobody exactly having a lot of money to spend. We did a lot of window shopping, but that can lead to some serious crying fits. We took very complicated journeys places. The Staten Island Ferry is genius, by the way, as it's all the fun of the Statue of Liberty without the expense. And we did every museum you could do on the free day, and some, like the Museum of Natural History, weren't even boring. Are there free days anymore? Probably not.

When I was a kid, I would fantasize about living with my parents in an apartment, and now Gaffigan's kids are living the dream. But I guess I didn't think about the three kids in one bedroom, making it a urban Waltons sort of scenario. I did know a lot of siblings who shared bedrooms, and at least one set of parents who lived in the living room until their son left for college. On the other hand, you have much more interesting outdoor space.

I, however, must admit that I never fantasized about living on The Bowery, which leads to the strange thing about all those neighborhoods in New York that I once was afraid to visit, and now I'm too poor to visit. As he notes:

"For those readers not presently recoving from heroin addiction who are familiar with this area of New York City, consider this: supposedly the term hobo comes from a description of the sketchy characters who were the main inhabitants on the cross streets of HOuston and BOwery. Hey, that's right where I live. Isn't that cool, hip, and ironic? The tiny overcrowded apartment where I'm raising my young children is in the same location where they manufacture homeless people. Location, location, location."

Here are several things I have learned if by some strange turn of events, I become a parent:
a. I should wash my hands more.
b. I should get a yelling jar. It's a great source of income.
c. A manny is not a bad idea, but they are usually pretty sloppy.

Nick also read the book and really liked it. But then again, he's the one who went to the show last New Years, and on hearing of the upcoming book, got very excited about the idea of Gaffigan coming to Boswell for a book event. And I think he invited him personally, though I never got the full story on that.

And so we are spreading the word about our talk/signing with Gaffigan on Saturday, June 15, 7 pm. It will be just like our recent event with David Sedaris. It's not ticketed, and you are not required to buy the book from us to attend. You can also bring your copy of Dad is Fat from home. Mr. Gaffigan will personalize. No posed photos, but line photos are allowed. And for this event, books only, please. (I couldn't find a photo with his kids that I knew whether we had the right to use, so this is an artist's interpretation. Or should I say nonartist? Blunt truth: I drew it.)

Like David Sedaris, and several other events in the past, we will close the doors temporarily if we hit capacity. In most cases, enough folks clear out after the talk that we can then reopen to the public.

And yes, I know there are other Father's Day books out there. But this is really the only one I am thinking about. Try me in 2014.

Looking for something more in the way of assigned seating? Gaffigan is returning to the Pabst Theater on December 30 and 31 for his annual show, and though we're not the dedicated bookseller for this event, how can we not talk it up? Tickets are available now. And there also seems to be a VIP option.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Nonfiction from the Trade Paperback Table--Growing, Chronicling, Documenting, Surviving, Speculating...

Don't have time to visit Boswell this week? Well, allow me to help you out with a walk through our new in papeback table. Today I'm featuring five nonfiction selections.

The Quantum Universe (and Why Anything That Can Happen, Does) (DaCapo) comes from Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw, the authors of Why Does E=MC2? Now normally I'm not the science geek in the store, a title akin to duke or duchess in the book world. That crown belongs to Halley. But I just want to mention that I was a math major in college and had a very good achievement test (now the SAT II) in high school chemistry. Very good. Yes, it's come to this--feeling my intellectual prowess peaked in high school.

These science hotties (see video) explain everything you wanted to know about quantum mechanics and why it matters. The Economist writes "the authors' love for their subject matter shines through the book."

Keepung in the field, I should note that another of my booksellers (unnamed) went on to me about the adorableness of Neil deGrasse Tyson. "I love that mustache, I love his pose in the author photo, I love everything about this book." Yes, some folks pine for pop stars and sports celebrities. At Boswell, we're all about the physicists.

Tyson's newest book, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier (W.W. Norton) is a collection of his work, includng plenty of his "Universe" columns from Natural History magazine, and also interviews, op eds, poetry ("Ode to Challenger, 1986") and even space tweets. You don't usually see so many editor's notes in a book like this, but I can see Avis Lang put a lot of work into this!

Here's Neil deGrasse Tylson on NPR talking about spending for space exploration.

Space Tweet #15: "When asked why planets orbit in ellipses and not some other shape, Newton had to invent calculus to give an answer."

From micro to macro to back down to Earth, that's the journey from our first two books to The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living (Storey), by Wendy Jehanara Tremayne. This book is inspired by the classic from the Helen and Scott Nearing, Living the Good Life. The author moved from New York to New Mexico with her partner Mikey, and have taken to doing as much they can themselves.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review. " This rollicking, inspiring tale of Tremayne’s journey from being the creative director of N.Y.C. marketing firm Green Galactic to being a Burning Man volunteer, yoga teacher, Sufi seeker, and hardscrabble DIY urban homesteader in a former trailer park in the eccentric community of Truth or Consequences, N. Mex., is alternately funny, tender, philosophical, and practical"

The book itself is a beautiful object, filled with full color illustrations in a variety of styles. It reminds me a bit of those Compendium blank books we sell. I love this note about the book in the back: "Books are printed on large sheets of paper, each sheet containing numerous pages. The sheets are gathered into groups, folded and trimmed.

"For this book, each folded group of sixteen pages, called a signature, was individually sewn together with thread, and then the signatures were sewn together into a whole, called a book block. This binding style is called Smyth sewn and is the highest quality book binding available as it is more durable than glue and lets the book open flat, making it easier to read.

"Covers are almost always glued around the book block. Instead we have exposed the book's spine so you can appreciate and understand how the object was made."

Julia Alvarez has written a number of novels, as well as a book about growing coffee, which is why I transitioned from the last book to here. Her new release in paperback is A Wedding in Haiti (Algonquin) which journeys back to the island of Hispaniola (Alavrez has a coffee farm and a literary arts center in the Dominican Republic) and her friendship a Haitian named Piti.

Agnes Torres El-Shebibi, in the Seattle Times, called the book " a touching, funny, eye-opening and uplifting memoir, and a rare intimate look at our poorest neighbor in the Western Hemisphere." The book's been out for several months, but I don't think I mentioned it before, so as I say about these things, if you haven't seen it before, it's new to you. And I love to note that the publisher once again changed a mostly green cover to another hue for paperback, in this case red. I just want to mention that no other color gets so much grief.

And finally, another memoir, this time from Nobel-winning author Imre Kertész.  Dossier K is his attempt to set the record straight, "an extraordinary self portrait, in which Kertész interrogates himself about the course of his own remarkable life, moving from memories of his childhood in Budapest, his imprisonment in Nazi death camps and the forged record that saved his life, his experiences as a censored journalist in postwar Hungar under successive totalitarian communist regimes, and his eventugal turn to fiction..." That sentence runs on for several more lines. I've been told by Conrad that this is very European.

Kirkus Reviews noted that this volume, first published in 2006, is "a provocative memoir that will deepen the understanding of those already familiar with his novels."

Monday, May 27, 2013

What's Going on This Week with Books--Two Events at Boswell, Midwest Small Press Festival, Writecamp!

Tuesday, May 28, 7 pm, at Boswell
Mary Hutchings Reed, author of Warming Up.

Our friend Mary Bisbee-Beek, an independent publicist and marketing consultant, clued us into our next guest, Mary Hutchings Reed. I started writing about independent publicists and realized it was going to take over the blog, so I'll save that for another day, perhaps checking in with a few of our friends that we work with regularly.

But today it's time to talk about our events this week. Here's a bit about Warming Up.

"Approaching forty, unemployed but well-off, talented but unknown, functional but depressed, former musical actress Cecilia Morrison reluctantly seeks therapy, but it takes a runaway teenager to change her life when he cons her out of sixty bucks. Although she once won leading roles, Cecilia now can’t bring herself to audition for parts, and her therapist, an amateur sculptor, can’t take the first swing at a hunk of marble his wife gave him before she died.

"Whether at the apex of one’s success or just starting out, Warming Up speaks to everyone who’s ever wondered, “what’s it all about?” or who finds themselves doing something they never thought they’d do, whether it’s singing in the subway to earn some “dough-re-me” or running out of an important audition, chased by a ghost. Reed offers a unique perspective on a homeless teen using his innate abilities as a con man to help his sister and her baby escape their damaged childhoods, and sympathizes with a perfectionist’s struggle to express himself creatively in a medium in which he is a mere amateur."

Mary Hutchings Reed is a novelist and playwright working in Chicago. Her work has appeareaed in the ARS Media, and The Tampa Review, while her musical, Fairways, has been produced several times in Chicago since its 2006 premiere. This is her second published novel. (Her daytime job is as a lawyer specializing in entertainment and media law).

Warming Up was shortlisted for the 2011 William Wisdom-William Faulkner Prize for the Novel. Ten percent of the author's proceeds are donated to The Night Ministry, which provides temporary housing, transitional living, and parenting services to Chicago's homeless youth.

Reed has a good friend in town who is helping us get out the word about her event on Tuesday. Thank you Maggie for all your hard work!

Wednesday, April 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Alex Grecian, author of  The Black Country, in conversation with Jon Jordan, editor of Crimespree magazine.

Mr. Grecian's novel The Yard, received great notices upon publication including this Valentine to the grisly from Alison Flood in The Observer (UK). She called the book "bonkers, exuberant--and hard to put down." We're excited to welcome Grecian to Boswell for his second novel in The Murder Squad series.

Set in the British Midlands, called “Black Country,” by its inhabitants and with good reason--bad things can happen there. When three members of a prominent family disappear from a coal-mining village--and a human eyeball is discovered in a bird’s nest--the local constable sends for help from Scotland Yard’s new Murder Squad. Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith, soon realize that they’ve stepped into something much more bizarre and complicated than they thought. The villagers have very intense, intertwined histories. Everybody bears a secret. Superstitions abound, especially a local legend about a monster that some of them claim they’ve seen. Added to that, a flu outbreak is killing off some of the inhabitants…and the village itself is slowing sinking into the mines below it.

In addition to these mysteries, Grecian is also the long-running and critically acclaimed graphic novel series Proof. He lives in the Midwest with his wife and son.

When we were trying to figure out something to make this event a little different, I checked in with Jon Jordan, who along with his wife Ruth edits Crimespree magazine and orders Murder and Mayhem in Muskego each November (and organized Bouchercom in St. Louis in 2011, and editor of the book Interrogations, among other things) and asked him if he'd be amenable to doing this event in an interview format. He was game and we are all the luckier for it.

Don't forget, as is the case for most of our mystery events, the author will be also appearing at Mystery One at 5 pm.

And here are a few other things this week that might appeal to your bookish nature:

Friday, May 31 through Sunday, June 2, at various locations in Riverwest:
The Midwest Small Press Festival.

Friday at 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm:
The weekend starts with an opening recepton on Friday, featuring Cathy Wagner and Dana Ward, at Woodland Pattern, 720 E. Locust Street (all the addresses are 53212 if you're using a mapping program).

Friday at 9:00 pm through midnight:
The festivities continue with a program of interdisciplinary and collaborative performance at Riverwest Film and Video, 824 E. Center Street.

Saturday, 10:00 am through 5:00 pm:
The main event. a day of bookfairs, readings, and workshops, at Falcon Bowl, 801 E. Clarke St.

4:00 pm to 6:00 pm:
An open mic featuring recent Boswell guests Charles Ries and Furrow magazine, at Bremen Cafe, 901 E. Clarke Street.

6:00 pm to 11:00 pm:
Press readings continue at People's Books, 804 E. Center Street as well as the Cocoon Room at 820 E. Locust Street.

There's also an after party on Saturday and a spelling bee/potluck on Sunday. Presses involved include Bloof Books Burdock Magazine/Teppichfresser Press, Cannot Exist, Convulsive Editions, Dancing Girl Press, DoubleCross Press, Horse Less Press, Midwestern Gothic, New American Press, Orange Alert Press, Pity Milk Press, Plumberries Press, Poets Democracy, Projective Industries, Rabbit Catastrophe Press, Stoneboat Journal, Strange Cage, Sunnyoutside, Switchback Books, and Xexoxial Editions.

The festivities are accessible by the 10, 15, 22 and it should be pretty easy to park in the neighborhood too. 

Also on Saturday, June 1, at Mercy Hill at the Hide House, 2625 S. Greeley St. 53207: Writecamp 5.
WriteCamp is a free, unconference designed for you to discover new ideas and connect with people who are part of the writing world in the Midwest. It’s free and open to the public — come and enjoy speakers, ad-hoc presentations, networking and food.

WriteCamp is free and open to the public; therefore, anyone can attend. It is also understood that anyone who attends should feel welcome to participate in whatever way they would like, be it volunteering at sign-up, giving tours, answering questions, setting up/taking down, or even giving a presentation.

WriteCamp revolves around four main focus areas: fiction, nonfiction, editing & publishing and the business of writing. A presenter picks a topic that fits into one of these focus areas. Then, the presenter describes the content in the forums on the WriteCamp website. Participants can discuss the topic on this page prior to the event. During the event, the presenter will discuss his/her chosen topic during a 45-minute session.

Looks like Niki and Boone have organized a great event. Lots more information is available on the Writecamp website. It's a short ride from anywhere in the city, and just a couple of blocks west of the Green Line bus in Bay View.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Bestseller Post--Strong Reviews for Khaled Hosseini, Rick Atkinson's World War II Trilogy, and Lots of Reviews in the Journal Sentinel.

Hardcover fiction:
1. And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini
2. Inferno, by Dan Brown
3. On Sal Mal Lane, by Ru Freeman
4. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
5. The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud

Very strong reviews for Khaled Hossini's And the Mountains Echoed. From Marcela Valdes in the Washington Post: "So it always renews my faith when a popular novelist shows a decided preference for moral complexity. It suggests that readers crave more than simplistic escape. Or perhaps it just means that some writers, like Khaled Hosseini, know how to whisk rough moral fiber into something exquisite."

Nahal Toosi, a Associated Press editor who once worked for the Journal Sentinel, and reviewed it today for them, writes: "Hosseini's latest book is not an easy read, but it is a quick one because you won't be able to put it down. To those readers who manage to get through it without shedding a tear, well, I tip my hat."

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris
2. Visiting Tom, by Michael Perry
3. After Mandela, by Douglas Foster
4. Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
5. The Guns at Last Night, by Rick Atkinson

Max Hastings raves about Rick Atkin's The Guns at Last Night: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 in The Wall Street Journal: "His narrative is wholly gripping, from a prologue describing the gray and battered condition of Britain before D-Day to an account of the drama on March 7, 1945, at Remagen, where Frankfurt-born Lt. Karl Timmermann became the first American officer to cross the tottering Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine—when "the inner door to Germany had swung wide, never to be shut again"—and on to the final German surrender at 2 a.m. on Monday, May 7."

Paperback fiction:
1. Pepperland, by Barry Wightman (repeat engagement at Brookfield Library, Tues, June 18, 7 pm)
2. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
3. Montana 1948, by Larry Watson (new novel this fall!)
4. The Yard, by Alex Grecian (event with Jon Jordan, Wed. May 29, 7 pm)
5. The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller (event Wed, June 19, 7 pm)

Alex Grecian's newest novel, The Black Country, is reviewed this week by Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times, where she credits his "flair for descriptive drama."  And for those keeping up with what's going on with The Dog Stars, here's a piece I missed about it being optioned for films.

Paperback nonfiction:
1. Don't Call me Inspirational, by Harilyn Rousso
2. Coop, by Michael Perry
3. Off Main Stret, by Michael Perry
4. Truck, by Michael Perry
5. Population 485, by Michael Perry

Since we're all Michael Perry this week, here's recent column from him in the Wisconsin State Journal. "The other day I was teaching my brother about cheaters. It’s not that we were thinking about becoming private investigators lurking in the lobby of the no-tell motel, it’s that his eyes are beginning to fail him.

Books for Kids:
1. One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake
2. Better Nate than Ever, by Tim Federle
3. Mary Nohl: A Lifetime in Art, by Barbara Manger and Janine Smith
4. I am a Bunny, by Ole Rissom and Richard Scarry
5. The Mark of Athena, by Rick Riordan

Amy Timberlake's One Came Home is one of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 85 book recommendations for summer. Categories are 14 books we've already liked, 12 editors' picks, 10 books by visiting writers, 5 novels for people who loved John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, 8 books by Wisconsin Writers, 4 books by big-name authors, 6 books about pop culturs, 7 books for people who like history, 5 books for baseball fans, 8 mysteries and thrillers, and 6 books for art lovers.

Also in the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Rhapsody in Black, the new biography by Roy Orbison, by John Kruth. From Higgins: "Kruth, who lived in Milwaukee from 1986 to 1995, is the rare musician who writes well about music for a popular audience. His biography is sympathetic and enthusiastic, though he does not let Orbison and his producers off the hook for the bad albums or the laughable movie he made, The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967)."

Also also in the Journal Sentinel, Elfrieda Abbe reviews David Rhodes, and much like our fans Sharon and Mel, she's a huge fan. "In his new novel Jewelweed, Rhodes revisits the region and the fictitious small town of Words, a place he so beautifully brought to life in his previous work Driftless. The residents here are as complex, interdependent and finely tuned as the ecosystems surrounding them. Even the smallest change can shift the balance." Don't forget our event is Thursday, June 6, 7 pm.

Also also also in the Journal Sentinel (it's a big book section this week), Mike Fischer reviews Monique Roffey's Archipelago, her follow up to the Daniel-reccommended The White Woman on the The Green Bicycle. It's about a photographer who flees the rains of Trinidad by setting sail for the Galapagos Islands. Fischer sees it as sort of a cross between Moby Dick and The Odyssey and declares: "The wrap-up following this epiphany is plot-driven and a bit too tidy, but the epiphany itself is hard-earned and real."

That's all for today. Time to have a very fun day with David Sedaris. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

David Sedaris and a Whole Bunch of Owl Stuff.

We're open 10 am to 5 pm on Memorial Day. That's a good thing, as it's going to be very hard to browse the store on Sunday, during our David Sedaris event. It's likely that we will closed to the general public for at least part of Sunday, due to the store being at capacity.

That's all well and good, but this is gift post day, and today we're talking about owls.

Regarding these creatures, I don't even try very hard to bring them in for sale. It's just that every time I buy a gift line, somebody suggests including the owl version, and almost every time, it sells better than anything else. Better than bunnies (except at Easter). Better than bats (except at Halloween). Better than reindeer (except at Christmas). Better than dogs and cats, though I have a theory about that. Every pet shop has so much cat and dog swag that the fans are overexposed. That said, our Retropets magnets are doing just fine, thank you.

It just so happens that owls are also rather timely, as we're hosting David Sedaris on Sunday, May 26, 2 pm (which may be tomorrow for some of you reading the blog, and in the distant past for others.) His new book is Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. Not raccoons or monkeys, though both are certainly much beloved animals in the context of gift items. One might worry that putting monkeys in the title might give the hint of a lab experiments. A book titled Let's Explore Diabetes with Mice might be seen as rather didactic how-to textbook. Owls, not so much.

It just happens that we just got our latest order from Sunflower, which not only included our popular owl purses (in previously unavailable black and blue, in addition to the red and purple we've had previously), but also owl bracelets. There are actually all kinds of bracelets, including pigs, frogs, cats, roosters, and monkeys. We blew through the floral bracelets we had last month so quickly that it made sense to bring these in as well. And yes, we have more flowers.

We also happened to get an order of banks and coin purses from Benjamin. In addition to owls (two designs) there are bears, cats, fish, and even ladybugs, though of course, as in most cases, the insect shown has the wrong number of spots. We also have a few of the larger owl banks, mixed among the dinosaurs, tigers, and lions.

And then Hannah remembered we had owl finger puppets from Folkmanis, and we also remembered our Winding Road owl pencil toppers. And then Halley told me not to forget the owl corkscrew. I just want you to know this is a micro fraction of the owl stuff out there. I think one fall we had a run on owl mugs. It was the most we had ever sold of a mug, and the record still holds. I think we could have had a run with the fox mug, but the vendor made us buy in an assortment with less popular animals. I'm thinking that the owl lobby rigged the race.

We're going to start setting up chairs for David Sedaris tonight. We expect folks to be waiting outside tomorrow before we open. If you happen to get to the store before 10 am. There will be a place to wait in line.

Folks who make it into the store will get a line letter. This does not guarrantee them entry into the store if they leave, as there are no in-and-out privileges and as I mentioned before, there are no holdsies. If the store fills up (around 325 people), we cannot let anyone else in, even if they were previously in the store. The exception for this is that we have a bathroom pass, that is good to use the facilities and get something from Starbucks. It's good for 15 minutes. There are no time restrictions or parking meter fees on Sundays in our neighborhood for street parking, though fees at the parking garage are still in effect.

For this event, we are not allowing photos or video. Your signed book is your memento. Mr. Sedaris will spend a good amount of time with every attendee. And you should know that you will absolutely get your book signed. We will not cut off the line at any point, though I should admit that we only have about 400 books for this event. You should also know that for this event, there is no requirement that you buy your book from Boswell.

The event starts at 2 pm. We're telling folks to get here by Noon. Honestly, we have no idea. If you'd like a more civilized experience, Mr Sedaris will be returning to Milwaukee for an event at the Pabst Theater on November 1.

Oh, and thanks to Nick for our keen owl drawing!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Short Post--Catching Up on Photos of Michael Perry Chalk Drawing, Michael Pollan's Movie Sign, Kpolly's Portrait, and Nana Nancy's Football Club.

On Monday, Michael Perry appeared at the Frank L. Weyenberg Library in Mequon. Nick, who was selling books at the event, wound up working with Stacey Williams-Ng, a talented area artist and entrepreneur, on chalk drawings for the event. To my dismay, we mixed up who did which drawing, and I definitively wanted to set this straight. Nick did the drawing for Truck, at right, while Stacie did the drawing for Visiting Tom, below left.


We hosted another fine group of authors this week, and everyone was surprised when I didn't book anyone for Friday night. It's Memorial Day weekend, I replied, but as everyone else correctly noted, we have David Sedaris on Memorial Day Sunday. That's different, we would have booked him on the Memorial Day Holiday itself, at 2 in the morning. I guess that's a good idea for his next tour. More on Sedaris on the Saturday post.

The next picture needs a little more explanation. Nancy is a longtime FOB (Friend of Boswell, do I even need to explain that anymore?) who has many passions. And though she doesn't live that close to us, she has taken to promoting the neighborhood. She's a huge fan of Paperwork and Grum on the block, and when she told me this story, I now realize I have to add Clark Graphics to her list of local faves.

Nancy's grandson sent her a drawing of a patch for Nana Nancy's Football Club (and I should note we're referring to soccer here). Nancy went to Clark, fancied it up, and turned them into labels, which now go on presents and the like. I know a lot of your are uber-talented and can do this yourself, but it's nice to know there's a local resource out there can also help (though I'm suspecting this would take a week of your time). We know there are a lot of internet printing services out there, but I like local storefronts, and Clark Graphics is an important part of the neighborhood and they do a great job for us, so why not give them a shout out? As an aside, Nick's working on another great poster for us (who didn't love the Peter Heller, who is still coming on June 19, along with Ethan Rutherford?) and we'll have a picture of it when it's ready to go to press. More on our upcoming events page.

I am so remiss on some of these things. Several times this spring, I've driven around authors to area libraries, and they saw big signs for their events out front. It happened with Tim Federle at the Oak Creek Community Center and again with William Alexander at the Weyenberg Library. There's something about seeing this that makes your heart sing, and I felt the same way when the lobby sign at the Oriental had Pollan listed, instead of whatever movie was normally playing in that theater. We've finally hit the big time of Hollywood, I thought. Oh, I've read enough Hollywood novels to know that is not necessarily a good thing, but I liked the way it looked anyway.

And finally, one more picture. I have been kept awake at night, wondering if I ever posted that amazing blowup of the Kpolly portrait of David Schwartz that was featured at "May the Schwartz be With You." I love it so much, the pages from the books he loved, blowing around him. Kpolly did our legendary "The Book was Better" tee. I'm supposed to be working on "The Book was Better II" and all the Boswellians are a little irritated that I am not spending more time on our lime green tees and new Boswell tote bags. It will happen, I promise, I'm just not saying when.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Indie Next List Preview, Ads and Underwriting, Cutting Out Coupons for St. Louis and Denver Newspapers While in College.

The June 2013 Indie Next List fliers are in and there are two books featured from authors coming to Boswell. The only problem? One of them, Ru Freeman for On Sal Mal Lane, is coming tonight! That said, we can still promote Jeannette Walls for her new novel, The Silver Star. As usual, we are putting special labels on our fliers to remind folks that Walls is coming. It also notes that 89.7 WUWM, Milwaukee Public Radio is co-sponsoring the event.

As long as we're talking about advertising, I've been working on several different projects this week. We updated our co-sponsoring calendar with Wisconsin Public Radio, and placed our ad next week for the Shepherd Express. Figuring out the titles was a bit heartbreaking, as we had so many great events to share. There are some events, however, that are hard to sell in a small face. If the author isn't a known quantity, or completely intriguing in one sentence, perhaps you need to try something else, like Nick's poster for Peter Heller's The Dog Stars. 

The folks at The AV Club/Onion came to us with an open slot, and while we are not regularly in the Milwaukee edition (or for that matter, the Columbus, Ohio edition), we had a lineup that was too good to pass up. As an aside, I learned that the print editions are in Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee, Columbus, Providence, and Austin. Did you know that franchises are seemingly available?.

They look pretty similar, huh? Well, there's only so much one advertising director can do on limited time and budget. I tried not to overlap, but wound up featuring Jim Gaffigan's Dad is Fat in both ads. Did you know his wife is from Milwaukee? I'm not giving any secrets away here, but it sort of explains why he does his New Year's show at the Pabst annually. Speaking of which, you can buy tickets to the Pabst show now for either December 30 or 31. Books are being sold by our friends at Rainy Day Books, and they have a signed copy book offer as well, for folks who don't want the challenge of a free and open event. But me? I'm always up for a challenge.

This all reminds me of my last year in college, when I decided I wanted to work for an ad agency and started cutting out ads from all the leftover Sunday newspapers at the college library (the librarian would let me have them when the paper came in on microfilm).

I have been always obsessed with regional variations, and followed things like where exactly the Hellmans/Best Foods and Schylling/McCormick divide was, that there were parts of the country that still preferred catsup (I do not think anymore) and that coupon amounts were generally higher if there was a strong local competitor. There were also regional brands of pasta and potato chips that had been bought up by a national competitor instead of consolidating, much the way department store chains like the late May (and current Bon Ton) keep their regional nameplates. 

Back to Boswell. If you are television station or commercial radio station reading this, may I just say up front before you contact me that your market reach, while clearly amazing, is simply too broad for our customers? It's great that you thought of us and please say hi the next time you're shopping at Boswell.

That goes for the rest of you too!