Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Annoucing the 20th annual Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Lunch featured speaker Elizabeth Strout

Since 2009, we've been working with the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation on the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Luncheon, one of the highlights of any Milwaukee book lover's calendar. I still remember winter 2009, when Schwartz was closing and the author was not yet booked. On my Facebook page showed a message from Leif Enger, saying "Let me know if I can be of any help" and my reply was "How about if you headline a big luncheon this spring?" And so he was featured for the paperback edition of So Brave, Young, and Handsome. Booking events like this don't always go as smoothly.

Since we've been partnering, the Friends have hosted:

2009: Leif Enger
2010: Sue Miller
2011: Donna Leon
2012: Chad Harbach
2013: Elinor Lipman
2014: Shauna Singh Baldwin
2015: Elizabeth Berg
2016: Curtis Sittenfeld

Don't forget, Eligible coming out in paperback on April 18. And the other book titles are the featured titles from selected appearing authors.

I didn't have records of who appeared back when Harry W. Schwartz was partnering, but our friend Kristine offered the complete list!

1998: Jane Hamilton
1999: Lorrie Moore
2000: Mary Gordon
2001: Christina Schwarz
2002: Ruth Reichl
2003: Ann Packer
2004: Mary Higgins Clark
2005: Sue Monk Kidd
2006: Julia Glass
2007: Sara Gruen
2008: Louise Erdrich

So I'm sure you're wondering who had the highest attendance since this has started. It was Ruth Reichl! And I had particular fun typing up this list as I realized there are very few authors on this list I haven't read, but I was in the process of crossing off one right now. I'm reading my first Mary Gordon, There Your Heart Lies, as I write this. She'll be at Boswell on Wednesday, May 17, 7 pm, by the way..

So of course our challenge was to find an author that we think has a chance of beating the record, and I think the Friends and the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation has found that person in Elizabeth Strout.

1. Ms. Strout is the first featured author to have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. We triple checked this because I thought Erdrich had been awarded this prestigious honor, but while she has won both the National Book Critics Circle Award (for Love Medicine) and the National Book Award (for The Round House), she has yet (and I stress yet!) to be awarded the Pulitzer.

2. Strout has not appeared at a Milwaukee or Schwartz-related event (I'm assuming she did not come for a university visit or nonprofit fundraiser) since 2006, since she read at one of the Schwartz stores for her second novel, Abide with Me.

3. Olive Kitteridge is one of those books that had pretty small sales for the Downer Schwartz store in 2008 (what the heck? I have the number so I'll tell you it was four). But after looking at our sales, in all the various editions we've had it (yes, including at least one shipment of bargain books), we've now sold over 500 copies! That's a lot of people loving Olive Kitteridge.

4. While Strout's next two books did not sell quite as many copies, most writers would love the success of The Burgess Boys and My Name is Lucy Barton. The latter was on the short recommendation lists of two recent Boswell attendees, Ann Patchett and Elinor Lipman.

So now we are excited to announce that Elizabeth Strout will be appearing at the Wisconsin Club as the featured author of the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Luncheon on Friday, May 5. Tickets are $70, including lunch and a copy of Ms. Strout's latest work, Anything Is Possible, or $60 for Friends members. Here is more info including how to order your ticket.

It would be so great if we could beat the record with Elizabeth Strout. Tomorrow I'll tell you more about her new book, Anything Is Possible, which goes on sale April 25.

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