Saturday, May 29, 2010

BookExpo Wrap-Up

Airily attired ladies hawking THE BURLESQUE HANDBOOK (HarperCollins/ItBooks) across from the Saudi booth, whose all-male staff and visitors kept their eyes averted.

As someone on Twitter commented after a day spent slogging through BookExpo, the book industry won't be dying anytime soon. However, BEA management wasn't on the ball, because many people were unaware that the show was down to 2 days (Wed & Thurs) from its usual 3. Thus they were miffed--to put it mildly--when they stayed at hotels Monday night and arrived for Tuesday appointments to find the show floor closed. That happened to 2 people I'd arranged to meet on Tues., who had missed the post-9am email "reminder" that the exhibition hall wasn't open till Wed. Due to popular demand (aka "complaints"), next year the show will go back to 3 days: May 24-26.

On Tues., after viewing Philippe Halsman's wonderful "Jump" photographs at the Laurence Miller Gallery, lunching with a literary agent and poking through fabric shops, I arrived at the Javits for a 3pm confab about the Virginia Festival of the Book with a Crown publicist. Fifteen lonely minutes later, I discovered that I was 24 hours early. Oops.

To console myself, I grabbed an ARC of Jennifer Donnelly's new YA novel, REVOLUTION, which entranced me until the 4:30 Editors Buzz Panel--and for the next 3 nights. It comes out in October. Don't miss it! I reviewed her first YA novel, A NORTHERN LIGHT, which deserved every prize it received, and then some.

As for the Editors Buzz, which unlike last year was SRO, I tweeted: "I see white people. They're all around me. And they're klutzy with microphones." Once again, most of the 6 panelists apparently hadn't practised their speeches beforehand, and droned/babbled on till I wanted to scream. Moderator John Freeman asked questions to help them out, but some were beyond saving. One notable exception was Cary Goldstein of Twelve, who--surprise!--started out as a publicist. He made a great case for THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE by Benjamin Hale, a novel narrated by a talking chimpanzee who has an affair with a woman and commits murder. (I know: ICK! Goldstein says the book's fantastic, but I passed on picking up an ARC.)

After that I met Kevin Smokler, chief evangelizer for, for drinks & nosh at Hudson Yards Cafe. (Decent food! Reasonable prices!) Whether you're an author or a reader--but especially an author--you MUST check out It's already good, but from what Kevin told me, it's going to get even better in the next few months.

On Wed. morning I attended an excellent program: "Designing & Executing an e-Strategy for Authors: A Publisher & Agency Perspective." No danger of being put to sleep by moderator Charlotte Abbott or panelists Kathleen Schmidt (Director of Publicity & Digital Media, Shreve Williams Public Relations), Ron Hogan (now ex-Director of E-Strategy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and Jason Ashlock (principal, Moveable Type Literary Agency). They said a lot of the same things about online publicity that I've been telling my clients, only better, plus offered much information and thoughtful analysis. See highlights on Twitter: #eauthor.

Enterprising salesman (possibly a paid shill) just before a show manager escorted him from the hall.

For the rest of Wed. and all of Thurs. I snaked through the show floor, giving inhouse publicists--most of whom were new to me--info about VaBook. They were way friendlier than when I started representing the festival 8 years ago. Evidently publishers have realized that book festivals are a) good events that b) sell books.

Book bloggers were treated like gold. HarperCollins threw a (sweltering) party for them at the Algonquin on Tues., where I reconnected with old friends, and met authors as well as bloggers. There was an equally packed (slightly cooler) reception downstairs at the Javits on Thurs afternoon. Quite a contrast to the party Unbridled Books hosted at BEA 6 or 7 years ago, where lit bloggers Ron Hogan (Beatrice), Mark Sarvas (The Elegant Variation) and Dan Wickett (Emerging Writers Network) were regarded as an exotic species.

(right) Matilda holds court on a baggage cart in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel.

From the Thurs. bloggers reception I went to the Radisson Martinique. There Ron Hogan and I gave a 90-minute "Polish Your Pitch" workshop for nearly 30 enthusiastic attendees of the Backspace Writers Conference & Agent-Author Seminar.

After that (still with me?), Darling Husband and I went to a party way downtown for The Faster Times, "a new type of newspaper for a new type of world," which officially launches in July. We soon left because I was starving and we had to pick up our bags at the hotel before catching the train at Grand Central Terminal. We just missed the 10:12pm, so got some dessert at Zaro's and moseyed over to the 11:12. And sat. And sat. Then we heard this: "Attention! The 11:12 to Poughkeepsie will be delayed indefinitely." Oyyyy... The train finally left nearly TWO HOURS later. We pulled into Our Gracious Home at 3:15am and fell into bed, aching all over, at 3:45. The birds were starting to tweet as I fell asleep over the denouement of REVOLUTION.

My BEA 2010 Stats

103 business cards
10 books
12 lbs of catalogs

Given away:
100 VaBook postcards
98 Book Promotion 101 business cards
2 Bella Terra Maps catalogs
2 Bella Terra lighthouse maps

Lost: 1 voice

Friday, May 21, 2010

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Bigmouth

My latest find is a perfectly preserved copy of the June 7, 1936, issue of newspaper supplement Screen & Radio Weekly. It contains a profile of my father, who at age 28 had recently appeared in his first feature film, "The Scoundrel." Apparently he was the same loud dresser and talker--and spendthrift ("Anyone who lives within his means suffers from a lack of imagination.")--in youth as he was in his later years.

I didn't scan the fuzzy photo that headed the article; the one just below is a 1936 publicity still from "More than a Secretary." However, the cartoon is within the same section of text as the print version.

Who IS That Guy?

The Name Is Lionel Stander and Here Is His Story, Which Should Answer a Lot of Fans’ Questions

By Barbara Barry

“Madam, what you think of my work is exquisitely unimportant.”

His voice has all the romantic timbre of a rip-saw howling its way through a stubborn pine knot. But, since his pioneer screen appearance, as the dogmatic poet in “The Scoundrel,” men, women and children have been nudging one another, pointing (in a manner that would certainly upset Emily Post) and demanding: “Who IS that man?”

Lionel Stander is the name, folks, and it’s almost as surprising as the Broadway hillbilly suit he was wearing the first time we caught up with him on a Columbia studio set.

Briefly, Stander was born on the wrong side of the New York tracks, which doesn’t bother him a bit. His first job was that of office boy in a window shade factory, and bothered him even less.

Without in the least appreciating the honor, he found himself shoved into college plays at the University of North Carolina, where he was striving to polish off the rough edges of a Bronx education. And one sip of the thespic nectar was enough to send him galloping for home, to hang around the casting offices until the breal reak came along.

“I played everything from thunder and lightning, off stage, to dead bodies falling out of secret panels,” he said. “One night, I landed on a carpet tack and they found out I had a voice.”

“Is that what you call it?” we wondered.

“And, in no time all,” he ignored us, “they handed me a part with one whole ‘side’!” Page, to you all.

That was the beginning of a colossal career. He met Ben Hecht, and Ben faithfully promised him a part in his new show, “The Great Magoo.”

But came the opening night, with Stander viewing the remains from a gallery seat. A lone, rugged individualist.

“It was a crushing blow to the Stander stamina,” he assured us. “But, when the show folded, seeral weeks later, I stowed my gloating in an old gloat bag that I usually carry in case of fire (shades of Joe Cook!) borrowed all the high-powered clothes I could find, and went down to sympathize with Ben.

“Ben was in his office, playing tick-tack-toe on the backs of his creditors’ statements, when I sauntered in, looking like a glorified chorus boy in my borrowed finery.”

With an ill-suppressed groan of anguish, Mr. Hecht looked at Mr. Stander. “What are you laid out for?” he asked. “A Mardi Gras? Why, I knew you when you were an unemployed actor, cooling your round heels in the lobby of the Billy Rose office.”

Mr. Stander looked right back at Mr. Hecht. “Yeah?” he said. “And I knew you ‘way back when you wrote ‘Erik Dorn’—and if you can sell out, why can’t I?”

So, on to “The Scoundrel,” and the eventual nudges, and pointing fingers. And Hollywood.

Stander is the wordiest guy we’ve ever met up with. Big words he uses, dragging hard on them and tingeing them with a quantity of smooth sarcasm We let them fall (those we missed, and they were plenty), feeling that the end must be along about here, somewhere. But no. On and on he talked. And when he’d used up every word in the dictionary, he made up more. Hand embroidered. Extravagantly hyperbolical. Whe-e-e!

After his success in “The Scoundrel,” Stander visited an old vaudeville pal who was living in a cheap hotel in one of the less imposing sections of New York.

Coming down in the elevator, well after midnight, he found himself the object of the elevator boy’s furtive scrutiny. It was pretty disconcerting, but Stander’s a big fellow and felt quite able to cope with any situation, either of brain or brawn.

Suddenly, the elevator slowed down between floors. The good looking though slightly dissipated lad turned to him.

“Your hair is like a tortured midnight,” he said earnestly, almost yearningly.

Stander gasped. His eyebrows flew up and disappeared [illlegible] the “tortured midnight.” That pugnacious lower lip slid out another inch.

“But as we slid down the two remaining floors, it suddenly dawned on me that the kid had merely quoted one of my lines in “'The Scoundrel.'”

“As he was on night duty, and I didn’t have anything particular to do, we got to talking. And, do you know, that small-time elevator operator turned out to be one of the most interesting and intelligent people I’ve ever met?”

It’s a small world, I guess. Or, is it?

Remember the rocky-throated menace that scared the daylights out of small children, on Fred Allen’s radio program several years ago? That was Stander.

He had written a script for radio purposes and peddled it practically all over New York before Allen got hold of it and liked it well enough to invite the author in for an interview.

“Mr. Stander?” Fred said politely.

“Right!” rasped Mr. Stander.

Allen blinked and bounced back in his chair. “Whew!” he exclaimed. “Say that again, will you?”

“Right!” grated the obliging Mr. Stander.

“That’s fine,” Allen smiled. “I wasn’t sure. I mean, that really did come out of you, didn’t it?”

So, the Allen Hour acquired a human buzz-saw and Stander liked the idea so well that he stayed with it for over two years.

“Then the cinema got me,” he said archly, “and here I am. Prostraing myself upon the glorified altar of Art and Frenzied Finance!”

We were off again, and it was way past tea time, too.

Stander is absolutely in favor of Hollywood. So much so that he has already built a home for his wife and two-year-old daughter, who, he says, “Seems to be perfectly normal in spite of her father.”

He draws an amazing salary for one who has been milking the Golden Cow for such a short time, and he would spend every bit of it if it weren’t for his manager, who sees to it that the Stander income is wisely invested.

“I’m on the dole,” he grimaced. “The guy knows me better than I know myself, so all I get is a weekly allowance. And, when that’s gone, I either have to hibernate or pan-handle until next week’s check comes around.

“I need a wet nurse,” he went on, “and it’s comforting to know that I won’t be mowing lawns at the poor house a few years from now when Hollywood gets tired of me.”

But Hollywood doesn’t tire easily of such unique personalities. In fact, the entire populace (with the exception of Uncle Herman, who is laid up with laryngitis, right now) is actually howling for “more Stander.” So, you’re safe for a while, methinks.

Who is that man? Ask no more, kiddies.

He’s a double G man (gerund and genitive); a new Gabriel over ennuied Hollywood. Or something.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Fun with Books

Diamonds Are a Reader's  Best Friend
Stephen Parris is promoting his debut novel The Tavernier Stones with an "armchair treasure hunt" that offers a 1-carat diamond for the lucky winner. See

Per Booklist: Parris's "odd-couple protagonists (John Graf, the Amish cartographer, and David Freeman, the gemologist and jewel thief) make an interesting pair of heroes, and their jaunty relationship gives the novel an agreeable, lighthearted feel. The story itself, which involves a race against intricate without being annoyingly elaborate."

Miss Austen Forever!
This just in from Laurie Viera Rigler, author of the delightful novels Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict:
I have some exciting news to share. There's a new comedy web series inspired by my Austen Addict novels, called SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL. In it, my two protagonists face off over the pros and cons of life and love and being a woman in Regency England vs. 21st century L.A.

SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL premieres on the broadband network on May 17. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy a peek at the teaser trailer:

Saturday, May 01, 2010

May Day 5: Healed at Last

 My new Twitterverse. Beyond the fence is a horse farm.

On May 1, 2006, Gomez the horse threw me into a steel-pipe fence outside Denver. My body was smashed and so was my psyche. (See 2009 posts Still Shattered, or The Never-Ending Story; The Never-Ending Story 2: Arm-ageddon and I'm Psychologically Distoibed!)

I'm happy to report that after 4 years and 8 surgeries--plus 2 bonus surgeries not caused by Gomez--I'm finally healed, if not all better. (There's a difference.) I owe it to therapeutic massage from the fantabulously gifted Dirk McQuistion, founder of, who gave me hope after the doctors gave up; Somatic Experiencing therapy from the wonderful Mel Grusing; and moving to Rhinebeck, where nothing reminds me of the last 4 years, and just going outside makes me happy.

Max is also happy to be here.