The Mountains and Plains Indie Booksellers Tradeshow was last week, in Denver, and, as in years past, I joined our fantastic western sales rep, Dory Dutton, at her table (she reps everything from Tuttle origami books to Lonely Planet guides…and a lot of other stuff in between, so we were an eclectic bunch), joined by another Consortium distributed press Torrey House Press, and three of their new authors. A raucous time was had by all. And I do mean All…I’ve been going to this for three years now, and this time there was a kind of fizz and sparkle going on that was everywhere remarked. (“Do we have a better spot this year? Is it the good canapes?” “No! It’s just everyone is happier and more energized, how did this happen?” ” Don’t ask, just enjoy it!”) The place was hopping. New bookstores had apparently sprouted overnight, young volunteers looked up at us with shining faces and admitted they loved books more than food, booksellers talked seriously about how they adored getting the right books into the right hands…it was a party.
I kept swapping hats between being the publisher of Exterminating Angel Press, and the writer of JAM TODAY and the soon to come JAM TODAY TOO, sometimes balancing both hats atop the head, sometimes doffing both of them to the hard working Torrey House authors next to me. Torrey House specializes in literary fiction and creative nonfiction that exemplify a love of the west and its environment, and judging from their authors, we might be running out of water in the west, but we aren’t short on charm. Scott Graham, who wrote the Grand Canyon set mystery CANYON SACRIFICE, Charlie Quimby of the already much talked about novel MONUMENT ROAD, and Kayann Short…who not only wrote A BUSHEL’S WORTH, but lives the life on a ten acre farm saved from urban sprawl just north of Boulder, where I write this. She and John, her husband, are examples of what I think of as the New American Culture–educated, cultivated people who live and feel deeply in and about rural areas. There are so many examples of this in my home base of Colestin Valley, Oregon (and I write about them in JAM TODAY TOO), and so many people like this coming up with new ways of being and seeing, and new stories to tell. The capital cities no longer hold a monopoly on our cultural story–and a good thing too. The prairie mustangs have a thing or two (or three) to teach the thoroughbreds about survival. And it’s those kinds of lessons about self-reliance, and about the necessity of self-knowledge, that we all need to learn over and over again.
And then there were the booksellers. It’s always a kind of bliss to hang out with indie booksellers (and librarians, but that’s another story). Imagine my extra added delight at discovering a place in Denver (just down the road! yes!) called BookBar that combines, yes, that’s right, wait for it, A BOOKSTORE WITH A WINE BAR. I just looked at the two owners who stood smiling in front of me and gasped, “Oh my, I am so THERE.” I signed two copies of JAM TODAY for them, and they told me they had a kitchen in the store, and did I want to come cook there? DID I? What does anyone who knows me think? I said, “If you have a kitchen and wine, I have garlic and olive oil.” We shook hands on it then and there. I’m going to entice a Denver friend or two into an exploratory foray there, but I’m already thinking it’s THE place to launch a JAM TODAY TOO tour out of come next year when the book comes out.
That was the author hat. As the publisher, I got into conversation with a bookseller from Tattered Cover, the venerable and beloved Denver bookstore. We agreed the whole point was getting books into the hands of the people who love them, and I showed him a copy of Mike Madrid’s DIVAS, DAMES & DAREDEVILS (which comes out tomorrow, as I write this), as a book that I love to hand over to readers and watch their faces light up as they pore over the pages of reproduced comics of the Golden Age. “There’s even a postmenopausal superheroine,” I told him. And he laughed. “People always laugh when I say that. So then I say: Why are you laughing? Why can’t we have a postmenopausal superheroine?”
“I know why,” he said. “Because superheroes have to have a flaw. And postmenopausal women HAVE no flaws.”
Is it any wonder I love indie booksellers? Mark of Tattered Cover, you I love IN PARTICULAR.