Between twitter and Facebook and all those other newfangled social networking tools, does anyone really need to blog anymore? Probably not me, since I’ve always been, at best, a sporadic blogger. For some reason, I just can’t seem to give it up though. So here is the inevitable post about what I’ve been up to lately. Don’t worry, I’m only reaching back a couple of weeks.
BookExpo America was held in NYC at the end of May. It’s my favorite conference that I have to go to for work, and as this year’s event firmly proved, that’s because I get to hang around my cool publisher friends, Talia, Virginia, Bobby, and the fun folks working in big library collection development departments around the country. I also get to see authors who I’ve met over the years, or who I admire. Sure, this year was extra fun because I spoke on two panels, but the overall feel of the conference was a little subdued. They say numbers were down, but you couldn’t really feel that in the exhibit hall. It felt plenty busy to me. Well… scratch that. Now that I think back, maneuvering through the hall was a lot easier that usual.
I arrived Wednesday evening and enjoyed a wonderful Indian dinner with my friends Bruce and Scott, and a friend of theirs. Thursday was Library Journal’s annual Day of Dialog for librarians attending Book Expo. Nice turnout, a lot of good quality time with Talia and Virginia. Got to meet Talia’s new adorable assistant Ben. Annoyed by the intrusive presence of the group that publishes L. Ron Hubbard’s books. When the sessions began, it became clear that the focus of the day was going to be digital services and promotion. It’s taken about 3 or 4 years, but it seems that everyone is now talking about living online. Of course, despite this focus, you couldn’t get a wireless signal in order to tweet, update your facebook status, or blog about the conference from the hall. Thursday night was the librarian author dinner sponsored by the American Association of Publishers. A large roomful of librarians was treated to dinner, and a terrific panel of authors including the popular Jonathan Lethem, and my friend, the sweet and hilarious Elinor Lipman. It was lovely catching up with Elinor, and she arguably stole the show.
Friday I spent the day largely in the exhibit hall, between appointments with Macmillan and HarperCollins (where I shared the booth for one hour with Mr. Neil Gaiman himself, who was signing copies of his multi-award-winning The Graveyard Book for a line of nearly 200 admirers. I didn’t stalk him like last year, but I did periodically check him out (he was at the table next to me) while I was meeting with Virginia and Bobby. Is that so wrong?) and collecting fall 2009 releases for one of my Saturday panels. I had all sorts of good intentions about getting to some of the programs, but somehow the time just got away from me. Friday night I moved from Bruce’s place (to make room for our friends Chris and Steve who were staying for the weekend) and had a wonderful barbecue dinner with Vlado and Dominik, our friends that we met earlier this year in Aruba. It was wonderful catching up with them again.
Saturday was the big day: I was speaking on two panels. First thing in the morning, I spoke about library’s digital initiatives at “The Librarian as Digital Diva” along with Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive, and Ana Maria Allessi, HarperCollins Audio. I talked about our extremely positive experience with OverDrive’s downloadable media program, which continues to grow in usage (it’s usually ranked about #10 for circulation in a listing of our 27 branches) and our work digitizing pre-1923 books with the Internet Archive. I was please to see that someone by the name of Anna May Won’t blogged briefly about this panel. Went to a couple of programs, one on Street Lit, which was terrific, and the the Publisher’s Book Buzz “speed dating” session which was also a lot of fun. Then the librarians got our chance to make some noise at the “Librarians Shout & Share” program. Seven “notable” librarians (including me) had about 7 minutes to talk about the books we thought were going to make a splash in the fall. It was a lot of fun, and I think I did a pretty good job. You can view my picks on Early Word: The Publisher | Librarian Connection at http://www.earlyword.com/shout-n-share-mike-colford/. There’s also an article in Library Journal you can check out. And here we all are with our hot picks for the fall:
Nice dinner with Vlado, Dominik, Bruce and Scott at Cafe Luxembourg capped things off and I returned to Boston exhausted on Sunday. A couple of other notes, spent a lot of time with Bill and Gene of Unshelved fame. Bonded over library services with Gene, which was nice.
Back to work where all sorts of things are happening, which I can’t really talk about publicly yet as they’re still in progress. It was crazy and exhilirating, and stress-inducing, but all-in-all better than it’s been in awhile. Thank you President Amy Ryan.
Last week Scot and I went to Chicago and Milwaukee. This was a family and friends quickie vacation which ended up being a lot of fun. My immediate family has always lived in the Massachusetts area. Last year, my nephew Tim was the first to escape when he moved to Chicago to be with his lovely girlfriend Meg. I thought it would be nice to take my parents to Chicago to see their grandson. My parents are in their mid-80s, and air travel with them is a bit of a handful, so I worked out a plan with my sister Mary (who is also Tim’s mother) that Scot and I would get my parents out to Chicago, then a couple of days later, Mary and her husband Ted would join us. Scot and I would move on to Milwaukee to visit my good friend Daniel, and Mary and Ted would be responsible for getting my parents home. Sounds complicated, but it actually worked out great and by all accounts, everyone had a great time. Scot and I also had the opportunity to stay with our friends Dee and Keith, which was a great way for us to catch up with them as well.
We sure packed a lot into this quick vacation! Visiting with Meg’s family was nice, and a great chance for my parents to meet Meg’s mom. We enjoyed the divine Frontera Grill, Rick Bayless’ Mexican restaurant where the margarita’s are as smooth as water (and I even got my parents to split one.) Afterwards we enjoyed the ultra-trendy new space in Wicker Park called The Violet Hour, which features exquisite cocktails (I had the World Cup, which is basically a tangerine capirinhia) and the most delicious tempura milky way desert. Mmmmm! Got to catch up with our friend Chadd and his new girlfriend at Yolk for brunch on Sunday, then caught up with the family again for a fun dinner at a Chicago Instituion, Harry Caray’s Steakhouse. From there we went back to Dee and Keith’s lovely River Forest home where Dee made a delicious cherry cloufuti and chocolate dipped strawberries for desert. There Scot was also able to watch the latter half of the Tony’s. The next morning we regrouped with the family and took a delightful riverboat architecture tour of the city. Then it was on on the train to Milwaukee.I’ve known my good friend Daniel for over 20 years, and in all that time, he has visited me several times. I, however, had never managed to get out to Milwaukee to visit him. Now, Daniel does have family in Massachusetts, so he had an added incentive to get here, but still, I knew it was past time I made a trek to Wisconsin to pay him a visit. He and his partner Kirk were gracious hosts, and we stayed in their lovely home in Bay View. Daniel is also an excellent host and he toured us around the city’s varied neighborhoods. Our first night found us at the Honey Pie, a restaurant in their neighborhood where our waitress was a former co-worker of his at Harry Schwarz Bookstores, followed by my first experience with frozen custard at Kopp’s. I had never really heard of frozen custard until my friend Chris, who grew up there, told me about it. It was very tasty. The next morning, after coffee and a delicious scone at Anodyne (one of three different cafes we tried) we took the bus downtown where Daniel showed off some of the exquisite lobbies in office buildings, as well as some of the more interesting German-influenced architecture. For lunch, we went to a delightful soup place, where they make six kinds of soups a day, and when they run out, they close, so you have to get there pretty early. I had a wonderful cream of brussels sprouts soup. Other stops downtown included The Spice House, the bronze Fonze (pictured left) and the Milwaukee Public Library, which boasted a grand lobby and a beautiful and highly functional children’s room. As we transitioned from downtown to Shorewood, we passed the Blackstone, an apartment building Daniel lived in for over 15 years, and the neighborhood that Laverne & Shirley would have lived. A visit of the local comic book store is always a must in any new city, and Collector’s Edge was one of the better shops I’ve visited, with an impressive collection of statues and busts of superheroines (which I collect). Overlooking Lake Michigan, we enjoyed our second cafe, the very popular Alterra.
From there it was a short walk to Daniel’s new independent bookstore, Boswell Book Company. (Daniel writes a very entertaining blog called Boswell and Books that I highly recommend you follow if you’re an avid reader.) A longtime buyer at the well-known, well-respected Harry Schwartz Books, Daniel opted to purchase on of the Schwartz locations when the small chain closed a couple of months ago. Boswell Book Company is his very own bookstore, and he is very brave to take on an independent bookstore period, much less during this economy, but if anyone can make it work, it’s Daniel, with his gregarious nature and his extensive knowledge of books and publishing. Always willing to help out an independent bookstore, particularly Daniel’s, Scot and I were set loose in the store and ended up buying nearly $300 worth of books.
The evening ended at Riviera Maya, a lovely Mexican restaurant where we dined with Kirk and Anne Hellman, a Macmillan sales rep who was visiting Boswell and Company that day. The next morning we enjoyed coffee at Stone Creek Coffee, the final of our three cafe experiences before bidding Daniel adieu. Then Scot and I enjoyed a lovely lunch at the delightful Lulu Cafe before flying home.