Friday, August 29, 2008

'Rocky Mountain News' To Run Original Fiction

By Edward Nawotka -- Publishers Weekly, 8/27/2008 3:02:00 PM

As host for the Democratic National Convention, Denver is very much in the spotlight right now. The city is also celebrating its sesquicentennial anniversary this year, an event that is being marked in an unusual fashion by the Rocky Mountain News: The paper has commissioned 11 short stories from local writers that they will publish each Tuesday starting next week.

Dubbed “A Dozen on Denver: Stories to celebrate the city at 150,” authors participating include Margaret Coel, Joanne Greenberg, Pam Houston, Connie Willis, Nick Arvin, Sandra Dallas, Manuel Ramos, Robert Greer, Arnold Grossman, Diane Mott Davidson and Laura Pritchett. The twelfth and final story will be chosen through a writing contest, offering $500 and publication in the paper for the best story depicting Denver of the future.

Judges for the contest include Rocky Mountain News staffers Sandra Dallas, books editor Patti Thorn, editor John Temple, as well as retired Tattered Cover bookseller Margaret Maupin, and publishing consultant Laurie Brock, who was responsible for originating the idea.

“I think there's a place in newspapers for fiction,” wrote Temple in an editorial in the paper. “It's commonly said that a newspaper is fresh in the morning and fish wrap by the evening. That's only partly true. If you visit a library and watch patrons scrolling through old newspapers on microfilm, a larger truth is revealed. Just as newspapers are a good way to find out what's going on in a city today, they also are a window to study what a community was like in years past.” The stories that make up “A Dozen on Denver,” Temple continued, “will reveal something about the forces that made this the city it is today. The winning entry will tell us what life in the Denver of tomorrow might be like.” At present, there are no plans to turn the stories into a book.

Monday, August 18, 2008

13 Ways of Looking at a Rights Deal

This month's Franfurt Book Fair's newsletter includes profiles of 13 rights professionals -- all members fo the Fairs Rights Directors Advisory Board -- I helped compile. Most are enlightening and many, entertaining.

Mrs. Anne-Solange Noble, Foreign Rights Director, Gallimard (France)

My job for the last 22 years has been to promote Gallimard’s French authors abroad and to convince foreign publishers to translate them. I’m absolutely passionate about opening up new worlds to people. Being born and raised in Montreal made me bilingual. Then I lived in Mexico and learned Spanish as well. I happen to be trilingual, but I’m not criticizing people who don’t speak another language. Think about Roger Strauss at the American publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He had so many Nobel Prizes on his list that he was in Sweden almost every year, yet he only spoke English. He was just incredibly open and internationally minded.

Mrs. Annette Beetz, International Sales Director, Gräfe und Unzer (Germany)

As a publisher of illustrated reference guides, we work with a multitude of publishers, projects, and people and I can truly say that I have never been bored during the eight years I’ve been in the job, not even one single day. Over this time, digital technology has made serving the needs of our clients much easier. It's much more convenient to make data (rather than film) accessible to a multitude of people in almost no time, and it permits the combination of text and images from a variety of titles into one new title that will exactly meet the client's needs. We have just begun to explore the many options of selling digital rights to a variety of customers, many of them not part of the publishing world but rather from the corporate world of big brands in the food and health industries.

Carole Blake, Literary Agent, Blake Friedmann Literary, TV and Film Agency Ltd. (UK)

I've been running the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency since I established it in 1977, having spent 14 years previously working for publishers. The advent of the digital world hasn’t changed my job that much at all: of course new rights means vigorous negotiation for the royalties etc but there is so little income stream from many of these new rights so far, so little else has changed. I haven't yet found an e-book reader that suits me - I want one that will take my manuscripts and allow me to edit on screen and am not going to buy one until they do. Social networking? Talking, having meetings, book fairs - that's real social networking. And that's what makes publishing work. Still, the biggest thrill for me since starting was being asked to record my life story -- verbally on tape -- for The British Library.

Diane Spivey, Rights & Contracts Director, Little, Brown Book Group (UK)

I started out when the big money and emphasis was on licensing paperback reprint rights which is almost unheard of today – then book clubs were the next big thing. In the UK, serial rights had a massive boom which has since faded now that the newspapers are losing advertising revenue, and now the emphasis (though sadly, not as yet the big income) is on digital rights such as ebooks. The disturbing downside, though, is a tendency for people (not just the general public but other book trade professionals) to assume that something transmitted or available digitally commands less value than the physical equivalent (ebooks v printed books; audio downloads v CDs). I was involved in a UK publishing initiative which brought together the Publishers Association, the Authors’ Agents Association and the Society of Authors to try to come up with contract guidelines and definitions of publishing terms that would work for the future. In the end we were not able to agree, but I think all parties found the exchange of views very informative, non-confrontational and a good basis for ongoing individual negotiations. So, success from failure, I guess you could say!

Riky Stock, Director, German Book Office New York (USA)

One of the GBO’s tasks is to establish personal contacts, as we strongly believe that book rights sell because of the true enthusiasm of a rights director or an editor. During the GBO’s 2006 editor’s trip, we were meeting with editors from Random House Germany when Martin Mittelmeier’s phone rang. Mittelmeier, an editor at the literary Luchterhand imprint, left the room only to return a few minutes later with a big smile on his face. His author, Saša Stanišić, had just been shortlisted for the German Book Prize. His excitement infected everyone, including Grove/Atlantic editor Lauren Wein. After the trip, she bought the rights to Stanišić’s debut novel, How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone. Stanišić was then selected as a Writer-in-Residence at Deutsches Haus NYU and participated in the 2008 PEN World Voices Festival. The book is currently selling well and receiving positive reviews in the US.

Marcella Berger, VP, Director of Subsidiary Rights, Simon & Schuster (USA)

I’ve been with S&S for 32 years. Twenty years ago you dealt with ten countries, now you deal with 40 countries. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, countries in Eastern Europe and elsewhere all want the same books, and often those are American books. I’m always a little surprised at how informed publishers in, say Latvia, are about America. We may not buy a book by the prime minister of Germany, but everyone wanted Hillary Clinton's book Living History and rights sold sight unseen to the book in 33 countries. In recent years, people wonder why it’s still important to go to Frankfurt when you can do everything electronically. I will say things have become a little impersonal with all the email. I still feel the personal contact is important and the personal relationship serves you in good stead when you put books on submission or when problems arise. That’s why we all go to Frankfurt.

Lynette Owen, Copyright Director, Pearson Education Limited (UK)

I spend a significant amount of my personal time running training courses on copyright and licensing in the UK (for the industry and for publishing degree students) and abroad (for publishing professionals - most recently in Vietnam, Mexico, Argentina and Spain - for Catalan publishers in Barcelona). I would say that the most exciting aspects of my job are the ways in which my own company has developed and expanded into new areas over the years; the sheer range of travel I have been able to undertake in connection with my main job and for training purposes - often when the markets concerned were first opening up to licensing opportunities. Also, the amazing range of publishing people I have had the privilege of meeting in markets from the Baltics and the Balkans to Mongolia, China and Vietnam - people who have often had to combat difficult local circumstances in order to achieve their goals. I am happy if the training work undertaken by others and myself has enabled them to operate more confidently on a more level playing field.

Robert Baensch, President, Baensch International Group Limited (USA)

I’ve been involved with rights management since the beginning of my career at McGraw-Hill in 1974. For Frankfurt, I have been the program coordinator of the Rights Directors Meeting for many years. What’s been most interesting to me in the past decade is to see the development of all the former Soviet countries into their own cultural and intellectual publishing arenas. Slovenia for example used to be required to use Russian, but now they publish and read in their own language. I ran a publishing conference in Almati, Kazakhstan, and 66 publishers showed up for my seminars. What used to be viewed as insignificant and irrelevant has emerged into a viable micro market. For many authors being published into these markets, it’s not the money or commercial side that’s important – it’s that they were published in so many countries. When that happens, I hear things like “The edition of my book in Thai, in their script, was the most beautiful edition of all.”

Beatriz Coll, Literary Agent, RDC Agencia Literaria (Spain)

I primarily sell rights for our Spanish author's abroad, via a wonderful co-agents network, and sell rights on behalf of USA and UK houses/agencies for the Spanish and Portuguese language markets. I also sell for some German and Dutch, and one Thai house as well. Selling rights is unpredictable, but there is a rewarding feeling of having found, negotiated and closed a deal with the right house for the right author/work. Also, selling those little jewels that won't ever be mega-sellers a priori, but that have their home in the suitable house, is satisfying. My biggest success recently was selling Stephenie Meyer’s books for translation into Spanish.

Kerstin Schuster, Foreign Rights Director, S. Fischer (Germany)

As foreign rights manager at S. Fischer I am in charge of rights/license sales throughout the world for fiction and non-fiction titles published by S. Fischer, including a huge backlist with authors like Thomas Mann and Sigmund Freud. But the most wonderful day in my 15 years in publishing was the day when José Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1998 - I used to work at the Ray-Güde Mertin agency at that time and we represented world rights to the author's works. Saramago was at the Frankfurt airport, about to leave and then came back to the Fair -- all his international publishers could celebrate this day with him. My most recent success has been the licensing of last year's German Book Prize winner Julia Franck's novel "Die Mittagsfrau" – we’ve sold it for 30 languages so far.

Carolyn Savarese, Group VP, Director International Sales & Marketing, Sub Rights, Perseus Book Group (USA)

I started at Perseus a decade ago and now oversee all matters regarding international sales, contacts, royalties and licensing rights. Most publishers try to keep licensing and sales apart because they see them as competitive, but I think it helps us serve the author better. I first came into this business after spending a year in Rome and then working in New York for Italy’s RAI -- I did the weather one night on television and booked appointments for the Cannes Film Festival, which I realized later was a good primer for Frankfurt. I somehow ended up at Mondadori's New York office, where my favorite part of the job -- and I’m dating myself now -- was distributing the telexes to the offices on our floor. It was like getting to read people’s mail every morning. The scout Maria Campbell was there and I was able to read what publishers around the world were saying about these great books – by John Updike, Umberto Eco – years before they would be published.

Irina Prokhorova, Editor, New Literary Observer (Russia)

I launched Russia’s first independent academic journal in 1992 -- the ‘New Literary Observer’ – something unthinkable in Soviet times. In 1995 I also started publishing books. We participate in all major international book fairs, Frankfurt in first place, selling and buying rights. Publishing is a kind of eternal adventure – in spite of all calculations and professional efficiency the only thing you can basically rely on choosing a book for publication is a dark intuition. This mystery of public reception and a game of chance you play with the text (and yourself) is the most exciting experience for a true publisher. My greatest success came last year when we published a special issue of NLO devoted to the close historical study of the single year of 1990 – the crucial though most oblique year in recent Russian history, where all the political and social changes of the late perestroika became irreversible and undeniable. We did it both in print and an electronic version, including a detailed day-by-day chronicle of the year with hyperlinks to various articles and discussions as well as biographies of the participants of those historical days, audio & visual material. To some extent, it is a realization of the French concept of ‘total history,’ meaning exhaustive description of historical events of a certain period.

Susanne Schettler, Senior Account Manager English-speaking world, Frankfurt Book Fair (Germany)

I head the team that is in charge of all our company's profit-making and non-profit activities involving the English-speaking world. That includes the organisation of Hall 8 and the Literary Agents & Scouts Centre at the Frankfurt Book Fair as well as German collective stands at book fairs in English-speaking countries, plus other projects. Coordination of the German Book Office New York, GBO, is also part of our team’s remit. Rights trade in all its aspects is of course one of the major concerns preoccupying the publishing world in “my” region, which is why it matters a great deal to me to be able to help in organising the annual Rights Directors Meetings. I have been a member of the advisory board since 2008 and I am very much looking forward to working together with the other board members.

Georgia Bookseller Raises $25,000 to Save Store

By Edward Nawotka -- Publishers Weekly, 8/18/2008 9:22:00 AM

Faced with a large chunk of debt, Wordsworth Books of Decatur, Ga. was in danger of closing earlier this month when it launched an aggressive fundraising campaign that culminated last Friday with an event featuring author Jack Pendarvis and his book Awesome (MacAdam/Cage). The two-week blitz enabled Wordsworth to raise nearly $25,000, taking itself out of immediate danger. “We came very close to our fundraising goal,” said owner Zachary Steele.

Steele’s August 4 e-mail blast generated lots of publicity in publishing circles and the store received a big boost when NPR’s All Things Considered ran a four-minute segment on August 11 outlining the store’s need. Contributions came from 18 states, as well as Canada and the U.K. Additional funds were provided by higher sales and some 40 new members signing up for the store’s loyalty program.

“The signs are out of the windows and I’m filled with hope, but there’s still a lot of work for me to do,” Steele said, indicating that the $25,000 still doesn’t erase the store’s total debt burden and in the coming months he will be seeking additional investors, including one willing to come in as a full business partner. “Still,” Steele said, “to have so many flood us with support, both financially and emotionally, has been a tremendous boon.”

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oooooh Mexico: Lida and Griest on Our Misunderstood Neighbor

'First Stop in the New World' by David Lida and 'Mexican Enough' by Stephanie Elizondo Griest: Fresh takes on an old country

12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, August 17, 2008

By EDWARD NAWOTKA / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News Edward Nawotka is a freelance writer in Houston.

You'll be robbed, kidnapped and probably murdered; the traffic is at a constant 24-hour standstill; the air is so bad that breathing it is like smoking two packs of cigarettes a day; you can't drink the water, the food will give you diarrhea ...

Those aren't slogans you're likely to see on any travel poster for Mexico City. Yet, it's what many Americans believe to be the truth: Mexico is just too dangerous to visit. Besides, isn't all the best stuff Mexico has to offer readily available in San Antonio?

Journalists David Lida and Stephanie Elizondo Griest disagree. The authors of a pair of new books (First Stop in the New World and Mexican Enough, respectively) challenge many of these hoary old clichés.

Mr. Lida, a former New Yorker who has lived nearly 20 years in D.F. (short for Distrito Federal and a nickname for Mexico City), offers his services as an opinionated Virgil through its labyrinthine streets. Reflecting the "improvised, ad-hoc nature of life in Mexico City," he caroms from the enthusiasm of the Chilangos (a mildly offensive slang term for residents of the capital) for the Virgin of Guadalupe to the Mexican national soccer team to the city's poor urban planning and, yes, appalling traffic.

Mr. Lida's method results in a mosaic of life in the city. Highlights of his book are his many brief portraits of the city's cosmopolitan denizens, such as a Brazilian model, a would-be porn mogul and a hip Englishman who opens a Tiki bar.

In Mexican Enough, Stephanie Elizondo Griest describes how on Dec. 30, 2004, she, too, moved to Mexico, motivated by a need to resolve her conflicted feelings about her mixed ethnicity (her mother is Mexican, her father is from Kansas). A Corpus Christi native who rarely visited Mexico, Ms. Griest's goal is to learn Spanish and "Mexicanize" herself.

The result is nearly two-year journey of self-discovery during which she befriends gay activists, seeks out Zapatista rebels in Chiapas and strikers in Oaxaca, and meets countless women abandoned by men who've emigrated to El Norte. She also tracks down ancestors in the town of Cruillas, a place reportedly wiped off the map when its residents were hired by Richard King in 1854 to work on the King Ranch in South Texas. (The story's untrue. However desolate, the town remains.)

Where Mr. Lida's and Ms. Griest's books cross paths is illustrative of their differences: Both describe Aztec re-enactors in Mexico City's Zocolo who offer ritual cleansing through incense. Mr. Lida is cynical about the promised limpia; Ms. Griest finds herself crouching down before them, "Breathing in the blue incense. Watching the Templo Mayor burst out of the pavement. Meditating history."

Discussing Lucha Libre, the carnival-like Mexican form of professional wrestling, Mr. Lida interprets it using the theories of Nobel Prize-winner Octavio Paz; Ms. Griest interviews Bulldog Quintero, a half-deaf, gray-haired luchador who flips through his photo albums and reminisces about his 40-year career.

Where Mr. Lida is breezy, urbane and maintains a journalistic distance, Ms. Griest is earnest and full of wonder, befriending many of her subjects. Mr. Lida can sound like a spoiled urbanite when he bemoans the lack of jazz venues in Mexico City, while Ms. Griest's exertions to cover the "big" issues (immigration, the oppression of the poor) occasionally feels dutiful. And while Mr. Lida's agenda is sociological – he ultimately wants us to see Mexico as an example of a 21st-century hypercity – it becomes a personal paean. Ms. Griest starts on a personal mission but veers into sociological study.

The biggest difference ultimately lies in how the writers perceive themselves: Mr. Lida considers himself a Chilango; Ms. Griest acknowledges she will "never be Mexican, not even if I moved there for the rest of my life."

Each view has its merits, and both books are insightful and entertaining. Read together, they offer a panoramic portrait of our beguiling neighbor, one that will have you dismissing those old, misleading platitudes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Random House Cancels Novel About Muhammad's Wife, Sparks Controversy

By Edward Nawotka


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A University of Texas professor alerted Ballantine Books this spring that a novel it planned to publish about a wife of the Prophet Muhammad contained historical inaccuracies, and she said the book might spark violent protests.

Weeks later, Ballantine decided to cancel the book, which was scheduled to be published this week. Now the professor, Denise Spellberg, is at the center of a publishing controversy that has brought her a flood of hate mail.

In April, Spellberg, an associate professor in the Department of History and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, was asked by Ballantine, a division of Random House, to write a promotional blurb for a forthcoming historical novel, "The Jewel of Medina," by Sherry Jones. The book is based on the life of Muhammad's young wife Aisha.

Spellberg is an expert on Aisha; her 1994 scholarly work, "Politics, Gender, & the Islamic Past: The Legacy of A'isha bint Abi Bakr," was cited as a source by Jones on her Web site.

But Spellberg was appalled by Jones' book. "The characterization of Aisha as a sexualized being, swinging a sword around and who taught others to use a weapon, was an egregious abuse of her life," she told the American-Statesman. (Spellberg allowed a Statesman editor to sit in her office and skim the manuscript.)

Spellberg, coincidentally, has a contract with Random House to write a nonfiction book titled "Thomas Jefferson's Quran." On April 30, she called her editor and recommended that "The Jewel of Medina" not be published.

"Not just because of its potential to provoke violence," said Spellberg, who worried that a small minority of Muslims might respond violently to the book. "But also because, as a historian, I objected to the fact that it was a deliberately distorted view of an important female religious figure."

Spellberg also had her lawyer send a letter to Random House saying that she would sue the company if her name was used to promote the book.

"My fear was that the author would invoke my name or scholarly work as her explanation for the historical sources she claimed underpinned her novel," Spellberg said. "I wanted to protect my professional reputation — and my safety."

Jones, a journalist in Spokane, Wash., said that before Random House bought the novel and a sequel in 2007 for $100,000, it asked if there was "anything controversial" about the book. Jones recalled saying yes but said that "there wasn't anything in there that couldn't be found in one of the 29 nonfiction books I used for research."

On May 2, Jones learned that Random House was concerned that the book might offend Muslims. "I was told they wanted to delay publication until they checked with other scholars and some security people," she said.

By that point, the controversy had grown. The same day that Spellberg called Random House, she also phoned Shahed Amanullah, the Austin-based editor of who has been a guest lecturer in her class.

"He edits a Web site dedicated to reasonable discourse about controversial topics in the American Muslim community, and I wanted to bring this book to his attention because it was likely to become a topic of conversation," Spellberg said. She denied, as has been reported elsewhere, that she called to "warn" him about the book. "Warning is not what I was trying to do."

Amanullah perceived the call otherwise, later describing her tone as "frantic." Spellberg admitted to being upset but said she was "breathless" because she was rushing to get to class at the time.

Amanullah,who does not support the cancellation of the book, subsequently sent out an e-mail about the conversation that was posted on at least one Web site for Muslims.

On May 21, Jones learned that Random House was canceling the book.

"I wanted to fight it, but Random House said they talked with three academics and had reviewed the security situation," Jones said. "They didn't give me specifics, other than to say their head of security said they shouldn't take the risk."

In a prepared statement, Random House said: "After sending out advance editions of the novel 'Jewel of Medina,' we received in response, from credible and unrelated sources, unsolicited cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.

"We felt an obligation to take these concerns very seriously. We consulted with security experts as well as with scholars of Islam, whom we asked to review the book and offer their assessments of potential reactions. We stand firmly by our responsibility to support our authors and the free discussion of ideas, even those that may be construed as offensive by some."

The news passed unnoticed by most until Aug. 6, when The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece, "You Still Can't Write About Muhammad," criticizing the book's cancellation. "The series of events that torpedoed this novel are a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world," wrote Asra Q. Nomani, an author who was also asked to write a blurb for "Jewel of Medina" and has since become a friend of Jones'.

Jones said she empathizes with Random House but said: "I do believe they would have published the book without (Spellberg's) phone call and a letter from her lawyer."

Spellberg sees her role differently. "Random House invited me into the publishing process," she said. "They are a big corporation, and they made the decision to cancel the book, not me."

Since The Wall Street Journal article appeared, Spellberg said, she has received hate mail and been pilloried online. "They are calling me an opponent of free speech, saying I am a supporter of Muslim extremists," she said.

Spellberg noted that she teaches Salman Rushdie's controversial novel "The Satanic Verses" — which in 1988 led the leader of Iran to issue a fatwa death order against Rushdie and sent him into hiding for several years — because it offers a sophisticated lesson to her students.

"While Rushdie covers much the same ground about Aisha as Jones does — suggesting even that she had a dalliance in the desert — the greater issue is that Rushdie questioned whether God spoke directly to the Prophet Muhammad," she said. "Rushdie can claim he was raising an existential, theological query, however impertinent. Jones' book is a mere burlesque."

Jones is now shopping "The Jewel of Medina" elsewhere. Publishers in Italy, Spain and Hungary have purchased rights, and she said her agent has received calls from interested parties.

As to the accusation that she has altered history to suit her fictional ends, Jones doesn't deny it. Her portrayal of Aisha as a sword fighter, for instance, has no basis in historical record. The same goes for her portrayal of Aisha's flirtation with another man: "With our bodies, we brushed each other lightly — my breasts to his chest. ... An aroma like musk rose from his body. My moan of pleasure surprised me, luxuriant as the purr of a cat stretching in the sunlight."

Jones said her bending of historical accounts is "minor" and is the province of a novelist.

"The sword Aisha wields is a metaphor for her strength," she said. "Aisha was a warrior in her own way, and just because the Hadith (the body of Islamic oral tradition) doesn't say she had a sword doesn't mean she couldn't have a sword. Is that a reason to kill the book because I put a sword in her hands? That's the fiction part."

"The question here really is about historical fiction — is it so expansive that anything goes, even if it isnot true?" Spellberg asked. "If a book discusses Judeo-Christian history, people know the difference. In this case, Jones' book only works by taking advantage of people's ignorance."

Spellberg cited the book's last page, in which Aisha is narrating: "My sword will serve you well in the jihad to come. Now I knew what Muhammad meant by 'an inner struggle.' On the very day of his death, jihad had already begun."

"It's incredibly inflammatory," Spellberg said. "At a time when many accept the stereotype that Muslims are violent because of their faith, the image of Aisha wielding a sword she never held in history would seem to promote that. If it's supposed to be a work of historical fiction, then shouldn't there be some history in it?"

Additional material from Statesman book editor Jeff Salamon.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mississippi's Turnrow Books Seeks to Create an Experience.

by Edward Nawotka -- Publishers Weekly, 8/11/2008

Mississippi is a foreign culture,” says Jamie Kornegay, owner of Turnrow Book Company, located deep in the Mississippi delta in Greenwood. He is, technically speaking, a foreigner himself, having been born in Memphis in 1975. He was then raised over the border in Batesville, Miss., a 30-minutes drive from Oxford, home to Faulkner and numerous other literary lights. It's no surprise, then, that Kornegay, 33, was a reader from a young age, his favorite book Crime and Punishment.

After graduating with a journalism degree from Ole Miss, where he says he fell under the thrall of Southern author Barry Hannah, Kornegay stayed on the periphery of the book world, editing Oxford Town, the weekly indie arts supplement to the Oxford Eagle. As part of his job, Kornegay was responsible for interviewing visiting authors, something that brought him into contact with Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books. Journalism was “making him antsy,” so he says, “I quit and begged Richard for a job.” Kornegay's stint at Square Books started in 1998 and lasted seven years, a period that saw him move from bookseller to booking author events to overseeing marketing and advertising. He also helped produce Thacker Mountain Radio, a weekly variety arts radio show broadcast from Howorth's Off Square Books store.

All the while, Kornegay was working on his fiction and published stories in a trio of anthologies, including They Write Among Us (Jefferson Square Press, 2003) and volume two of Stories from the Blue Moon Café (2004). In 2005, Kornegay reached the point where he was “fully prepared to move on from the bookstore to commit to a life of poverty” as an author—and then Fred Carl found him. The founder of Viking Range, the manufacturer of pricey kitchen ranges and other appliances, Carl built his company in Greenwood and was helping to seed the city's downtown with new and revitalized businesses—a hotel, restaurants—to develop a tourist trade.

A mutual friend, Martha Foos, author of Screen Door and Sweet Tea (Clarkson Potter, 2008) introduced Kornegay to Carl and the idea for a bookstore was born. “My wife, Kelly, and I discussed it and decided, if we don't do this, we're going to spend our whole life wondering what if,” says Kornegay. So in August 2006, with Carl as a silent partner, the Turnrow Book Company opened in a renovated department store. The resulting 4,000-sq.-ft. bookstore is beautiful: a single, soaring room, decorated with chandeliers and Persian rugs, lined with books, while a second-floor mezzanine wraps the space.

“My philosophy of bookselling is still forming,” acknowledges Kornegay. While Turnrow is fundamentally a general interest store with a heavy dose of Southern literature, Kornegay says the store's selection continues to evolve. “We have grand ideas each week, then abandon them the next, but what we're really trying to do is create an experience,” he says. Kelly, who's worked as a graphic designer, “is now learning the bookselling business,” says Kornegay, “but that is complicated by the fact of our two young children”—a four-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy.

Turnrow has benefited from its proximity to both Square Books and Lemuria Books in Jackson, and the three stores now make a minicircuit for touring authors. In addition, since many of Greenwood's visitors are chefs or foodies in town to visit Viking, Kornegay has started a first editions club for signed cookbooks.

It was, in fact, an encounter with chef Alice Waters that helped inspire Kornegay to take up yet another career: farming. “Alice came through and got me really fired up about growing your own food,” he says. “So we helped get a farmers market started up in Greenwood. And I started growing stuff: tomatoes, cantaloupe, strawberries, herbs... and sometimes I tease Kelly that I'm going to let her run the bookstore and I'll become a gentleman farmer.” Kornegay adds—and one gets the sense he's talking as much about writing and bookselling as farming—“I'm still at the journeyman stage, figuring out how to do it all. It's a tough thing, and you can see how hard it is. Success is determined by weather, and the elements and nature always seem to be against you.”

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Georgia Bookstore Asks for Cash to Relieve Debt

By Edward Nawotka -- Publishers Weekly, 8/5/2008 7:17:00 AM

Wordsmiths Books of Decatur, Ga., which opened in June 2007, has launched a “Save Our Bookstore” campaign to pay off debt. “Our rent and expenses in our initial location were higher than expected,” said owner Zachary Steele, “and we need to raise fifteen, twenty, twenty five thousand dollars, to begin paying off creditors.”

In March, Wordsmiths moved from what Steele calls “an off-the-beaten path” location to a space on the town’s main square where business has been much better. “As I said on our blog: We are not fighting declining sales, nor are we fighting customer apathy, or even a lagging book market,” Steele reiterated. “We are fighting only the debt created by starting in the wrong location and we want a chance to get back on our feet.” Steele also blames part of the store’s debt on “a recent big-name author event requiring a massive up-front investment that didn’t pan out.” He declined to reveal details.

On Monday, Steele sent out an e-mail asking well wishers to donate money through the store’s Web site. In addition, he launched a “Friends of Wordsmiths” loyalty program, offering discounts and other benefits, with tiers ranging from $10 to $500. Fundraising is expected to last through mid month and efforts should conclude with a fundraising event featuring notable authors and musicians, yet to be determined, on the weekend of August 15-17. “I want people to know that I’ve done everything possible before putting my hand out, which is something I didn’t want to do,” said Steele.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Teenage readers eagerly await latest from vampire saga

Twilight fans celebrate release with their own Halloween
By EDWARD NAWOTKA Special To The Houston Chronicle
July 31, 2008, 6:33PM

If, driving in the wee hours this weekend, you spy in your headlights a vampire in a tuxedo accompanied by a teen in a prom dress, fear not. You're not hallucinating nor have you slipped into a time warp and landed on Halloween.

You're merely encountering one of the legions of teenage book lovers who will be lurking late into the night, marking the publication of Breaking Dawn, the fourth and presumably final installment in Stephenie Meyer's runaway best-selling Twilight Saga, which goes on sale at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Not familiar with Meyer? You're probably not a teenage girl or parent of one. Meyer's young-adult romances have become the most popular literary sensation since J.K. Rowling sent Harry Potter into his final battle with Voldemort last year.

The first three books in Meyer's quartet — Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse — tell the tale of two star-crossed lovers: high-school student Bella Swan and her boyfriend, Edward Cullen, a vampire. Jacob Black, Bella's closest friend, emerges as a rival for her affections. He happens to be a werewolf.

The first three books have sold 5.5 million copies across 28 countries. Earlier this year Time magazine picked the 35-year-old Meyer as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2008. In May she published her first novel for adults, The Host, now in its 11th week on the New York Times best-seller list. The movie adaptation of Twilight arrives in theaters in December.

Breaking Dawn (Little, Brown, $22.99) promises to reveal which of her suitors, Edward or Jacob, Bella will choose. With a 2.5 million first printing, it's expected to be the best-selling book of the year.

In a pattern established by the Harry Potter phenomenon, many Houston booksellers are throwing special parties tonight leading up to the 12:01 a.m. on-sale time. Starting at 10 p.m. the Bookstop/Alabama Theater is taking prom-style photographs for those who show up dressed as one of the characters, while at 9:30 p.m. the Borders on Kirby will host a debate about whether Bella should choose Edward or Jacob.

Barnes & Noble in The Woodlands is hosting a Vampire Masquerade Ball, while at the Barnes & Noble at Town & Country Village the party includes a trivia and costume contest. Both start at 10 p.m.

"We're expecting hundreds of people," said Katrya Pekarsky, community relations manager at the latter store.

Blue Willow Bookshop on Memorial in west Houston will treat fans to red velvet cupcakes and commemorative T-shirts, starting at 11:17 p.m. Valerie Kohler, Blue Willow's owner, said while teenage girls "overwhelmingly" make up the book's audience, many adult women "are dying to find out what happens next."

Julie Landreth, a 37-year-old mother living in the Heights, is one such adult reader. She was introduced to the books in June by the 18-year-old baby sitter who cares for her son. Soon she was hooked.

"I like them because I can remember how it was in high school when I had my crushes, the dilemmas of dating," she said.

Meyer's ascendancy as a literary superstar happened fast. She has said the story for Twilight came to her in a dream in 2003. Her sister encouraged her to write the dream. Nine literary agents rejected her manuscript before it was pulled from the slush pile at Writers House, the company that represents top-selling romance novelist Nora Roberts. Not long after, Meyer had a three-book deal worth $750,000.

As a Mormon and mother of three, Meyer has been vocal about her desire to keep the books wholesome. They're virtually devoid of sex, drugs, drinking and foul language. Even the monsters struggle to be good, with the vampires choosing to feast on bears and other woodland creatures instead of humans.

Carlee Eberly, 18, a baker at Crave Cupcakes in Uptown Park, appreciates that the books don't deliver typical horror-novel fare. "They're not what you expect. There's no blood dripping from their teeth, for example." She pre-ordered the book from Blue Willow two months ago and plans to go to the launch party with her older sister, 20, and two of her friends.

As to the question of Edward or Jacob, Eberly opts for Edward. "He was Bella's first love," she says. "Jacob is more of a friend."

Iris Cronin, 11, a sixth-grader at Memorial Middle School, prefers Jacob.

"The whole thing about Edward hounding Bella for her mortal soul bothers me," she said. "Human experiences are interesting because they have an end. If you're a vampire, you'd have to witness all the rise and fall of mankind."

Plus, she added, Jacob "has a really cool motorcycle."

That Cronin would have such a sophisticated opinion of the books comes as no surprise: Her father is Rice University professor Justin Cronin, an acclaimed novelist who is himself writing a much-anticipated trilogy of vampire-themed novels. The first in his series, The Passage, is due in stores next summer.

In May, Meyer read from The Host at Klein Forest High School, sponsored by the Barnes & Noble at Champions Village, and drew more than 1,000 fans.

Among those in attendance was Hannah Nerdin, 14, a ninth-grader at Morton Ranch High School in Katy. She said meeting Meyer in person left her "speechless." As a member of the Mormon church, she had to get her mother Stacy's approval first.

The elder Nerdin, 34, called the books so entertaining they are like "crack for the suburban housewife" but conceded she had "mixed feelings" about her daughter reading them.

"It's troubling to me how obsessive Bella gets about Edward," Nerdin said. "I wanted to make sure Hannah knew there was life beyond boys."

Nevertheless, Nerdin was happy to pre-order Breaking Dawn and expects to have it delivered from sometime on Saturday.

For her part, Hannah just hopes her mother lets her read it first: "It is," she said, her voice breathless with anticipation, "the one thing I've been looking forward to the most all summer long."

Breaking Dawn Delayed for E-book Readers

By Edward Nawotka -- Publishers Weekly, 7/31/2008 3:24:00 PM

Excitement has been building for weeks, leading to tonight's midnight release of Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn, as retailers across the country prepare for midnight parties. But one segment of the market— e-book retailers—is less than pleased: Little, Brown has opted to delay the release of the e-book version of Breaking Dawn until 24 hours after the print edition goes on sale. The e-book will become available for download at 12:01 EST on Sunday, August 3. Retailers were informed on Wednesday.

The reason cited for the change was that LBBYR parent company Hachette Book Group USA was concerned retailers would not be able to stagger the release according to time zones, thus potentially enabling e-book buyers in Western time zones to begin read the book before the print edition goes on sale in the same time zone. A spokesperson for Hachette acknowledged the company changed the release date at the last minute, and said the publisher "will manage this type of situation more efficiently in the future. We apologize for any confusion or frustration this change may have caused."

Kurt Johnson, director of operations at e-book retailer, lamented the decision. “It’s an example of a publisher treating e-book retailers and readers as second-class citizens,” said Johnson. “We have many irate customers.” Booksonboard had been offering the book for pre-order and those customers will now be forced to wait an extra day.

A poster on the Amazon Kindle blog was even more direct: “The torture has been extended,” they wrote.