Miami Book Fair 2018 Blog
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog is posted with newest items at the top of the left column.
Sunday Nov. 18
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 6:15 PM
Traditional closing post. What sessions do I most regret having missed? Sarah Weinman on The Real Lolita and then the shipwrecks (Into the Storm) and pirates (Black Flags, Blue Waters) panel, both on Sunday. And which am I happiest to have attended? John Kerry, who closed the Book Fair on a high and thoughtful note.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 6:03 PM
My favorite author quote at this year’s Book Fair came courtesy of Norma Watkins, who received her MFA in Creative Writing at FIU, the same program where I’m wrapping up my thesis. She read from her memoir That Woman from Mississippi:
“If you’re ever anxiety-ridden, read Barbara Pym.”
Sunday, November 18, 5:46 PM
At the end of Andrew Sean Greer and Gary Shteyngart’s reading/talk, an audience member compared Mr. Shteyngart to Woody Allen and asked him why he had gone into writing instead of comedy. After listening to excerpts of their work, their natural banter with each other, and with the audience (Mr. Shteyngart, who grew up in the Soviet Union, introduced himself by saying it was every Russian’s dream to retire in Miami—in Sunny Isles) it was an appropriate question as it had been the most entertaining reading/talk I had ever attended.
Although it seemed they managed to discuss every topic imaginable, the talk kept on returning to humor in writing. Mr. Greer, who said Less was his first comedic book, noted that the only way he could garner empathy for his protagonist was by making fun of him. He also said that comedy was the only way he could bring himself to handle such monumental issues as AIDS.
Mr. Shteyngart, who read from Lake Success, also noted this balance between discontent and comedy. And earlier in his talk he seemed to imply that this discontent was essential to writing. He noted that if he lived in Canada he’d be writing pamphlets for the transportation industry because there was nothing wrong there.
—Nicole E. Mestre
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 5:24 PM
Wandering about one more time before concluding my experience at this year’s Book Fair, I returned to the Books and Books tent that has all the books of authors presenting at the Fair.
I saw Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s books, books of other authors I had seen, several cookbooks, and I again saw an intriguing red book—that had caught my eye yesterday—titled The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge. There was no synopsis on the back or inside cover, so after a quick Google search and reading that the book deals with warring elf and goblin kingdoms, I decided to risk it and buy it. After all, don’t we buy most of our books without hearing the author talk about it first?
The book is signed by its illustrator and co-author, Eugene Yelchin, who presented today in the morning.
With all the book purchases I made—modest in comparison to some other years—I am excited to get back home and start reading.
Before signing off, let me say a prayer: oh, Book Fair gods, please have George R. R. Martin at the Fair when The Winds of Winter finally comes out. It’ll be a massive nerd hysteria, but I will venture into the chaos for journalistic (and selfish) purposes.
Well, until next time, Miami Book Fair! I’ll see you (and Martin?) next year!
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 5:14 PM
I love wrapping up my Fair with a panel that re-centers me on the setting of South Florida. This year, I did so by dropping in to a panel with three artists tied to AIRIE, the artist-in-residency program of Everglades National Park.
Artist Deborah Mitchell showed a beautiful presentation of her book, Everglades Field Guide: From Reality to Memory, which includes art and photography inspired by the Everglades and human interaction with it over the last century. She spoke about her extensive research, and the joy of then being able to realize that research through art.
Daniel Dugas & Valerie le Blanc have been showing their Everglades-inspired film-poetry project, Flow: Big Waters, at locations as far flung as Kenya and Brazil. The pair described their process, filming at locations across the Everglades and returning to their native Canada to write and assemble the film and sound-walk projects. The process eventually transformed into their new book, Everglades, which documents the art collection. If you pick up the book, make sure to also check out the video project at their website.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 5:01 PM
I believe I’ve said it in past years when I’ve attended Book Fair panels that discuss graphic novels: the first graphic novel I read was Maus in the Holocaust Lit class I took as an undergrad. I had, for some reason, equated graphic novels as lesser than novels, as childish because they relied on pictures to tell a story. But Maus changed my view, and ever since then, I’ve sought out other graphic novels.
So my interest was piqued when I had spied John Hendrix’s graphic novel The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler on the sales tables outside in the building’s breezeway while in-between my 2:30 and 4:00 PM panels.
Once Hendrix’s panel was over, I headed back outside and bought a copy.
At the autograph table, Hendrix signed my book and asked if I wanted a drawing. Having bought many graphic novels over the years at the Book Fair, most illustrators draw or even paint on the title page, besides signing it. So I told Hendrix, sure.
“That’ll be $50,” he said.
After we laughed, he pulled out several pens and drew a shattered pair of glasses.
Hendrix had told the audience at the panel what happened to Bonhoeffer, so I can guess what broken glasses mean...
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 4:45 PM
The panelists in “We Must Bear Witness: Remembering the Holocaust” spoke about their research process in writing their YA novels.
John Hendrix (The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler) advised not getting caught up with the research because he has gone down rabbit holes. To avoid diverging from the writing, he now puts x’s in places he needs to do research and goes back later once he has done the research to make sure what he wrote or drew is accurate.
Jennifer A. Nielsen (Resistance) said it’s so important to get every detail correct because there are Holocaust deniers who will jump on an inaccuracy.
It’s bad enough to speak and learn about the atrocities of the Holocaust, albeit necessary, but to know there are people out there who deny facts and evidence? Shame on them. Can one deny Holocaust deniers membership to the human race?
Both Hendrix and Nielsen visited the places they wrote about in their books. Hendrix saw a pyramid of human ashes so large some estimate it contains as many as 30,000 victims. Nielsen visited the part of Krakow that was once the Jewish ghetto and said an unknown feeling lingers there.
Tara Lynn Masih (My Real Name is Hanna) didn’t visit any locations as part of her research. She admitted she tried hiding this fact and avoiding the issue of being 100% accurate by creating fictional characters and a fictional town.
Coincidently or not, she later said the only critical comments she has received about her book is that it tells a “sanitized” version of the Holocaust. She seemed disturbed that some people want to read the horrific details of the Holocaust. While I, too, would be concerned over someone obsessing over reading or seeing such horrors, I think some of these critics don’t want young readers to think the Holocaust wasn’t a big deal if all they’re reading is a cleaned up version. It might also tie in with the Holocaust deniers and not wanting to give them any ammunition by either getting details wrong or lacking details.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 4:36 PM
When you’re the son of Cuban exiles, attending a discussion like Vicki Huddleston’s can be interesting and thought provoking, yet tiresome and frustrating too, for reasons difficult to explain to those not well versed in the seemingly never ending Cuba saga, especially not from my perspective, biased as it is I know, but I’ll try.
Huddleston, who had been the American government’s highest ranking diplomat in Cuba, was at the Book Fair to talk about her memoir, Our Woman in Havana: A Diplomat’s Chronicle of America’s Long Struggle with Castro’s Cuba. In broad strokes, American policy toward Cuba entails a conflict between hawks and doves, with one group’s dominance usually the result of which administration is in power. Hawks seek to toughen sanctions to provoke a popular uprising/violent regime change, while doves prefer to strengthen engagement to encourage a political and economic opening.
Huddleston belongs to the latter camp. “As long as we keep up the pressure, Cuba will not have the incentive to open up. If we want a more open Cuba, we’re going to have to back up a bit,” said Huddleston, who from 1999 to 2002 served as chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. “I advocate more opening because adding money in the pockets of Cubans will inevitably lead to reforms in Cuba.”
In a realpolitik sense, Huddleston argued that the U.S. needed to improve relations with Cuba or it risked losing influence to other world powers/competitors, namely Russia and China, although I doubt that either can offer Cuba’s ailing economy all of the investment and aid that it needs. She also argued that if the American government made peace with the former Axis powers after World War II, surely it could make peace with Cuba and lift the embargo.
Although she conceded that the Cuban government is an authoritarian state that doesn’t want a strong opposition, Huddleston said that state repression of human rights activists had softened in recent years. Nowadays, she said that dissidents were usually victims more of a “catch and release” style of harassment/imprisonment, rather than of long prison sentences.
I can’t bring myself to argue against lifting the embargo. If the U.S. normalized relations with Vietnam, surely it can with Cuba as well. Yet I can’t muster enthusiasm for these policy changes either. I also can’t share Huddleston’s optimism about the openings that engagement will bring. The Cuban government outlawed private employment in the years after the 1959 revolution and I doubt that the island’s leaders or its powerful bureaucracy will allow it to grow robust enough to become a serious threat to their power.
Yet why did I leave the discussion feeling so disheartened? Maybe it was because by now, using a baseball analogy, Cuba’s saga, and all of the suffering and family separation that have come with it, are akin to an exhausting game that went into extra innings long ago, with still no end in sight. The harder and messier truth may be that over the decades both hawkish and dovish American policies failed. Neither led to significant change in Cuba, in part because Cuban government leaders didn’t want to or need to change. By now, if they want better relations with the U.S., it’s mainly because the island needs American dollars. This is something well-meaning doves, whose influence has diminished following the 2016 presidential election, seek to leverage in order to potentially open Cuba up. Time will tell if they're proven right.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 4:32 PM
Jennifer A. Nielsen explained that when Poland fell to Germany in 1939, signaling the start of WWII, Jews in Krakow were sectioned into one neighborhood. The adults were needed to work and the children depended on the adults, so the teens were sent out to the country to make room in the ghetto.
These teens were faced with two options: do nothing or fight back.
Nielsen’s Resistance is inspired by the true story of Jewish teen girls helping their people by sneaking back in the ghetto to smuggle in supplies.
Nielsen explained that the only reason we know about these efforts is because one of the leaders of this resistance group was arrested and tortured for information, but she did not give it up. Instead, she told her story to 4 fellow prisoners so they could write it down—her hands having been broken.
A book, now out of print, told this story, and Nielsen felt she needed to tell the story, wanting to show the Jewish people weren’t “lambs to the slaughter.”
Anyone who has studied the Holocaust would never say everyone who was murdered during the Holocaust went meekly to their deaths. (This might not be true for those with a basic knowledge of the Holocaust and might be the ones Nielsen is referring to.) Many Jews resisted, even in small ways, the Nazis’ desire to dehumanize and exterminate them, such as singing in the death camps (source). In the end, the Nazis and their collaborators succeeded in killing millions of Jews through power, fear, and lies, but saying all their victims were lambs dehumanizes them and simplifies the complexities of the war and genocide.
Popular culture is thus a battleground between the left, right and center in America, Biskind argued.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 4:22 PM
John Hendrix’s The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler has a hybrid format containing text, drawings, and maps.
He explained that Hitler stole Germany’s soul. He’s often asked how Germans allowed the Holocaust to happen. In his book, Hendrix tells the true story of Bonhoeffer, who, following Martin Luther’s teachings, decided “to sin boldly” and tried not to allow Germany’s soul to be taken.
Hendrix had known Bonhoeffer’s story from when he was in college.
“Do we need another story about the Nazis and how bad they were?” Hendrix had asked himself. “We do,” he concluded. “There are moments to act and not to sit.”
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 4:12 PM
At the “We Must Bear Witness: Remembering the Holocaust” panel, each author spoke for several minutes about their YA books.
Tara Lynn Masih started off by saying she was disappointed there weren’t more young readers in the audience. (Most of the audience members look to be middle-aged or older.)
In My Real Name is Hanna, the titular character hides from the Nazis in caves. She’s a representative of victims of all genocides, Masih said, not just of the Holocaust.
Masih broke down a bit when speaking about upstanders—the opposite of bystanders. She recommended the film No Place On Earth, which is based on the real story that inspired Masih’s book. She concluded that you must have a “weapon of the spirit.”
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 4:10 PM
Enjoyed the variety of the California-themed (I guess) non-fiction (aka, long subtitle) panel.
Joe Hagan (Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine) said that the magazine "institutionalized rock and roll." He described Wenner as a conservative force musically, whose taste was stuck in the late 70s, and who played favorites—forever finding ways to put Mick on the cover.
Andrew Friedman (Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits and Wanderers Created a New American Profession) described how a first generation of chefs—grouped in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles—learned from the French and developed an American cuisine. His account ends in 1993, when the Food Network created a whole different kind of celebrity chef.
From Miriam Pawel (The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty that Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation), we heard that Jerry Brown is just as straight-laced as he seems, but he comes by it naturally. And that, whether we like it or not, California remains America's bellwether—socially, demographically, economically, environmentally, etc-ally.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 3:55 PM
I made it to about fifteen minutes of Jason Logan speaking on Make Ink: A Forager's Guide to Natural Inkmaking. I caught the end of his description of the vivid colors of rust and water at his forage site in Manhattan.
Prompted by a question from printer Tom Virgin, Logan replied that he wasn't an artist or writer as a kid, just a loner and observer of materials. He says that while many encourage us to look up, rather than at our phones and devices, these days, his preference has always been to look down — at the ground and the numerous natural materials upon it.
One fun tidbit: Logan found that boiling acorn caps and rusty nails in the same pot produced an unexpectedly beautiful silver ink.
Unfortunately, the room was plagued by audio difficulties, so I opted to step out around halfway through the interview.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 3:51 PM
“My Body is My Own: YA Women Fight Back” concluded with the authors talking about their favorite villains to write and the legacy of female writers.
Jenny Torres Sanchez (The Fall of Innocence) said she prefers writing villains that you can’t see. Tiffany D. Jackson’s (Monday’s Not Coming) favorites are not human, such as an oppressive system, racism.
When it was Anica Mrose Rissi’s (Always Forever Maybe) turn to state what were her favorite villains to write, she simply said, “Rabbits.” Once the room quieted down after the laughter, she explained she also writes children’s books.
Natasha Ngan (Girls of Paper and Fire) said villains who think they’re the hero are her favorites.
I’ve often heard in writing, and in life, that villains don’t see themselves as villains, but as heroes of their own stories, so Ngan’s description is only too real.
Torres Sanchez hopes her legacy is that she “created empathy” in the reader through her writing. Ngan wished the same, describing herself as “definitely a Hufflepuff,” and hopes her writing shows readers how to be kind.
When readers tell Jackson what they think her book is about, some important topic she had realized permeated through her story, she sometimes thinks, “Thank you, I need that talking point.”
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 3:36 PM
Jenny Torres Sanchez (The Fall of Innocence), Tiffany D. Jackson (Monday’s Not Coming), Anica Mrose Rissi (Always Forever Maybe), and Natasha Ngan (Girls of Paper and Fire) were asked what advice they would give to their characters.
Rissi: “Trust your gut ... your inner voice.”
Torres Sanchez: “You’re loved and not alone.”
Ngan: “You’re stronger than you think.”
Jackson: “Keep pushing. You’ll get there.”
An audience member asked the panelists what emotional need writing fills in their lives.
Ngan said it allows her to process feelings she can’t express in talking. Torres Sanchez said the same, even though none of her characters are her. Rissi also said writing helps her work through issues.
To Jackson, writing allows her to go to her happy place, a habit she’s had since childhood. When she worked on television, she had to emotionally manage people, and now, in writing, only characters.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 3:35 PM
In between my packed schedule, I made sure to make time to see the Village Secrets panel, moderated by Alex Segura. All three authors illustrated the impact that placing their dark stories in a rural setting had.
"Remoteness, in both place and time" is central to Nate Powell's Come Again, set in a late-70s hippie village in the Ozarks. Strange things can happen under the cover of remoteness, and allow for intense events in a small community based on ideals of openness and the contrasting need for privacy.
Author David Small himself lives in a village of just 800, full of "sanctimonious gossips," and so he knows exactly "why small towns are hard to live in, and why people leave them." He compares the difficulties of living in a small, intense community with the confines of adolescence, both of which are dealt with in his latest, Home After Dark.
Maggie Thrash, author of We Know It Was You, Honor Girl, says that small-town conformity allows for the perfect cover to dark secrecy: "even the perfect-seeming cheerleader is riddled with her own secret agonies." She says that many stories need a setting of conformity, "a landscape of sameness," so that there's something for characters to rebel from.
There are numerous panels on my docket this afternoon, so I ducked out as the Q&A was beginning. Still, I enjoyed these fresh takes on the small-community setting.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 3:33 PM
Tidbit from Andrew Friedman for the celebrity chef age: The government classified chefs as "domestic workers" until 1976.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 3:17 PM
There was an interesting side topic discussed at the “My Body is My Own: YA Women Fight Back” panel.
In response to an audience question, the writers all agreed that they don’t see their books as perfect. Jenny Torres Sanchez (The Fall of Innocence) doesn’t reread her work once it’s published.
Anica Mrose Rissi (Always Forever Maybe) said she’s at peace with her book when it goes to print. She doesn’t believe—here’s the interesting part—in favorite books, that readers find the right book for the right time, the book serving a purpose in the reader’s life at that moment.
She gave the example of how she’s tried reading a book and gives up, but picks it up and finishes it at a later time, loving the book and not knowing why she didn’t finish it the first time.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 3:12 PM
Former U.S. Poet Laureates, Billy Collins and Juan Felipe Herrera, first read from their own work. Their poems dealt with diverse subjects—from 9/11 to a kitchen in a Buddhist monastery. Mr. Herrera also read a poem that mixed Spanish and English and dealt with immigrants entering the U.S.
After the reading, Robert Casper, who is the head of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress, moderated a talk between the two men. They spoke about what being the U.S. Poet Laureate entailed and how it changed their lives. Collins felt that it thrust him into the public life and took him away from writing poetry, which is a solitary exercise. Herrera felt that it changed him by exposing him to more people and, consequently, different stories.
They also discussed the projects they undertook while serving their two terms, which concentrated on exposing children to poetry and literature.
Collins, who should have been a standup comic, ended the talk with asking Mr. Casper if Trump knew if the Library of Congress existed.
—Nicole E. Mestre
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 3:06 PM
Garrard Conley’s message was ultimately one of compassion at his panel, Identity, Faith, and Family: An LGBTQI+ Memoir.
In writing his memoir about undergoing conversion therapy—Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith and Family—Conley sought to understand rather than condemn his parents and his counselors. He changed certain details and the names of certain people in the book. Though he didn’t originally want to be an activist, he has become one by virtue of his memoir and after receiving messages from people still in conversion therapy.
Of the therapy itself, Conley said, “I’m not saying you have to march in the same parade as me. I’m not saying you can have to agree with me. I’m just saying we have to stop torturing children.”
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 2:56 PM
The panelists at “My Body is My Own: YA Women Fight Back” discussed trauma in their novels.
Tiffany D. Jackson, in her novel Monday’s Not Coming, wanted to talk about the others affected by a trauma, such as the best friend of a missing person.
Jenny Torres Sanchez, who also does the same thing in The Fall of Innocence, originally did not provide the perspective of others, but included other POVs as the story continued.
Anica Mrose Rissi said Bess’s emotionally and physically abusive relationship in Always Forever Maybe is not her personal story, but she remembers similar instances. Her novel is a first person narrative, so it does not give the POV of others.
Rissi added that trauma sometimes comes from wanting to be loved.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 2:50 PM
Took a break from hustling among author sessions to slow down and stroll the street fair. At the Antiquarian Annex, found an addition to my P. G. Wodehouse collection. Chatted with my friends at Akashic Books, including the youngest fully certified hand seller of books at the Fair. Grabbed a beer on the rocks—it's gotten hot.
Also made a nostalgic tour of Children's Alley, where they've added more rings to the circus since back in the day when I had a kid in tow. The Dairy Farmers tent was already full well in advance of the 3:00 free ice cream social.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 2:47 PM
At the “My Body is My Own: YA Women Fight Back,” each author spoke about her newest novel.
Natasha Ngan described her book Girls of Paper and Fire as “lesbian Asians fighting the patriarchy.” She’s a sexual abuse survivor, and her book tells girls to take back agency over their bodies.
Anica Mrose Rissi’s Always Forever Maybe tells the story of an emotionally abusive relationship. Originally she meant to write about a forbidden love, but the story changed in later drafts. Instead of the protagonist’s family and best friend trying to interfere with her love life, they’re trying to point out the red flags she doesn’t see.
In Tiffany D. Jackson’s Monday’s Not Coming, a girl goes missing and her best friend tries to find her. Ultimately, the novel is about friendship. Jackson talked about how girls will go missing and no one notices, how the media tends to ignore when black girls disappear.
Jenny Torres Sanchez’s The Fall of Innocence starts with a third grader’s Brownie Scouts meeting being canceled. The girl goes to an empty playground, not thinking of calling her mom, and is assaulted.
Torres Sanchez told the audience the same thing happened to her, minus the assault: her meeting was canceled and she didn’t call her mom, opting to wait in an empty playground. Her mom went crazy for an hour trying to find her. At the time, Torres Sanchez didn’t understand her mom’s reaction. Her novel shows how one “can be loved, but feel incredibly lonely.”
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 2:32 PM
This panel has just started, and I’m sipping on my lemonade.
Can I get one without seeds next time, though? Thanks.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 2:25 PM
The next event in this room, where I’m waiting for a 2:30 panel to start, is at 4:00 PM. I might just stay seated here until the end of the 4 o’clock presentation. I was melting outside before coming in.
The artificial air is so nice.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 2:15 PM
I’m in the MDC Live Arts Lab, which is a tiny theatre, waiting for the next panel to begin, and I don’t know why the room is so dirty. I’m talking of trash and food on the floor. I’ve never seen it like this before, and I’m sure I attend at least one panel each year in this room.
Or perhaps it’s better lit today and I hadn’t noticed the trash in previous years? I kinda doubt it.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 2:11 PM
Celebrity couple spotted: Popeye and Olive Oyl!
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 2:07 PM
I spend most of the year waiting for the Miami Book Fair—the single worthwhile cultural event in this city, with all due respect to Art Basel—and I almost missed it this year. Well, except for the last few hours. It was FOMO that propelled me up the stairs on Sunday afternoon to the Auditorium in Building 2 to hear Billy Collins and Juan Felipe Herrera.
The event began with Robert Casper from the Library of Congress thanking Scott Cunningham and O, Miami for making this event possible. A rousing round of applause filled the room as I arrived, and I could find my seat without causing a disturbance that would invite an eye roll.
Robert Casper first introduced Collins to read. His poems do for me what nothing else had been able to do in the last week: laugh. The suffocating anxiety released its grip and I felt transported. "The Revenant" was most effective. It is a persona poem of a dog that comes back from the dead, and lists all the ways he hates his owner. It ends with a verse about how only dogs write in poetry, whereas cats and all others in prose.
Juan Felipe Herrera’s poems were political, angry, unflinching, heart wrenching and hopeful. All addressed the struggle of immigrants arriving in America. The immigrants were chased into detention centers in Brownsville, and in different cities in California. The voices in the poems were from Mexico and Central America. Herrera writes in both Spanish and English, and does not avoid or evade the unjust and inhumane treatment these voices experience. Herrera reads that these voices feel that they are nothing and they come from nothing. Yet, they are certain that they will triumph. And everything they learn and strive for becomes a life long project.
Rob Casper began the interview portion by asking how becoming Poet Laureates changed their lives. Billy Collins deadpans that it virtually put an end to his writing while he served his terms. Herrera reflected on how the people he met changed his writing and his understanding of realities. He explained that he heard so many stories of hardships and triumphs. That he tried to do each of them service in his writing but it depleted him and he felt burnt out.
Both Collins and Herrera served two terms as US Poet Laureate. Collins launched Poetry 180, where he selected one poem for each day of the school year. Poetry 180 is still one of the most popular websites on the Library of Congress website. Herrera took on five projects, including Technicolor Adventures of Catalina Neon. All his projects were meant to beat back conformity and embrace intellectual and emotional honesty. Herrera wanted to figure out ways for kids to find out who they are, and designed programs, including a large one with the Chicago Public Schools, that gave them the freedom and the inspiration to do that through poetry.
A young man in the audience asked Billy Collins how he wrote his 9/11 poem. Collins perked right up and answered when he was first approached to write it, he said he could not, given that he does not tackle geopolitical issues. But on further reflection, he explained that he could write an elegy and used the alphabet in the same way he would rely on the sonnet form or another rule-intensive form to write it.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 2:02 PM
Both Lisandro Perez, author of Sugar, Cigars, and Revolution: The Making of Cuban New York and his co-panelist, Mary Jo McConahay, author of The Tango War: The Struggle for the Hearts, Minds and Riches of Latin America During World War II, noted that history is all around us when discussing their books, which gave different takes on familiar topics.
We’ve all studied and read about WWII; however, until hearing McConahay speak, I was unaware of Latin America’s role in the war. She noted that FDR was concerned that the ethic Germans, Italians, and Japanese already living in Latin American would undermine the U.S.’s interests there. She used rubber as an example. Rubber was key to manufacturing military vehicles. Japan, however, had cut off the U.S.’s supply so it started being imported from Brazil. In Brazil, however, there was a large group of ethnic Germans that supported Hitler, which was the source of FDR’s concern. Again, not something I had previously heard of.
Similarly, Perez also spoke about familiar topics—Cuba and New York. His book was unusual in that it he looked at the role of Cubans in New York. His original idea was to do it up to 1959, but he found so much information that he was only able to cover up to the 19th century. As he said, New York should be part of the history of Cubans, but Cubans should also be part of the history of New York.
—Nicole E. Mestre
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 1:41 PM
Crackerman Crackers, by the food court, sells mainly breads.
They also sell vegan and gluten-free dips. Unfortunately for me, most
of the dips are bean-based, but if you're into that, try the free
I did try some of the breads and bought some quiche focaccia bread.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 1:22 PM
After a quick hug to Roxanna Elden after her panel concluded, I rushed across the hall to purchase her book. (I have to say, putting the sales room and signing areas upstairs in Building 8 is much more convenient for those attending the upstairs panels and clears up the downstairs lobby for the panels held there.)
I finally reached Elden with my copy of her book and had her sign it. Somewhere I still have a printed copy of the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo back in the 12th grade when Elden gave my creative writing class the option to write a novel or do the poetry unit we were scheduled to do that November 12 years ago. I chose to write an entire novel, my first.
I haven’t worked on it since then, and it needs a major overhaul. Time to start plotting.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 1:15 PM
Speaking on their writing process, Roxanna Elden (Adequate Yearly Report) said she writes 2-3 hours in the mornings while Rebecca Serle (The Dinner List: A Novel) said it’s word count for her. Marci Vogel (Death and Other Holidays) always has a notebook handy.
On what advice they would give aspiring writers, Vogel advised “start and keep writing.” Serle added to read: “push through and read.” Elden said to create short-term goals not “in 9 years I want a book published.”
Joanna Cantor (Alternative Remedies for Loss) said to ask yourself if there is a story you want to tell. Know why you want to write.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 1:14 PM
Last year, I lamented the disappearance of the crêpe stand in the food court, my favorite place to pick up a grande bouffe (ham, cheese and mushroom) for lunch on Book Fair Sunday. This year, when I spotted a crêpe cart had appeared, I had to check it out — if only as an act of crêportage, if you will.
Going for the closest grande bouffe match I could find (the ham & cheese), I was sad to see the floppy, pre-fab bundle I was handed, not the crisp, delicious lunch of years past. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised that most of those in line for the cart were opting for hot dogs instead.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 1:06 PM
Another audience question asked the panelists if they read reviews of their books and whether it affects their writing.
Rebecca Serle said social media has changed the relationship between writer and reader, how people will tag the writer in anything, including a bad review. Serle used to read everything, but not any more.
Roxanna Elden, who started off by saying one is not supposed to read reviews of one’s work, said she reads everything. She knows within 24 hours if you’ve written a review.
If you write a positive review, Elden thanks you, “you made my day.” But for a negative review, “I will Google you to see what’s wrong with you.”
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 12:59 PM
An audience member asked how much editing goes into a book once others—editors, publisher—get involved.
Rebecca Serle said she’s sold books that take 2.5 years to publish. Her current novel, The Dinner List: A Novel, however, was sold last November and published this past September.
Joanna Cantor said it was a long process with her agent, but sold Alternative Remedies for Loss, her first novel, in a week. It was sold in May of last year and published in June of this year.
Having no agent, Marci Vogel worked directly with the publisher for Death and Other Holidays, going line by line with the editor. She felt the need to tell the editor “back off my prose.”
Roxanna Elden numbers her drafts, so she knows it took 27 drafts of Adequate Yearly Report to get published. After 15 drafts, she created color-coded charts of characters’ movements, to know what each was doing even when off stage. She even shortened the book by 100 pages after draft 24 when her agent convinced her to remove one POV, there being too many. She had to swallow her ego to realize the story wasn’t finished.
Serle—perhaps in response to Vogel’s earlier comment—stated she has learned to trust the people around her more the more she publishes. “I’m wrong a lot,” she added, to the laughter of the room.
Elden said, “the advice [from an editor] will be wrong, but the reaction is right,” which the whole panel agreed on.
I understand wanting to protect one’s work, which Serle said she felt that way at first, too, but if you’re a newcomer, you should probably trust those who are more experienced. But I like what Elden said, that while the “fix” someone suggests might be wrong, their reaction of there needing to be a change, is right. It’s up to the writer to figure out what the fix needs to be.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 12:54 PM
On her extensive use of Yiddish in The Sisters of Winter Wood, Rena Rossner says, "if Tolkein can make up languages for his fantasy, then I can use Yiddish in mine."
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 12:52 PM
I really admire Rena Rossner and Sam Miller for writing about characters from underrepresented groups. At today's panel, Other Worlds: Readings from New Speculative Fiction, Rossner and Miller both described being frustrated because they couldn't see themselves in the fantasy and science fiction protagonists they read about growing up.
Now Rossner and Miller have both created heroes with whom they can identify. Rossner's novel, The Sisters of the Winter Wood, features an orthodox Jewish heroine who is neither thin nor "traditionally beautiful." Miller's Blackfish City contains multiple queer characters, including a lesbian grandmother, as well as a non-binary character. Thanks, Rena and Sam! I look forward to reading both of your books.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 12:43 PM
Sam J. Miller mentioned how his fiction "resists whatever box you want to put it in" — somewhere in the space between young adult and adult, between science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
Rena Rossner added that "categories of fiction are for publishers and booksellers, who want to put books on shelves." Her book sits on the boundaries of poetry and prose, history (she did extensive research, and received a rave review from a historical fiction group) and fairy tale (her book does, after all, involve people transforming into bears and swans).
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 12:36 PM
Roxanna Elden (Adequate Yearly Report) spoke about her process of getting published. She’s written a nonfiction, children’s, and now fiction book over the span of 12 years, two different agents, and three different publishing houses. You need a thick skin, she explained, and working in a high school helps develop one. She also said the Writers Institute has been helpful.
Elden told the story of flying herself up to New York to see the publisher of her first book, See Me After Class. She was alerted the day she planned to visit that her editor had been fired. She still visited and handed out mugs, much to her chagrin now looking back.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 12:32 PM
The moderator of the panel I’m at asked two of the authors how they went about obtaining agents.
Rebecca Serle (The Dinner List: A Novel) worked in publishing after moving to New York for her MFA program. This allowed her to eventually meet the person who would become her agent.
She did suggest looking at the “Thank you” sections at the end of many books to see what agent is being thanked by the author and then find their contact info online. Those thanked are the good ones.
Joanna Cantor (Alternative Remedies for Loss), who also worked in publishing, but for a travel journal, knew how the process worked. She still emailed 13-15 agents. Many asked to see the manuscript, but after that, some still said “no thanks.”
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 12:28 PM
Dropping in to a noon panel on genre-bending speculative fiction novels, I heard Rena Rossner read from The Sisters of Winter Wood, her first novel. Set on the Moldova/Ukraine border in the era of anti-Jewish pogroms in the early twentieth century, it follows two sisters, one of whom narrates in prose and the other in poetry.
Her fellow panelist, Sam J. Miller, read a passage from Blackfish City, set on a floating Arctic city after climate change inundates the shores. The chapter he read is from the perspective of an Orcamancer, a grandmother whose traveling companions are a killer whale and a polar bear.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 12:23 PM
Asked about the effects of sabermetrics on baseball today, Felipe Alou said, "Baseball may have too much information. Remember that it's the players who make the statistics, not the other way around. The best players and managers still tend to win."
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 12:17 PM
The noon panel I’m attending has four writers reading from their new novels.
Rebecca Serle’s The Dinner List: A Novel is about a 30-year-old who has a dinner party with five important people from her past. She explained she wrote the first 100 pages 5 years ago, then worked collaboratively on a TV show for 3.5 years, and then returned to the book, wanting a respite from working with others.
Alternative Remedies for Loss, by Joanna Cantor, came from a short story she wrote while earning her MFA. She wasn’t satisfied with the 30 pages she’d written, so she expanded it into a novel, wanting to spend more time with the characters.
Marci Vogel, who has published poetry before, is promoting her first novella, Death and Other Holidays.
“A teacher of writing and a writer of teaching,” Roxanna Elden started off by stating she was a local Miami writer because only someone from here would be excited to wear boots and a blazer when the temperature falls to 75 degrees.
Elden (Adequate Yearly Report), who normally bribed her students to write a novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)—and pointed to me because in the 12th grade she took me and fellow classmates to a local Chinese buffet after we completed NaNoWriMo—was asked by a student if she was ever going to participate in
NaNoWriMo. She decided she would.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 12:16 PM
Thrilled to see, meet, and get his book signed by Felipe Alou, first baseball player from the Dominican Republic to play (including in the World Series) and manage in the major leagues. Now 83, his big league debut in 1958 was alongside Willie Mays in the Giants' outfield.
He described Alou: My Baseball Journey as a story about family as much as sport. "I wish that everybody could tell their story. The world would be a better place." His story included dealing with "double racism" because he was neither white nor black. Journalist Peter Kerasotis, who collaborated with Alou on the book, calls it a "Jackie Robinson story from a Latino perspective."
The book is a testimonial to Alou's remarkable memory and generous spirit.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018 12:15 PM
The panel begins with Gilbert King and his book Beneath the Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found. King discusses how both this story and his previous book, Devil in the Grove, happen to be set in the same town in Central Florida: Okahumpka.
King briefly describes his experience with Devil in the Grove, and how a deputy of Lake County approached him after said book and shared with him the story of Jessie Daniels, a mentally disabled teenager who was framed for a crime that he did not commit. Involved in both cases is a reporter: Mabel Norris Reese.
King explains that Reese becomes friends with Daniels’ mother, Pearl, who, despite having a third-grade education, persisted in her own investigation of her son’s case. “There is no legal landscape like this,” King shares about Okahumpka, “It is about the size of two or three football fields and there are three Civil Rights cases that make it to the US Supreme Court.”
King ends his session remarking on the importance of journalism, such as was demonstrated by Reese, and “young lawyers that believe in the right thing to do.”
After a brief Q&A on race, baseball, and upcoming projects, it is Cutter Wood’s turn to speak. Wood’s book, Love and Death in the Sunshine State, tells the story of the murder of Sabine Musil-Buehler, a local on Ana Maria Island.
In discussing “weird Florida” stories, Wood says that the ease of accessing records in the state may contribute to the plethora of these stories. I am duly noting that as a counterargument!
Wood adds a bit of much needed levity to the panel by remarking of his paperback, “I didn’t bring my hardcover, so it won’t stand up, and it is so much smaller than theirs.” After the laughter dies down, Wood begins to recount the story of his involvement in the Buehler’s case after a vacation on Ana Maria Island.
One of the things that Wood says stood out to him were all of the reported sightings of Sabine Musil-Buehler by people in and around Ana Maria Island. According to Wood, she was seen, “at the dentist… walking down the street in blue velour jumpsuit looking disheveled and upset… with someone dressed like a pimp at a bar... at the airport getting on a flight to Costa Rica.” The best of all was a woman who knew Buehler and claimed that she “had been held in a house with black and white linoleum floors,” and would ultimately make contact from the afterlife “through her pet parrot.”
Wood explains that after working on the original version of his book and sending in the final draft, he checked in on the investigation only to realize that the murderer had been caught.
He then describes returning to the island and refocusing on the now known murderer. Of his time with the murderer, Woods says “He is telling me things like… ‘It was just so hard for me to realize that the only person who really cared about her was the one who killed her’.”
T.J English is up next, and he begins his discussion of his book, The Corporation, by explaining the difficulties of writing about organized crime: namely finding sources.
English explains the rise of The Corporation with Jose Miguel Battle at its helm. Initially, the focus on betting the number allowed for Battle to avoid overtly violent business dealings unlike his counterparts in other criminal organizations. However, that changed substantially, as English explains, to the point that The Corporation became known for its violence.
“Enough time had passed,” English shares, “that now there was a generation of offspring of… the players in this story who not only were willing to talk, but they had a need to talk.”
He explains how Battle’s generation was very much focused and “infused” with the need to take back Cuba. Along with that feeling came the feeling that their actions, however objectionable, were to a certain extent justified. Consequent of their anti-Castro sentiment and their support of anti-Castro groups, they had a degree of esteem and stature within the community. Another prevalent idea, according to English, was the notion that because these men were previously trained by the CIA, their business dealings were overlooked.
“Every American city is partly created out of organized crime, and gangsterism, and violence, and corruption,” English says. “That’s American capitalism as it really takes place at the street level.”
The panel ends with a few questions about the logistics of criminal organizations and the degree to which an author bonds with sources.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 12:00 PM
I’m excited for my first panel of the day. Roxanna Elden, one of the authors, was my high school creative writing teacher, my first teacher in the subject I would later earn an MFA in.
I saw her at the Book Fair a few years ago when she was promoting her children’s book Ruby’s New Human, and I’m looking forward to hearing her talk about her first published novel, Adequate Yearly Progress.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 11:52 AM
I started my day with a panel I expected to be a downer, with three authors talking about their new books on the history of, and modern challenges to, democracy. As Thomas Frank said at the start of his portion of the talk, "I wake up in Miami, the sun is shining and the birds are singing. I open up the newspaper, and my heart sinks."
As a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Frank visited everyone from striking fast food workers to the employees at presidential libraries. Rendezvous with Oblivion: Reports from a Sinking Society is the resulting essay collection, following the latest iterations in the "never-ending cycle of the culture wars."
In Can Democracy Work?, James Miller combines five extensive historical essays, covering different eras of democracy, from ancient Athens to today. He spoke today on how democracy only became a universal aspiration after World War Two, and how this is a dramatic turnaround from even two hundred years ago, when democracy was considered fringe at best, threatening at worst. "Today, even North Korea calls itself a democratic people's republic," he points out.
Ben Fountain's Beautiful Country Burn Again covers his reportage on the year 2016. He says his book is full of footnotes so we, the reader, can hold him accountable that all the astounding things that happened in that "vile, frustrating, confusing" year are historically accurate.
Fountain read a hilarious footnote quoting numerous Republican congresspeople expressing their disgust with a "mystery colleague." At the end, the whole crowd correctly guessed they were describing Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Although the topics covered in the panel were heavy, it made me glad that such esteemed scholars are working on the questions posed by our current crossroads — why democracy? what will happen to it? and what can we do? This panel, and the bright sun outside afterwards, lifted up my heart a little.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 11:17 AM
Journalist Peter Kerasotis said that the only sports figures he's encountered who remember absolutely everything are Steve Spurrier and Felipe Alou.
Editor's note: You can read our review of Ran Henry's book on Steve Spurrier on our Sports page.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 11:15 AM
Deborah Eisenberg explained that the title story of her collection Your Duck is My Duck is drawn from a likely apocryphal Zen riddle, which she termed "a bit of a canard."
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 11:14 AM
Anthologies that Rock and Resist was the first panel I’d ever attended showcasing anthologies. It was a powerful experience. I got to hear not only the panelists—Mahogany L. Browne, Brian Clements, Neil de la Flor, and Maureen Seaton—but also the voices of some of the poets in their collections.
The poems were all the more meaningful because the panelists first explained the timeliness and urgency of their collections. What Clements said of Bullets and Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence applies to other featured anthologies as well: it is a “tool for conversation, not just a literary artifact.”
Sunday, Nov 18, 2018, 11:12 AM
At the start of their session, fiction writers Deborah Eisenberg (Your Duck is My Duck) and Katherine Weber (Still Life with Monkey) speculated as to whether the Book Fair Gods had put them together only because both had animals in their titles. But it was yet another inspired pairing to reward the faithful who show up in the Auditorium for the first reading of the day.
Each read from the start of her work. Eisenberg because "My book has six big, hulking, elaborate stories, and you can't start in the middle." Her Gatsbyesque title story traces the inscrutible (to the narrator) actions of a rich and unreliable couple.
Weber because "My ideal reader knows nothing about the book and starts fresh." But one soon learns that the novel is about a paralyzed man and his simian helper. Portions of the novel's sales go to monkeyhelpers.org.
Q&A revealed that the authors have quite a bit in common. Where do they get ideas for their stories? Both start with things they want to learn. As Eisenberg put it: "I start with an irritant that I can't get to and try to figure out what it's about. Then I see what I've got and start writing for real."
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 10:44 AM
Booths on Writers' Row feature more than authors. The Cursive Project is a service to teach children to write the old-fashioned way. Those who lined up to try their hand were proudly showing off the results. My scrawl remains, alas, irredeemable.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 10:41 AM
Sunday on Writers' Row is heavy with self-help books. Trying to figure out the order in which they should be read. Figure I'd start with the immortal one because then I'd really need the others.
◇ Your Quest to Be Immortal: A Guidebook on How to Do It
◇ HOW NOT TO F$$K UP Your Financial Future and the Rest of Your Life
◇ 7 Checklist Items for Success: A Guide to a Richer and More Successful Life
◇ Who Am I? Conversations with the Universal You
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 10:11 AM
I grabbed an empanada for breakfast and made my way to a table
in one of the buildings with the A/C on full blast.
Yesterday, for the most part, was pleasant because it was
cloudy. Today? Not a cloud in sight, so it’s hell on earth.
I’m going to eat in peace, without sweating, and work while I
wait for my first panel of the day.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 9:54 AM
I arrived later than yesterday to the Book Fair, and several
panels are about to start at 10:00 AM, so I was surprised to see many
tents with their flaps still down, including Bookleggers Used Books, a
staple of the Fair.
I'll have to return to check out what Bookleggers has to offer
Saturday Nov. 17
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 8:01 PM
Sandra Cisneros provided me with my favorite exchange of this year’s Book Fair.
A young woman in the audience: “You’re a dangerous woman.”
Cisneros, who was in conversation with journalist and author Jorge Ramos, also offered good advice—life and craft-wise—for would-be writers. She had three suggestions, especially for the women in the audience: Earn your own money, control your fertility, and keep your solitude sacred.
When asked about her writing process, she suggested this prompt for blocked writers: Write about the things that you wish that you could forget. If you start with the demons in your heart, the ones with a knife at your throat, then you can gain power over them so that they can lower the knife, she said.
“We have to transform our demons,” she said, “so that they don’t transform us.”
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 6:19 PM
On my way out of the Fair, the last tent I passed, Red Carpet Books, has all their books at $3.
For whatever reason, seeing two stacks of Fifty Shades of Grey for sale made me laugh.
I bought myself a copy of America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction, a humor book by The Daily Show I read many years ago. Great deal!
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 6:04 PM
A discussion on mass shootings began in the “Truth in Troubled Times: YA Heroes Speak Up” panel due to author Kody Keplinger’s novel That’s Not What Happened, which deals with a high school shooting.
Keplinger wrote her book before the Parkland shooting. She stated it was a surreal experience how real life mirrored her book. Because her book was published after Parkland, many readers think she based her book on that mass shooting.
Springing off an audience question, the panelists brought up the Sandy Hook shooting, Keplinger saying that she doesn’t want to sound like a defeatist, but thought nothing would curb these types of shootings when nothing was done after Sandy Hook.
The panelists agreed that it’s terrifying that it’s not mathematically impossible to be in more than one mass shooting, Jon McGoran (Spliced) using the example of a man who survived the Las Vagas shooting to then be killed in one in California.
Another audience member brought up mental health issues. Sara Farizan (Here to Stay) said mental check-ins are necessary.
Keplinger concluded by saying that reading about dark topics allows young readers to deal with the issue in a safe way. It’s a strange comfort in knowing others share the same thoughts and experiences.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 5:45 PM
The panelists in “Truth in Troubled Times: YA Heroes Speak Up” discussed their writing process.
Jon McGoran (Spliced) took 8 months to outline and 8 weeks to write. He added that the process is many times determined by contracts and deadlines.
Kody Keplinger’s (That’s Not What Happened) editor always sends back comments extremely fast, so she’s always revising.
Sara Farizan (Here to Stay), who wrote about people not normally written about, originally wrote her characters too perfect and was told to change that. She stated that she herself had always tried to be perfect because she felt she was acting as an ambassador for millions of people.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 5:35 PM
The “Truth in Troubled Times: YA Heroes Speak Up” panel—love all the alliteration in many of these panel names—authors Jon McGoran, Kody Keplinger, and Sara Farizan are promoting new books.
Farizan’s Here to Stay is about a high schooler who’s photoshopped to look like a terrorist and the doctored photo is distributed at school. She stated “humor and heart” go with the heavy material.
Keplinger’s That’s Not What Happened tells the story of a survivor of a high school mass shooting and how she tries to reclaim the narrative.
“How we are all culpable in the misconceptions,” Keplinger said, in talking about mass shootings.
McGoran has written science thrillers in the past, but Spliced is his first YA novel. He was fascinated and yet terrified with the idea of scientists currently “tinkering with bio tech.” He wondered, what if gene modification was readily available? And people used it as a form of body modification? How would society react? Who gets to decide who is human?
Keplinger explained the victims’ and perpetrators’ race many times influences the way they are portrayed in the narrative. Keplinger, who is blind, pointed out cases of when persons with disabilities are praised for doing normal things, morphing the story and people.
Farizan researched an awful topic, hate crimes, but aimed to write about something readers would care about. Although she didn’t experience the same thing as her main character, she has dealt with micro-aggressions.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 5:27 PM
When asked about the advantages and disadvantages of writing about the living versus the dead, biographer Andrea Barnet said that she preferred the dead.
“You don’t have to worry about their feelings,” Barnet said during a conversation with author Miriam Pawel about Barnet’s book, which Barnet described as a “collective biography”: Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed Our World.
Although the worlds that these women transformed were vastly different—environmentalism, urban historic preservation, primate research, and farm to table dining—they shared certain traits. They were keen observers in tune with the physical world, pushing against Fifties values that emphasized technology and growth, Barnet said, and who could intuitively map the relationships in the environments that they studied.
When a man in the audience asked if she thought that their gender freed them, Barnet said that she thought that it did. “They had nothing to lose,” she said. “They were free to speak about what they saw.”
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 5:22 PM
The "Sports in American Culture" panel came down hard on the National Football League.
Mark Liebovich (Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times) called the NFL the reality show that America's addicted to, run by a government-blessed cartel of billionaires. He recounted being on hand for a gathering of the "Membership," as they call themselves: 32 team owners, 31 male and 31 white.
Steve Almond (Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto) finds the league and its leadership morally corrupt. In what other enterprise do 30% of the employees suffer brain damage and that's okay?
Etan Thomas (We Matter: Athletes and Activism) played for nine years in the National Basketball Association, mainly with the Washington Wizards. He contrasted the NBA's efforts to connect with players—and with society at large—with the NFL's attempts to prevent players from speaking up (or kneeling down) on social issues. A jobless Colin Kaepernick remains exhibit A.
The NFL uses its non-stop celebration of the military as a diversion and shield. Breaking an authoritarian owner's gag rule is somehow equated with disrespecting the military? Reality check, please.
The not-quite-instant replay of the session should be available as a LitHub podcast.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 5:15 PM
Christopher G. White, author of Other Worlds: Spirituality and the Search for Invisible Dimensions, might have the best reason I've heard yet for his panel running over time: "In the 4th dimension, I have five more minutes."
Alas, I experience the Book Fair in just the mundane three dimensions, and had to run before the panel moved to Q&A.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 5:03 PM
I closed my day one of the Fair at a panel that spanned genres, but the books were united by their big perspective on earth and life upon it.
Rudy Rucker started with a presentation on the re-issue of his classic 1990 science fiction novel The Hollow Earth, now in a compendium with its sequel, aptly titled Return to the Hollow Earth. The books are written in a Verne-like style, complete with a late-nineteenth-century explorer traveling to the center of the earth, where he encounters giant sea cucumber monsters, pig-shrimp that propel themselves by flatulence, and other fantastical creatures.
Adam Frank has been a science writer covering climate change since 1985. In his new book, Light of the Stars, he argues for a new view of climate change, as part of the broader story of Earth's shift into the Anthropocene, the new human-dominated geological epoch. "You can't solve a problem until you can tell its story," Frank says, and his book aims to tell that story.
In Other Worlds: Spirituality and the Search for Invisible Dimensions, Christopher G. White argues that the search for higher dimensions, both spiritually and scientifically, is part and parcel of the "spiritual but not religious" movement. He compared the search for dimensions beyond our own to the older theologies of higher levels (heaven being a classic example).
I definitely left Fair day one thinking about the bigger picture, and looking forward to day two!
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 4:41 PM
While walking around, I bumped into performers from my job, Area Stage Company! They were singing from The Ballad of Janis Matthews and the Dodo Scouts, a musical by Giancarlo Rodaz and Rachel Dean.
Some were surprised to see me, but continued singing like pros.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 4:40 PM
Crime-mystery author/producer George Pelecanos dicussed his unlikely path to literary success (with no formal writing training, his first novel was lifted from the publisher's slush pile a year after he submitted it.) Twenty-one novels later, Pelcanos has become one of the most respected crime writers whose credits extend to writing and producing acclaimed TV shows such as The Wire and The Deuce. Pelecanos' creative incubator remains his hometown: Washington D.C., where he grew up as the son of first generation Greek immigrants who ran the diner in which he worked for much of his youth. He remains attuned to the characters that populate the side of D.C. that doesn't appear in the political thrillers that dominate writing about about the city. Through his involvement in prison literacy programs, Pelecanos is able to attune his ear to the authentic voices that appear in his stories. His characters are complex, conflicted, and morally challenged, which makes them as authentic and interresting as his stories. The Deuce, set Times Square in the 70s is, according to Pelecanos, a show about women overcoming the limits to power imposed on them by the transitional decade of the 70s.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 4:21 PM
I walked through the Books and Books JR tent in the Children’s Alley to check out the books on display. Several caught my eye, such as Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson, The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang, and The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg.
Even if I don’t buy them, I’m going to check if their audio or electronic versions are available on OverDrive.
News & Links
Check out the Miami Book Fair website, where you can learn about all programs which runa ll through the year. You can also see the downloadable fair guide with a full listing of events.
The Fair will kick off with a series of events Sunday-Friday. Some events require tickets, while others are free and require no reservations.
The Porch & Beyond
The Porch, "the ultimate urban hangout/meet and greet/eat space," returned this year, hosting events and activities all week.
The Fair and the Festival of Authors Weekend offer something for everyone. Search the full list of hundreds of authors. And check out the schedules for Book Fair programs for Children, Teens, and Tweens, Read Caribbean, Poetry, the Iberoamerican Author Program, and Destination Comics. And read our coverage below.
The FBR Blogging Team
Nicole E. Mestre
Lynne Barrett, Editor and Blog Coordinator
Saturday Nov. 17, continued
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 4:15 PM
During a panel conversation presented by The Leon Levy Center for Biogaphy, which is at the City University of New York Graduate Center, I noticed and admired biographer Kai Bird’s knack for tracking down widows—directly and indirectly—who lead him to troves of correspondence hidden away in attics.
After six months of gently reminding her to find the correspondence that she had mentioned during an interview, Robert Ames’ widow found 150 pages of her husband’s handwritten letters in her daughter’s attic. These became a crucial part of Bird’s 2014 book about the CIA agent, The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames.
More recently, Bird, the Levy Center’s executive director, said that as part of his research for a forthcoming book about former president Jimmy Carter, he wanted to read correspondence between Carter and a trusted lawyer/advisor. During an interview with Carter, Bird asked where to find the letters. Carter said that he assumed that they were at his presidential library and museum, but they were not. A few days later, Bird received a phone call from a Carter research assistant. Sure enough, the letters had been found through the lawyer’s widow—and in an attic.
“It’s so exciting to be on the chase,” Bird said. “It’s fun—a treasure hunt too.”
In an interesting aside that made me realize how unusual my reading tastes run, Bird mentioned that about 85 percent of the papers at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum are classified and closed off to researchers. (Bird was going to write a biography about Reagan, but switched to Carter after he determined that Carter’s correspondence with his aides was more interesting and that there was little new that he could add to the Reagan literature.) Bird said that every year, while more government documents are classified, fewer government funds are appropriated to declassifying them. Moreover, he said that it can be hard to find civil servants, at say the CIA or the State Department, willing to spend hours pouring through old documents as part of the declassification process.
Call me geeky and weird, but I thought to myself, if I were a civil servant, I would eagerly volunteer for just such a daring mission. After all, wasn’t Robert Redford’s character (Joe Turner) in Three Days of the Condor a brave and resourceful CIA analyst whose job was to read everything?
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 4:05 PM
Having seen two months ago at Area Stage Company the play She Kills Monsters, which deals with the game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), I was intrigued by Zach Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos’ book, which they had described as an ode to D&D. That and the fact I started playing Skyrim this year, finally, I felt like I would like their Adventurers Guild series, so I bought the first one in the series.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 3:45 PM
I knew the women spies panel would be great. Karen Abbott (Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War) profiled her four subjects—two for the North, two for the South. One of them was on the battle lines disguised as a male (as were about 400 other women during the war). The most successful of Abbott's spies had an operative inside the Confederate white house.
Gregory Wallance (The Woman Who Fought an Empire: Sarah Aaronsohn and Her Nili Spy Ring) recounted some of the exploits of Aaronsohn, the "Jewish Joan of Arc," who ran a prolific spy operation in Palestine during World War I. He lamented that the archtype of a woman spy has been usurped by Mata Hari, who was just an exotic dancer and femme fatale, "not much of a spy if even a spy at all."
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 3:43 PM
Putting John Grisham on a panel with nonfiction writers David Grann and Hampton Sides might sound like an odd choice at first, but the three panelists found common ground: all of them write about extreme situations that create “the perfect laboratory for human dynamics.”
In Grann’s The White Darkness and Sides’ On Desperate Ground: The Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Legendary Clash of the Korean War, the extreme situations are the result of temperatures so low that the cold itself becomes a character.
Grisham pointed out that the stresses of the courtroom create a different kind of laboratory, revealing who people really are under pressure. As a former attorney myself, I can see his point.
Besides, the air conditioning in some courtrooms does create arctic-like conditions!
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 3:42 PM
In reference to magic systems he uses in his School for Good and Evil books, Soman Chainani said that writing in the shadow of Harry Potter another school-based fantasy, his magic system is based on emotion.
Zach Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos use spell names from Dungeons and Dragons. Chainani chimed in saying he used obscure tennis players’ names for spells.
I laughed thinking he was being sarcastic, but as he continued talking, I realized it was true.
For Conor McCreery, in his books magic is innately inherit in some people. Now that his Kill Shakespeare series is being adapted for television, he’s in the process of figuring out the magic system.
Eliopulos likes characters who don’t have magic and, yet, make their way through these magical worlds.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 3:32 PM
Walking in to the Two Odysseys panel this afternoon, I was hit by several surprises. First, I didn't realize the session was actually a podcast taping! Whitney Terrell and V.V. Ganeshananthan host the fiction/non/fiction podcast, and this was their first live show.
The next surprise was that Emily Wilson, whose new translation of the Odyssey has gotten rave reviews, was trapped in New York by the winter weather and missed the panel. Fortunately, co-panelist Madeline Miller is a force of her own — and the pair have done panels together across the country, so Miller peppered her interview with references and quotes from Wilson.
Miller's interview covered a wide range of topics, from her mother reading her the Iliad and Odyssey as a child, which inspired her to go into the Classics, to the way her novel Circe falls into a genre she calls "mythological realism"; not quite the magical realism of Allende (another of her inspirations) but also not historical fiction, as many like to label it.
And the podcast hosts brought in ties between Miller and Wilson's interpretation of ancient works and our modern political events. Miller explained the Odyssey's zero-sum view of gendered power ("if women are powerful, men are suffering") and how it's "a conversation we're still having today, three millennia later." She also spoke on how all translations are interpretations and involve choices, and discussed Wilson's choice of vocabulary to describe Penelope's hands, not as "graceful" or "beautiful" as (male) translators have before, but as "sturdy" and "powerful," given her hard work as a master weaver.
All in all, the panel was amazing — and if you missed it, don't fear! The episode should be out at the fiction/non/fiction website soon.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 3:29 PM
Soman Chainani asked fellow panelists Zach Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos, who are co-writers, how they’ve managed to write a book with their best friend without killing each other.
Clark and Eliopulos said they had no conflict while writing the first book in the Adventurers Guild series. For the second, they were co-parenting the book and had to compromise when they disagreed on something.
Conor McCreery said it is important to understand why something needs to change, not that you must accept the suggestion someone, whether it be your editor or co-writer, gives you.
Clark and Eliopulos added they’ve had a united front against the editor at times.
Chainani said sometimes you have to pretend to know that you’re doing. He gave the example of having forgotten he’d killed off a character before someone pointed out he had written half a chapter about the character.
Clark is the organizer in his partnership with Eliopulos, and he keeps a document with information on the world-building they have made for their book series.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 3:24 PM
Biggest and groovingest crowd I've seen at The Porch is listening to the Reggae band Jahfe. Good brass.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 3:16 PM
At the Magic, Mayhem, and Misadventures: Page-Turning Quests panel, co-writers Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos said their Adventurers Guild series is an ode to Dungeons and Dragons, which they grew up playing and still play together. They alternated chapters, so they treated the writing of the books as a game.
Conor McCreery, promoting Adventure Times x Regular Show and referring to his Assassin’s Creed and Killing Shakespeare graphic novels, explained his writing process involves “ripping off others’ ideas and claiming them as my own.”
Soman Chainani stated, having grown up on Disney, we were missing the villain’s POV in most stories. Now we get those, but rarely do we get both the villain’s and the hero’s POVs in one book. Game of Thrones did just that, and Chainani wanted to “replicate that for kids” in his School for Good and Evil series.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 3:08 PM
I thought I was late to the 3 o’clock panel in the MDC Live Arts Lab, but they were about to do the introductions as I walked in. The authors were standing by the door, and Conor McCreery, a regular presenter at the Miami Book Fair, waved at me in greeting.
I am not conceited enough to think he would remember me, even though I have seen him at the Fair many times, and so perhaps he was waving at someone behind him. I did return the salutations, in case he was indeed addressing me.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 2:55 PM
The moderator introduces the three authors present: Tiffany Quay Tyson, Lauren Doyle Owens, and Rochelle Weinstein.
Tyson speaks first. Her novel, The Past is Never, is set in Mississippi. She briefly explains that her novel borrows from Faulkner and her own time in Mississippi.
After Tyson finishes reading from her novel, Owen asks if Tyson remembers if any of what inspired the novel happening when she was a child? Tyson explains that she did not experience any of what influenced the novel herself, but rather describes a trip she took with her father to Natchez, Mississippi. During this trip they were looking for a place called “the Devil’s punch bowl,” a depression in the Mississippi River which is surrounded by peach trees and rumored to be haunted. According to Tyson, “Even to this day, when there is flooding, the bones rise up.”
Owens sets up the section of her book, The Other Side of Everything, she plans to read by discussing the anxieties that fires can cause for those simply in the vicinity of the smoke.
Weinstein introduces her novel, Somebody’s Daughter, by discussing the changes that social media has brought particularly in the lives of children and young adults. Of parents she says, “We’re all just doing the best that we can. There’s no rule book.”
Owens asks Weinstein, whose main character is recorded engaging in some scandalous activity, exactly what is in the recording. In response, Weinstein explains, “I didn’t want to make this book a spectacle. My point was I didn’t want this whole spectacle about the word. My publishing house finally said to me, you need to at least one time put it in the book.”
Owens initiates a conversation on setting, prompting Tyson to discuss the advantages of writing about a place where she used to live after having left. Conversely, Weinstein discuss the advantages she felt she had writing about a place where she still lives.
The Q&A session begins. Questions cover the inclusion of art in novels, reading reviews, writing process, and taking on your own PR.
Editor's note: You can read FBR's review of The Other Side of Everything on our crime writing page, and our review of The Past is Never on our fiction page.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 2:32 PM
The line to get a book signed by Justice Sonia Sotomayor is insanely long, and I already missed several other panels I’d been interested in.
According to the flyer with important information for the event, there are copies of Sotomayor’s books already signed.
Concluding thoughts: as my mom would say, Sotomayor came off as buena gente.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 2:21 PM
Sonia Sotomayor stated the best part of being a judge is “doing this”: presenting and interacting with people. She added that if she wasn’t a judge or justice, no one would come see her.
In answer to a kid’s question of which was her favorite “case to solve,” Sotomayor mentioned the 1995 baseball strike and how the owners were unwilling to negotiate with players. After she ruled on the case, she was named Sports Woman of the Year—in Canada. And several magazines called her Rookie Judge of the Year.
“The owners weren’t happy, but every baseball fan was.”
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 2:17 PM
Y’all, I shook U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s hand!
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 2:12 PM
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who previously stated she would be walking off the stage in order to interact with the children asking questions, is shaking hands with those sitting on the aisles. Not only that, she’s making her way to the back of the room, where I am sitting, on the aisle!
One of the U.S. Marshals, there to protect Sotomayor, has moved up and is now standing right next to me. I smiled and made eye contact with him at something funny Sotomayor said, in a friendly gesture of comradeship at being present when a joke is said, but he did not smile. Like at all.
Sienna, age 5, asked about Sotomayor’s diabetes, but the little girl was too shy to walk up by herself, so her mom carried her over.
Sotomayor asked for her copy of Turning Pages: My Life Story and read a few pages to Sienna to show the moment when Sotomayor received her first insulin shot as a child and how scared she had been then.
After that exchange, a little boy came up to Sotomayor and said he also had diabetes.
What was impressive about her interaction with the little boy was that while she had a conversation with him, she was asked the next question, and when she was done speaking with the boy, she turned around and answered the question she’d been asked. How did the question register in her mind while she had a complete conversation with someone else?
I guess that’s why she’s the Supreme Court Judge.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 2:10 PM
Room 2106 is one of the Fair's largest venues, and it was packed to the gills for the "Will American Democracy Survive Trump?" panel. From the size of the crowd gathered outside, it was going to be packed again for Peter (Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me) Sagal's session on his new opus, The Incomplete Book of Running.
So I slipped over to the Fair's most excellent poetry venue in Room 6100 and caught P. Scott Cunningham reading from Ya Te Veo (a legendary carnivorous tree) plus a few new poems set locally. Who knew that Amy Winehouse got married in Miami Beach?
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 2:08 PM
In answer to another question, Sonia Sotomayor said her favorite book series growing up was the Nancy Drew books. It was the first full chapter books she read. And although Nancy’s life was very different from Sotomayor’s, they both shared a sense of adventure.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 2:04 PM
I was bummed that I had to miss Sonia Sotomayor's discussion of her new memoir Turning Pages; there're always too many panels to go too to catch them all! Fortunately, the panels in Chapman are all simulcast on C-SPAN, and are available within a day or so on their website. Glad I can catch up on her panel later!
Editor's Note: You can watch Sotomayor's presentation here.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 2:02 PM
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s onstage conversation with Port Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera has concluded.
Now Sotomayor wants to walk to the children who have submitted questions. She alerted the crowd that the U.S. Marshals, who are present along the walls to, as Sotomayor put it, “protect me from me,” don’t like when she does this. They allow her to walk among the crowd as long as no one stands or makes sudden movements. The only ones allowed to stand and walk around are children 12 and younger.
Sotomayor told the audience that she’ll allow the parents of the kids whose questions are picked to take pictures of her and their child.
The first question is from Maya, 12, who asked what topic should teens be involved with.
Sotomayor, who is now standing in the center aisle with Maya, said to be involved and not be a bystander, otherwise “all the bad things that happen, you let happen.”
She said we all have different passions, “you have to care about something.” She advised Maya to “find that passion,” that no one can tell her what to care about.
Sotomayor did say what she’s passionate about: everyone should vote. According to her, only 40% of the population vote, so they are making the decisions for the rest of the country.
“Care,” Sotomayor said.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:59 PM
Laugh and cry department: Steve Kronen read a poem adding a tenth circle to Dante's Inferno and consisting entirely of direct quotes from Donald J. Trump.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:56 PM
In response to Juan Felipe Herrera’s question about how she transitions between analytical writing and creative writing, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated she tries to write simply in her legal writings so anyone can understand. In creative writing, “you want their [the reader’s] hearts and souls to go with you,” not just their minds.
Sotomayor, who has written the children’s books Turning Pages: My Life Story and The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor, explained she used a dictaphone to record her writing, which took her three months, but after it was transcribed, it had 35 plot holes. It took another six months to revise.
During this writing process, she also realized that for creative writing, it’s better to write as she speaks instead of how she writes her legal opinions, so the use of contractions and exclamations are appropriate.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:55 PM
The moderator introduces Eileen Pollack, author of The Bible of Dirty Jokes, and Lawrence H. Levy, author of Last Stop in Brooklyn: A Mary Handley Mystery.
Pollack speaks first and describes her novel as a “raunchy, feminist, comic, murder mystery.” She explains that it has two different story lines: one that focuses on the heroine, Ketzel, and another that focuses on a murder mystery.
Pollak explains that the setting of the novel is based in part on her experience in the “Borscht Belt,” summer resorts in the Catskills. She shares how the main character’s family connection to Murder Inc. is inspired by her own family’s connection and recalls how, when she would go row-boating or fishing near certain lakes, her father would joke that she “shouldn’t pull up a skeleton.”
Regarding Potsie’s storyline, Pollack also shares that his story is based on someone from her home town who went missing after taking the family bookie operation to Vegas.
Ketzle’s story line, as Pollack describes it, references in part the changes that came about in comedy when women like Belle Barth, Totie Fields, and Joan Rivers entered the scene.
After Pollack’s reading, Levy discusses the historical accounts of racial profiling segregation in Coney Island. He explains how the lives of financiers like Russell Sage and Austin Corbin influence his novel.
Levy then reads a section of his novel in which the main character, Mary, walks in to restaurant and is forced to endure an uncomfortable round of drinks. She orders a whiskey, neat.
I unfortunately have to make my way out in order to catch another panel, but Mary Handley’s sharp tongue and tolerance for whiskey have convinced me to add Levy’s book to my shopping list.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:50 PM
In the fifth grade, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wanted gold stars, which everyone else in the class had except her. In her quest to earn those stars, she went to the smartest girl in the class, Donna, and asked her to teach her how to study. Sotomayor started earning gold stars. (Last year, she performed Donna’s wedding.)
Sotomayor gave this story to illustrate the trait that has helped her get to where she is today: asking for help.
Recently she asked for clarification on a matter being discussed among her fellow Justices, and, after she asked, two other Justices said they had wanted to ask the same thing.
Sotomayor explained the shame should not come from asking, but from remaining ignorant by not asking.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:49 PM
I just made it to the 1 PM panel on Graphic Myths and Folktales, and I'm glad I did!
George O'Connor is an expert at adapting myths for a modern audience, given that he's ten books in to his The Olympians series, each telling tales of one of the Greek gods. He says he finds that the graphic novel is a great way to tell myths, as "superheroes are inextricably linked with mythology," so adapting the format designed for them brings things full circle. The tenth book tells tales of Hermes, who, O'Connor made clear, shouldn't just be considered the "messenger of the gods," but is instead a trickster, like Loki of Norse myth.
Johnnie Christmas' Firebug also draws on ancient myths, from Nigeria to Polynesia, that he weaves together and makes his own. He wanted his story to feel disjointed from time, like it could be happening recently or thousands of years ago, which he conveyed through dress, with outfits coming from the 80s punk scene as well as the ancient world.
Jaime Hernandez, who is most known for his long-running Love and Rockets series, says it was a challenge to change over from original work to myth adaptation. His new book, The Dragon Slayer, tells folk tales from Latin America. He says another challenge was to write for younger readers, something he'd never done before — although he's used to giving panels and interviews, reading his work to a classroom of eighth graders made him more nervous than anything before.
The panel was expertly moderated by Madeline Miller, who got the authors to share some great examples of the weirdnesses of mythology — O'Connor, for example, shared a Greek tale from his book that explains why dogs sniff each others' behinds, and Hernandez told of a giant in Mexican mythology who has a tooth ring, which meant he had to ponder how to pierce a tooth. I'm excited to see Miller talk about her own modern myth adaptation, Circe, later today.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:45 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Event started, albeit half an hour late, and Sotomayor, in conversation with U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, talked about how she has never forgotten where she comes from and how she always has her family with her during the biggest moments of her life. (Her mom was sitting in the audience, and she received a standing ovation from the crowd.)
Going from her home in Brooklyn to Princeton was like “landing in a movie set,” but she didn’t forget who she was. Her family visited her in Princeton, and she made sure to not leave them behind as she entered another world.
During the White House reception after her confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice, she found one of her aunts in the bathroom. The aunt had a plastic cup with the White House seal and several napkins, too. Sotomayor begged her to not take them, but her aunt was insistent that no one would miss them.
Sotomayor realized everyone has crazy aunts and, therefore, are similar.
Special events in one’s life “are not terribly meaningful” without friends and family to share them with.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:35 PM
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has arrived!
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:30 PM
Antiquarian Annex features four dealers of old and rare books: Glover's, Becker, Kubik and Out-of-the-Way. Not as many classic mysteries in stock this year. Perhaps a lingering aftereffect of my clearing so much of their stock last year. Fun section to browse at a leisurely pace.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:16 PM
So the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Event was supposed to start at 1 o’clock, but it hasn’t. I guess I’ll be missing the 2 o’clock event I wanted to attend. Will have to find a 2:30 or maybe even a 3:00 PM panel.
I didn’t get the best seat in the room—I’m pretty far back—but I made sure to get an aisle seat so my view wouldn’t be obstructed.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:14 PM
Deborah Baker's The Last Englishmen: Love, War, and the End of Empire chronicles the last years of the British Raj through the experiences of an extensive cast of characters, including explorers John Auden (brother of poet W.H.) and Michael Spender (brother of poet Stephen). The villain of the story is Winston Churchill, "who loved India, hated Indians, and especially hated Bengal."
In conversation with Les Standiford, Baker described herself as a reformed biographer who now prefers writing narrative non-fiction "because you can focus on what interests you most."
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:13 PM
Panelists Dhonielle Clayton, Somaiya Daud, Megan Shepherd, and Kiersten White shared valuable insights for beginning and practicing writers at the Tales of Transformation: Thrilling YA Fantasy panel. Their advice included the importance of setting in fantasy and science fiction and the necessity of research.
Asked how they choose which character will tell the story, Clayton explained that she starts with the world and then "finds the character who will cause the most drama."
For Daud, the world and the main character also come together; her protagonist is "the only one who could tell the story" and gain the reader's trust. Shepherd chose to focus on the character with the most room to grow.
While all of the penelists made me laugh, White's comments about writing a retelling of Frankenstein were particularly quoteable. Of Mary Shelley, White said, "She's the perfect co-author because she's dead." Discussing the plot, White pointed out, "That's a spoiler, but the book has been out for two hundred years."
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 1:03 PM
I managed to catch the first half of a cool speculative fiction panel in Building 8.
Maria Dahvana Headley's The Mere Wife is a retelling of Beowulf, from the perspective of the women of the classic tale, set in modern American suburbia. Headley talked about how she used the lens of Beowulf to examine modern politics and conceptions of war. She read an excerpt about Grendel's mother, in her version an Iraq War veteran, now in hiding with her son.
Aaron Thier read from the start of The World is a Narrow Bridge, when God appears in a young Miami couple's bedroom with a task: tell people His true name. The novel follows the couple as they are chase across America by, as Thier describes, the "arbitary, capricious Old Testament God."
Alyson Hagy also spoke on her latest novel, Scribe, which tells the tale of a literate woman working as a scribe in a post-literate culture. When Hagy would get stuck writing, she would have her characters tell each other stories, and the resulting mini-myths pepper the book. She read one, based on a tale of the Civil War from Hagy's own family.
Sad I had to duck out early, but I'm sure those who stayed got to enjoy a great discussion!
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 12:55 PM
Heather Graham and Steven Israel enter the room and chat with a few of the people in the room.
Graham’s novel, A Dangerous Game, tells the story of psychologist Kieran Finnegan and FBI agent Craig Frasier. Both are thrust into a murder plot when a woman is murdered outside of Finnegan’s family pub.
Israel’s novel Big Guns, on the other hand, presents a satirical look at gun ownership in the United States when, much in the style of Jonathan Swift, he creates a world in which gun ownership is mandated for every citizen ages seven and up.
Both authors begin asking each other questions. Graham mentions that she is “fascinated by the knowledge of what goes on in politics.” She then asks of Israel, “Is that what propelled you to write this? Do you have a certain passion one way or the other?” Israel responds that although he served sixteen years in congress and left “unindicted and undefeated” he ultimately felt the he was “more satisfied and more at peace with [himself] writing books than writing laws.”
Israel says, “If I wrote a book, people would read it, it was a way to bring people into an argument. And to explore that argument and not clobber people with talking points.”
After discussing that he has been told political satire is in trouble because people can often access it easily “in a tweet or a late-night TV show,” Israel asks of Graham, “Do you have the sense that people are reading your genre because it is an escape, or what draws readers to your art?” Graham responds that, even with literary fiction, reading is a type of escapism and “the best escapism makes you think or painlessly learn something cool you didn’t know before.”
“I definitely think that people read for the same reasons they go to movies… we all do it for escapism, and then like I said, the best of it makes you think,” Graham shares.
Israel discusses where he grew up and how he had three dreams growing up: 1) to be a member of congress, 2) to write a novel, and 3) to play center field for the New York Mets.
“So pessimistic was I about being reelected in 2002 and so fundamentally cheap a human being I was, that I refused to buy a dresser for my little studio apartment in Washington DC because I figured what a waste of money this is going to be. I am not going to get reelected. I represented a very very Republican district… and two years later I got reelected and the first thing I did was I bought a dresser,” Israel says.
Israel discusses how being a junior member of congress made him uniquely situated to observe those around him. This in turn facilitated his ability to write.
Israel explains that he wrote his book entirely on his phone in the moments he could spare and then asks Graham, “What are your rituals? What do you have to do? What is it? The cup of coffee? The cup of tea? A place?” Graham responds, “I have absolutely no rituals whatsoever,” to laughs from those of us in the room.
Graham explains how she worked theater and did commercials. At one point, she worked a show that encouraged the audience to throw dinner rolls at the performers. She explains that this venue in particular pushed alcohol, and as a result, the items being thrown went from rolls, to lettuce, to French dressing.
Speaking of her kids, Graham says, “I really appreciate them, because I do hear people [say] they need a room, they need so much light, the need music, they need this or that. I think the kids turned me into a Suess novel. Like I can write in a car. I can write going far. In a train. I can write anywhere.”
Graham explains that being a part of certain writers' groups has benefits and explains how the FBI and other government agencies occasionally allow writers to do things such as spend a day at the NY offices of the FBI, spend days with K9 dogs, and spend days with the bomb searching dogs.
The Q&A session begins, and questions range from gun control, to favorite mystery and crime writers.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 12:42 PM
I’ve been coming to the Books Fair for several years now, and the events at Chapman—the large audience hall that sits hundreds of people—are always a big deal. Most of the time, if not always, attendees need to get tickets beforehand to these events. The main events are held here.
However, I’ve never been handed a set of rules prior to entering Chapman, but that’s exactly what’s happened while waiting to see Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Some rules are obvious ones—bags will be checked—but others were good to know, such as only attendees 18 years and younger will be given question cards to fill out since, as the paper clearly states, “THIS IS A CHILDREN’S EVENT.” Adults will not be allowed to ask questions and “current issues, court cases, or anything of a political nature” will not be discussed.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 12:36 PM
I’m already in line to go in to see U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at 1:00 PM, and the lines—because there are two—are long.
Hopefully there’s enough room for everyone. They just announced that those without tickets to the free event have to wait in the stand-by line—a third line.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 12:07 PM
Heavy security around the C-SPAN booth during the interview with Sonia Sotomayor before her session in Chapman. Clean-cut guys in suits with conspicuous ear pieces maintaining a perimeter of onlookers. Temporarily gridlocking traffic to Writers' Row.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 12:04 PM
The MBF/De Groot Foundation Prize for the Novella showcased the possibilities of the novella as a literary form. After receiving their prizes, winner Marci Vogel and finalists Niki Tulk and Branden Royer-White read selections from their winning pieces and described how they came to write them.
Vogel’s novella grew out of “a stack of tiny stories” written after her step-father’s death. Tulk’s work began with an image in her mind of a man floating in a pool, while Royer-White braided together two incomplete ideas for short stories.
All of the readings included beautiful language and the finalists’ pieces were so compelling that I am disappointed their novellas have not been published in addition to Vogel’s.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 12:01 PM
Book Fair suds report: Biscayne Bay Brewing Company is offering a Pale Ale and a Kolsch, plus wine, in Section B adjacent to The Porch. And in a nearby annex in the Food Court. Reasonable prices. Friendly barkeeps.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:55 AM
Simon Winchester's concluding remark on The Perfectionists was "Sorry, I rant a lot in this book."
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:54 AM
Despite Gabby Rivera's absence, her co-panelist, Kwanza Osajyefo, was able to dexterously fill the time. Growing up a comics fan in the 90s, he found that "it shouldn't matter who's under the masks, but once I saw [the black superhero] Static, it hit me like a brick in the head" that very few characters in the comics he loved looked like him. Upon entering the comics industry himself, Osajyefo realized that it is overwhelmingly white, which leads both to a lack of diversity and an inaccurate perspective when characters of color are included.
Black, his series of graphic novels, rests on the premise: What if only black people had superpowers? Unlike prior works focusing on black characters, whose allegories have become dated, Black aims to combine the provocativeness of superhero media with an accurate modern reality for black people. And people were hungry for the fresh perspective, as evidenced by the first book's overwhelmingly successful kickstarter campaign.
The recent second book in the series, Black AF: America's Sweetheart, follows a girl from Montana who faces the dual challenges of being a superhero and a black woman in America, which doesn't accept heroes of color. The series combines such serious topics—the first book is premised on an act of police brutality, and the upcoming third in the series tackles human trafficking—with a diversity rarely seen in comics, which often have one character "who has to represent all of the black community," as Osajyefo puts it. Instead, Black includes a diversity of political views, sexuality, and gender, "not as an aim for diversity, but because those people exist."
During the Q&A, Osajyefo noted that, like his reaction to seeing black characters in the 90s, others have told him that they've had the same reaction to his series.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:50 AM
I've been a fan of Simon Winchester since his (2013?) Book Fair presentation of A Crack in the Edge of the World. He's as erudite, charming, and funny as ever with The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World. It's the story of the quest for precision, starting with the engineering and manufacture of repeatable and interchangeable parts. Which revolutionized warfare, manufacturing, and most of the stuff we use.
My current favorite among his subjects is Joseph Bramah (1748-1814), British engineer extraordinaire, who invented the hydraulic press, an unpickable lock, a better flush toilet, the beer pump, and a fountain pen. He hedged his bet on the last by continuing to operate a quill factory.
Winchester discussed downsides to the quest: insufficient eye toward the social consequences as occupations are displaced, declining delight in craftsmanship, and components engineered to tolerances too small to really manage.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:38 AM
After being successfully distracted by children performing drum solos on two-gallon buckets, I make my way through the crowd toward the back of the Fair for one of the panels only to be waylaid by an adorable booth, Tee Turtle, with even more adorable merchandise and a gentleman with an epic mustache manning the booth. Their crazy cat lady pin is calling my name!
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:35 AM
The nice 65 degrees of this morning is long gone. Sure, there’s a nice breeze whenever the clouds block the sun, but this is South Florida, and its hellish temperature is seeping through the Fair. Needless to say, this denim jacket I brought is too much.
I’m heading to one of the buildings that had seating in the hallways—this is a college, after all—to get some delicious A/C and finally look through the guide book.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:27 AM
Just behind the comic books, in Children's Alley, two performers from Rainbow Circus greet children of varying ages that seem awed by their juggling and twirling skills.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:25 AM
Starting Book Fair weekend on a serious topic. A panel of four journalists discussed how the treatment of drug epidemics by the press has changed over the years: from portrayals of cocaine as a trendy rich white people's drug, to demonizing black dealers and users during the crack crisis, to more empathetic treatment of victims and their families in the continuing opioid epidemic, "because middle-class white kids are dying."
John Pacenti of The Palm Beach Post warned that the most dangerous trend today is mixing ultra-potent fentanyl into methamphetamines and other drugs: "The next shoe may be about to drop."
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:24 AM
Tate's Comics, a local shop, offers its usual plethora of comics and graphic novels, as well as some mystery grab bags.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:20 AM
You can get a chibi self-portrait! I am far too excited at the prospect of being sketched as a tiny cartoon.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:13 AM
The comic book section is quiet as some vendors finish setting up. One of the workers at the Creature Entertainment booth was nice enough to offer me a copy of Eternal Warrior, a comic by John Dixon and Paul Autio, a series by Valiant Comics. I leaf through the issue. It seems the eternal warrior is getting into some trouble over a book. I fully expect to be in a similar position by the end of the weekend, minus the superpowered henchmen of course!
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:09 AM
Slightly hungry, I bought a meat empanada in the food court, which was pretty empty this early in the morning. From previous years, I know it’ll get crazy packed later.
Loko Nutz has free samples of various nuts and flavors. I asked for the honey roasted cashews, and I bought a bag. The almonds are cheaper than the cashews.
At a nearby smoothie cart, I bought a watermelon frozen smoothie. I don’t know why mine tastes like strawberries and bananas, which I happen to love, but I did pay for a watermelon drink.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:08 AM
The day is overcast and cool, which is a nice departure from the heat of the last few weeks. I make my way into the Fair and decide to do a cursory walkthrough in order to get my bearings. Stop one: Comic Books.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 11:04 AM
One of the best things about the last few years at the Fair has been the expanded focus on comics and graphic novels. I decided to start my Fair with just such a panel, on new superheroes in comics. But I was bummed upon arrival to hear that one of the presenters, Gabby Rivera (America Chavez series), had missed her flight and wasn't able to make it! A peril of early-Fair panels (and November weather elsewhere in the country), I guess.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 10:48 AM
Always a new discovery at the Street Fair! This is my third year blogging for Florida Book Review, but it's the first time I've noticed Julie Brumlik's Open Card Now booth. Brumlik's handmade pop-up cards aren't cheap ($8-$20 per card), but they're so gorgeous I'm tempted to buy one anyway.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 10:41 AM
TeeTurtle has cute prints and t-shirts. If you like nerdy things and/or cats, check out this tent.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 10:35 AM
There’s a tent selling new books, no matter the price, at 2 for the price of $15.
My mom, who only speaks Spanish, has read the Harry Potter series and loved it, but she doesn’t own the series. Luckily for her, this tent had books 3, 6, and 7 in Spanish. I snatched the books because I know they’ll be gone by the time I come back around.
I didn’t want to be carrying heavy books this early in the day—or at all—but it’s worth it. It’s Harry Potter!
To make it an even 4 books, I got myself Lord of the Flies.
I already know Justice Sonia Sotomayor is coming—I’m going to try to go to her presentation later—but the book Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story of Racial Injustice caught my eye. Wonder where that’s being presented.
Sigh. I’m going to have to sit down and look through this guide.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 9:55 AM
Several entrances didn’t have the Fair Guide—I thought they normally did?—but finally got my hands on one at an information booth.
Even if you already had a guide, make sure to stop by an information booth because there’s an updated schedule. I don’t know what has changed, but make sure to grab one.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 9:49 AM
One of the best spots at the Fair is the Friends' Lounge, with coffee, food and live simulcast of the presentations in Chapman all day. I stopped in and grabbed a pastry as soon as I arrived this morning. Being a Friend of the Fair gives access to the lounge, which provides a great base camp from which to launch your weekend Fair experience.
Slather some cream cheese and guava on a cracker and you’re in Cuban heaven. Yum!
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 9:44 AM
Favorites by authors promoting their work on Writers' Row on Saturday.
Long title category: Poor Teddy - The True Story of a Poodle Named After a Noodle.
Short title: On To Umm (three-line poems by Jerry Beck).
Preschool: Say Your ABC With Me.
Postgrad: Theology of Cosmology.
Great booth juxtapositions: Gathering Thoughts is next to Severed Ties, and Finding Jacob is next to No One Is Coming.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 9:35 AM
Why, I asked as diplomatically as I could, was the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works booth at the end of the Book Fair's "Comics" section?
"So you can see our funny bus," replied the friendly and quick-witted bus driver. The location was chosen so a fancy new bus fueled by liquified natural gas could be parked right there on NE 1st Ave.
It was a big hit with the schoolchildren fairgoers on Friday, so not to be outdone I checked it out. Pretty spiffy as city buses go. The Department is at the Fair to encourage more of us to give public transportation a try.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 9:26 AM
Yearly Book Fair check list:
◇ water bottle—check
◇ book bag—check
◇ guidebook of events—not done yet
◇ jacket—surprisingly, check
It was a bit nippy when I left my home—it was at 65°. That’s freezing for South Florida standards.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 9:18 AM
Made an earlybird tour of the grounds well before fairgoers stream in for the first author sessions. Most of the Street Fair booths still have their canvas sides down. Most of the food vendor griddles are already warming up. Friends of the Fair lounge is well-stocked with coffee, juice, and pastries.
The Confucius Institute at Miami Dade College three-booth complex is already open and raring to go. Staff said they were energized after seeing so many children on Friday, school trip day at the Book Fair.
Centerpiece of the exhibit, focused on chidren's books this year, is a mural by well-known Chinese 3D painter Qi Xinghua, who visited the Fair a few years ago. A Giant Panda rides a Gator while reading a book: "East meets West at the Book Fair."
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 8:45 AM
Heading out to the Book Fair. I’m going solo. Hopefully my sister can join me later today or tomorrow.
I couldn’t manage to get a copy of the guidebook to this year’s panels, so I’m going completely blind. My plan is to get there early enough to grab a booklet and start planning today’s events.
Thursday Nov. 15
Tuesday Nov. 13
Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, 9:41 AM
They’ve already closed some streets in preparation for this weekend’s street fair for the Miami Book Fair.
While visiting Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus in downtown Miami, where the Fair takes place, I noticed the tents for the various vendors and exhibitors going up as students made their way to class.
Can’t wait for Saturday!
Sunday Nov. 11
Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, 6:11 PM
Opening night at the Porch seems even busier than last year. There's music, still recorded but going live soon, and giant games (checkers, Jenga, and Connect 4). Bacardi is providing drinks in exchange for donations to the Miami Foundation, and MBF is offering free food. The pork smells delicious!
There's also plenty of poetry. The Silent Poetry Disco has three channels: poems for the young, poem of the day, and poems in English and Spanish. Just give them your ID and you are free to roam around with a pair of headphones, listening.
What impresses me most is the activity at the Poem Depot. Here you can get poetry written on demand, about whatever topic you choose. So many people want poems this year that there is now a one-hour wait!