Miami Book Fair 2019 Blog
Join us in person or from afar
EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog is posted with newest items at the top of the left column.
Sunday Nov. 24
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 5:30 PM
After giving up on trying to figure out what book my mom would want, wanting to surprise her, I ended up calling her. As I expected, she wanted a mystery book that involved the police. So a classic detective story/procedural narrative.
I asked a worker at the Spanish Books and Books tent for assistance. Several minutes later, I was then handed books that were more horror (Stephen King's It or Eso in Spanish) or suspenseful (Stephen King's Misery). I ended up getting her a humor book after she rejected my suggestion of getting her a Cuban cookbook (because she didn't know the author).
And so my 2019 Miami Book Fair is over. As I said earlier, I'm excited for my book purchases—all graphic novels—and I'm happy I once again have guava jam. I plan on spending my holidays reading about mythological beings and non-binary people, about heavy topics and lighthearted ones while eating crackers with guava and cream cheese.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 5:24 PM
My Book Fair weekend ended on a high note at the “Small Wonders: Short Stories” session.
In the title story of Tom DeMarchi's Möbius Strips and Other Stories, “the human brain is a series of Möbius strips lined with locked filing cabinets,” and we lose the keys as we age.
Jim Ray Daniels read a coming-of-age story from The Perp Walk in which the young boys’ challenge seemed to be filling those filing cabinets with things useful, not destructive.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 5:11 PM
At the autographing table, Maureen Johnson said she's working on a project with investigative journalist Billy Jensen, who now co-hosts the podcast Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad.
Diana Peterfreund is letting fans pick which color gel pen they want her to autograph with, each color representing a different murder suspect in her novel In the Hall with the Knife. There are customized Clue playing cards depicting all the characters in the novel.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 4:59 PM
My favorite quote from the Book Fair came courtesy of journalist George Packer, who wrote Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, a biography of the late diplomat: “There is something shady in what we do, and I was abetted in the crime by the widow.”
By shady he meant the deep digging, akin to burglarizing an attic, that biographers do. The widow is reporter and writer Kati Marton, who gave Packer her husband’s papers with no strings attached. These included diaries, letters, and an unpublished memoir.
“I didn’t choose it,” Packer said. “It kind of chose me.”
The result is a book about an ambitious and idealistic man who inspired love or hate or both. His career spanned a fifty-year era, from JFK to Obama, from the war in Vietnam to the war in Afghanistan. “For him, being in the game was everything,” Packer said about Holbrooke, who he described as a shrewd observer of others, but whose fatal flaw was an inability to see himself.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 4:50 PM
What's next for the "Whodunit: Murder, Mayhem, and Mystery" panelists? For Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious: The Vanishing Stair), it's more mysteries, including the third and final Truly Devious novel. Diana Peterfreund (In the Hall with the Knife) has the second Clue novel coming out next year. It'll be a trilogy. Category Five, the sequel to Ann Dávila Cardinal's Five Midnights will also be out next year. She also plans on writing a story about a ghost in a New England school.
The authors were asked if they were into true crime.
"Yeah," Johnson said. "I have a problem."
Peterfreund finds true crime too scary.
An audience member asked the panel what is their favorite classic mystery.
◇ Johnson: And Then There Were None. She added that Agatha Christie was more subversive than people give her credit because she created two unlikely detectives: Miss Marple (an elderly lady) and Poirot (an immigrant).
◇ Peterfreund: "The Gold Bug", The Westing Game, and Veronica Mars.
◇ Cardinal: She prefers horror. If there's a body, she wants it to get up.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 4:33 PM
In speaking about what current events have influenced their books, the "Whodunit: Murder, Mayhem, and Mystery" panelists had ready answers:
◇ Diana Peterfreund: #MeToo movement
◇ Ann Dávila Cardinal: opioids
◇ Maureen Johnson: families broken up by politics
The authors also discussed challenges they faced when writing their latest books. Peterfreund said she had to write six unreliable narrators in In the Hall with the Knife because they're all murder suspects.
Johnson, who started off by saying murder mysteries are weird because it's a murder but it's fun, has a locked room mystery in Truly Devious: The Vanishing Stair. She outlined everything and even consulted engineers—her husband is an engineer—to help her structure this room in her novel.
Cardinal held sensitive readings in which teens read the material and gave feedback. She wanted to make sure she was capturing current teen lingo correctly in Five Midnights.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 4:26 PM
Booths/tents at the Street Fair have excellent labeling, even if it takes a reduction in font size to render “Global Foundation for Democracy and Development” and “Miami Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works.”
But my new favorite is “Books for Sale.” Recipient of the minimalist award? An enterprise in extreme need of better branding? Or the Street Fair in a nutshell? Can't decide.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 4:22 PM
At "Whodunit: Murder, Mayhem, and Mystery," Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious: The Vanishing Stair) stated she grew up watching mysteries and loves Agatha Christie. In fact, she had a crush on Captain Hastings. She ended by saying that at its core, a mystery is a game. She also mentioned The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.
Ann Dávila Cardinal (Five Midnights) started off with horror. YA didn't exist in the late '60s/early '70s when she was growing up, but reading helped her. She wanted to giving that feeling to others.
Diana Peterfreund (In the Hall with the Knife) brought up what the show Riverdale has done for the Archie comic books and thought it'd be cool if they could do the same for the board game Clue and modernize it.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 4:16 PM
Fifteen minutes after the expected start, an announcement comes through that Andrés Oppenheimer (The Robots are Coming!) is a last-minute cancellation. With no other panelists, the room quickly clears, the departing audience chatting about whom to see instead.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 4:15 PM
The panelists of "Whodunit: Murder, Mayhem, and Mystery" explained their latest works.
In Five Midnights, Ann Dávila Cardinal addresses having two cultures and dealing with addiction. Her novel is inspired by el cuco—the equivalent to the bogeyman—and imagined, what if it were real?
Maureen Johnson, in Truly Devious: The Vanishing Stair, has her protagonist trying to form an identity as she struggles with anxiety, the past, and the present in solving a cold case.
Diana Peterfreund was hired by Hasbro to write In the Hall with the Knife, based on the board game Clue. She added characters from previous versions of the game to her novel.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 3:54 PM
Twenty years later, the Elián Gonzales case is still alive in Miami, judging by the standing-room-only crowd for the panel on Tough Cases: Judges Tell the Stories of Some of the Hardest Decisions They’ve Ever Made. Panelist Judge Jennifer Bailey made the decisive ruling in the case.
For those new to the 305: The five-year old Elián was miraculously rescued floating in an innertube off Ft. Lauderdale after a boat carrying 14 Cuban refugees, including his mother, was lost in a storm trying to cross the Florida Strait. Relatives in Miami tried every maneuver to have Elián granted political asylum, but his father wanted him returned to Cuba, and American immigration procedures and law were ultimately on the father’s side. The case was THE local story for more than six months, and emotions peaked when Elián was forcibly removed from his relatives’ home and eventually sent to his father.
Bailey listed the three things that can make a case difficult. One, conflicts in the law. This is the easiest problem for experienced judges. Two, conflicts in the facts, as represented by evidence and testimony. This is what trials try to sort out. Three is when everybody has an opinion on the case and media scrutiny is intense. This is when judges really have to do their research and stay above the fray. This is the Elián Gonzales case.
The other panelists described very different cases where the law was clear but the context complicated.
Judge Gail Chang Bohr’s case involved a divorce in Minnesota where the parents agreed on a child custody arrangement (normally a rubber stamp when there’s agreement); however, each parent was in trouble with the law.
Judge Edward Wilson was part of the judicial system established by NATO in the wake of the war in Kosovo. The case involved a family gang that terrorized a city, but no direct evidence or testimony could link them to the crimes.
Keep rooting for the judicial system to do the right thing.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 3:33 PM
A sudden, intense, and mercifully brief rain sent Fairgoers indoors (and dropping randomly into nearby author events) and Street Fair exhibitors madly dropping the sides of their tents.
With the exception of Glover’s Bookery, which was battened down neatly. Proprietor said he'd been tracking the line of squalls since it was over the Panhandle last evening: “We’ve done so many Miami Book Fairs that we know what to expect.”
Now I know whom to call for my Book Fair forecast.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 3:09 PM
So I ended up buying Mike Cavallaro's Nico Bravo and the Hound of Hades and Jarod Roselló's Red Panda and Moon Bear and had those plus George O'Connor's Zeus: King of the Gods autographed.
I'm excited to read these and the graphic novels I bought yesterday. I told Roselló I was specially excited to read his book because, like his protagonists, I'm a Cuban-American, and I haven't yet read a comic with Cubans as protagonists. Then again, I don't have an extensive history reading comics or graphic novels.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 3:08 PM
I always make sure to stop by the University Press of Florida booth during my late-Sunday shopping rounds. Great deals on all sorts of books related to Florida—I particularly love the cookbooks and works of Florida history. And they have steals on hurt books, as low as $2. A must-visit for any Florida reader.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 2:53 PM
The "Myths and Legends" panel ended on a discussion on music and outlining.
Panelists Jarod Roselló, Mike Cavallaro, and George O'Connor were asked what genre music they listen to while working. O'Connor admitted he will sometimes listen to the same song(s) during the duration of a project. Roselló said that repeatedly listening to the same songs over and over again causes the songs to simply block out everything else. Cavallaro listened to '80s punk during his last project.
As for outlining, Cavallaro writes a loose outline and the ending might change as he gets going. O'Connor color-codes his outlines—he pulled out a neat outline of his current project from his sketchbook. Roselló writes a synopsis and even a whole script before trimming down and drawing.
As someone with no experience writing a graphic novel or comic, I have been surprised, from what I've heard yesterday and today, at the amount of outlining these artists do. (Is it standard practice?) I guess I'm surprised because from personal experience and from years of attending panels, I know many prose writers don't outline.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 2:40 PM
Turning to audience questions, the "Myths and Legends" panelists were asked if there was a moment in their comics that they felt they really "nailed it." There was a one- or two-second silence before all three panelists grabbed their books and started flipping through pages.
George O'Connor (Olympians: Hephaistos: God of Fire) answered with the page depicting Pandora opening her jar. (Sidebar: I was so happy he said jar and not box because Pandora didn't have a box but a jar. But I digress....)
Mike Cavallaro only replied with page number 106 of his Nico Bravo and the Hound of Hades. Jarod Roselló (Red Panda and Moon Bear) said page 85 where he drew snow on palm trees.
Another audience member asked what they draw more often when doodling.
◇ O'Connor: turtles and his cats
◇ Cavallaro: nothing
◇ Roselló: current characters he's working on
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 2:39 PM
As both George O'Connor's and Mike Cavallaro's books feature different versions of the same deity (the Greek Hephaistos and the Roman Vulcan), they quickly got in a little ribbing of each other's chosen pantheons.
"The Romans," O'Connor says, "are really good at stealing stories from the Greeks."
"Subcontracting!" Cavallaro replies.
O'Connor, deadpan, rebukes him: "Thievery."
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 2:35 PM
When the panelists were asked about writer's block and how they "recharge [their] creative battery," Mike Cavallaro said it's not so much a recharge as figuring out where you took a wrong turn. Jarod Roselló concurred, stating it's an alarm. He goes back and rereads his work to find "the point of departure."
George O'Connor takes the subway back and forth to fight writer's block. He said you must allow yourself to make errors, and he uses his sketchbook to create mistakes.
The panelists were also asked about the tools they use when working. Roselló replied with what I've heard a few times over the last two days: it depends on the project. He did say he uses ink and paper, though.
Last year Cavallaro switched to using a iPad Pro, and it's been amazing. He can now work while enjoying a nice day outside. O'Connor, echoing Roselló, said it "just depends" but emphasized that no matter the method, it should help you "write it effortlessly."
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 2:25 PM
The moderator of the "Myths and Legends" panel Juan Navarro, who owns Goblin's Heist Comics in downtown Hialeah and teaches comic workshops at Miami Dade College Hialeah Campus, asked the panelists when they decided to pursue a career in comics.
Jarod Roselló (Red Panda and Moon Bear) explained he has an MFA in fiction and a PhD in instruction. Having immigrant parents who expected him to be a doctor or a lawyer, being a cartoonist was never an option, so it wasn't until he was 27/28 years old when he made the switch. Mike Cavallaro (Nico Bravo and the Hound of Hades) went to a comic school, and George O'Connor (Olympians: Hephaistos: God of Fire) made shadow puppets as a kid at night until he fell asleep. Later as an adult, he began his career making picture books, but, as he pointed out, one can't go too much into depth with picture books.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 2:19 PM
Jarod Roselló's Red Panda & Moon Bear is set in a fictionalized version of Miami, and Roselló drew on his childhood here to craft the art style and narrative of the book. The fantastical adventures that the titular Cuban-American siblings (with magical hoodies) get up to pull from the overlapping myths he heard as a child. And he used the architecture of both Miami and Havana as a reference, which was helpful for "everything but trying to draw snow on palm trees."
Mike Cavallaro's Nico Bravo and the Hound of Hades also pulls from overlapping myths. It features a kid working in Vulcan's supply shop for a cross-pantheon set of deities and mythical creatures, from Thor to Beowulf to "cyborg unicorns from the future."
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 2:11 PM
Having seen George O'Connor yesterday at another panel and knowing there's an end in sight to his Olympians series—one of the main reasons why I've never gotten into comic books is that they seem to never end; I don't need that kind of stress in my life—I decided to buy the first book of the series, Zeus: King of the Gods, earlier today.
But now that I'm at the "Myths and Legends" panel, I might I also get Mike Cavallaro's Nico Bravo and the Hound of Hades and Jarod Roselló's Red Panda and Moon Bear.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 2:07 PM
Before the "Myths and Legends: The Comics Edition" panel got underway, the room was eerily silent for the amount of people in the room. It was already past 2 o'clock, but since it was raining, the room hostess decided to give it a few more minutes in case any stragglers came in late.
As we waited, panelist George O'Connor pointed out the "stony silence" and he and Mike Cavallaro decided to break it by talking about the recent haircut O'Connor got at Hair Cuttery. He then wondered out loud why Cavallaro was wearing a hat, asking the audience for guesses.
Before anyone could guess why, the panel officially started.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 2:01 PM
Listening to Tim O’Brien and David Maraniss, I thought of fathers and sons and of what binds them and what divides them, how even when they’re emotionally close they are separated by an unbridgeable generational divide. In O’Brien’s case, becoming a father late in life—he was 56—made that gap even larger. It’s an insurmountable barrier that he tries to assuage with his Dad’s Maybe Book, which he clarified is “not a parenting book.”
O’Brien’s son Tad inspired the title when he called an initial draft “a maybe book,” which set off a round of riffs on the deeper meaning of maybe in the author’s household. O’Brien’s wife Meredith remarked that “all of our lives are maybe lives.” Her observation took O’Brien back to his days as a soldier in Vietnam, where in heavily mined areas most casualties stemmed from simply walking, where “every step was a maybe step.”
In his wise but melancholic way, O’Brien knows that maybe he won’t be around when his two sons graduate from college. Getting to see them hit middle age—that's an even bigger maybe. In an attempt to mitigate his future absence, he has written them letters that he hopes they will appreciate when they’re older. At 73, O’Brien accepts that he’s an outlier, a generation older than the fathers of his sons’ friends. His teenage sons know this too: “They know they have an old man for a dad.”
Maraniss was in his 60s when he first thought about what it was like to be in his dad’s shoes in 1952. That was when his father Elliott was summoned before the House Un-American Activities (HUAC) in Detroit. Just being subpoenaed had cost Elliott his newspaper editor job.
A World War II veteran, husband, and father of three, Elliott was blacklisted in journalism for years, but at last found a stable home at The Capital Times in Madison. “Michigan made us and Madison saved us,” Maraniss said.
Elliott was prevented from reading aloud his prepared statement during the HUAC hearing, but was allowed to file it with the committee. In 2015, David Maraniss found the document in a box at the National Archives, part of his research for his book A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father.
Maraniss, only two years old during his father’s ordeal, was struck by the physicality of the words on the page when he first read his father’s prepared statement. The words had been typed on a typewriter, where the keys would stick, and where letters typed over letters displayed his father’s limited abilities as a typist.
Then a deeper sensation hit him. It was the first time that he had considered “what it was like to be in [his father’s] crucible.”
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 1:58 PM
I made it to the first part of Mary Norris' interview on her book Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen. She first was inspired to go to Greece in the 1980s after seeing Sean Connery as Agamemnon the movie Time Bandits—"Sean was beautiful, but the landscape behind him was brilliant," she says. She only found out, years after traveling the country, that the film was shot in Morocco.
Learning Greek in her 30s, Norris found it incredibly helpful as a copy editor at The New Yorker, both for spelling ("autochthonous, ophthalmologist") and for enriching her love of words. I loved her description of the Greeks' adaptation of the Phoenician alphabet by adding vowels—despite her protestations that she'd "put us all to sleep." Her fascination with and excitement at the letters and words of the Greek language really shone through.
Unfortunately, somebody scheduled Norris opposite another Greek-themed panel (on comics and myths), which I'm now dashing off to.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 1:55 PM
The "Fierce Fantasy" panelists spoke on what other works inspired theirs.
Stephanie Garber (Caraval: Finale) is touched when her work is compared to Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, which she only found out existed when someone who read her draft pointed it out, but they are different stories. She was really inspired by Disneyland, which she grew up going to.
Tahereh Mafi (Defy Me) said people have compared her series to X-Men and The Hunger Games, but she didn't even know Rogue from X-Men. (I thought of Rogue, too, when I read the book jacket!) Her actual inspiration was Crime and Punishment, stating that Dostoevsky takes "agonizing care about the loss of a single human life," which she wanted to do in her story.
The final question was for Mafi when an audience member asked the significance of the white dove in the Shatter Me series. Mafi corrected her and said it wasn't a dove, just a white bird, and she couldn't answer the question because it would be a spoiler.
The panel concluded when they selected another audience member to ask a question, but she instead thanked the two authors, saying it was an honor to read their books. She especially thanked Mafi for diving into people's thoughts, realizing that we don't know what people are truly thinking. The room broke into applause.
Probably the best concluding remarks to a panel I've ever attended.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 1:53 PM
In the “Family Matters: Three Memoirs” session, a well-matched set of panelists read from their works and discussed their variations on the theme of mother-daughter relationships.
In Adrienne Brodeur’s Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me, the game begins when the 14-year-old becomes confidante and accomplice to her mother’s affair.
In Elissa Altman’s Motherland: A Memoir of Love, a turning point in a long-strained relationship comes when the mother needs caregiving.
Kristin Kovacic said that each essay in History of My Breath is “an exhalation” of things we hold in and don’t say. The essays run from childhood through marriage and parenthood in "a life abundantly accompanied.” She read “Comma Momma,” about the sometimes tenuous points of contact between mother and college-age daughter.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 1:42 PM
An audience member at the "Fierce Fantasy" panel asked the authors how they keep hope alive during their writing if it's not going well.
Stephanie Garber (Caraval: Finale) said she scraps the work. She prefers editors who won't force something that isn't working. Tahereh Mafi (Defy Me) gets plenty of editor notes saying to make things longer, "beefier," describing her initial drafts as a "skeleton with a beating heart." She wrote five books before a book of hers was published, adding that those five novels are in the trash.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 1:38 PM
In discussing their writing processes, Tahereh Mafi (Defy Me) and Stephanie Garber (Caraval: Finale) have different approaches. Mafi writes more character-driven stories, so it took her several books to do worldbuilding in her Shatter Me series. Garber has to be told to focus in on the interior (thinking/emotions) of her characters because she tends to focus more on worldbuilding.
A small child in the audience—wouldn't be surprised if she was only 10 or so—prefaced her question by saying she likes to write, but struggles in naming her characters. She asked the panelists how they come up with names for their characters.
Garber often asks herself, "What would the parents name the child?" before settling on a name. Mafi, who liked Garber's answer, gave the example of her character Warner to show her own process: the character is violent, so let's put "war" in the name.
In response to a question about how to keep voices different or distinct in her writing, Mafi said she does a deep dive into the different characters. When she edits, she'll edit all the chapters from one character together—instead of going in the order of the story—to keep consistency. She also acts out how the characters would.
Garber, answering the same question, doesn't act it out, but she talks to herself to distinguish her characters' voices. She has two main characters in her trilogy, Scarlett and Tella, who come from different places emotionally, so their thoughts and speech are different.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 1:31 PM
Jonathan Safran Foer is in a very on-the-nose discussion with Caroline Lewis of the CLEO Institute called "On Climate". He is comically smug, as ever. Here are some choice quips from him:
◇ On changes people can make in their personal lives to lessen their footprint: "From what I see in the audience, most people are not at the point in their lives where they're deciding whether or not to have kids, but if they are, they should have no more than two."
◇ On how to deal with climate deniers: "It's easy to wake somebody up who's sleeping. You give them a quick nudge, make a loud noise, something like that. But it's impossible to wake somebody up who's pretending to sleep."
Lewis says that there are tons of deniers on her Facebook page, to which Foer responds, "The fact that somebody's making noise on social media isn't really a fact at all."
Foer says he's less concerned with those who are against the fight against manmade climate change than he is with those of us who claim to be for it. That conversation shouldn't be confused with action. "We shouldn't mistake watching Rachel Maddow with taking action."
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 1:25 PM
The panelists of "Fierce Fantasy" were asked about writing in other genres or age groups.
Tahereh Mafi (Defy Me) answered that she had a contemporary novel published last year, adding that she had to be vulnerable in order to write it, waiting to be ready to write it. Stephanie Garber (Caraval: Finale) wants to write for middle grades for the "brightness and magic" that can be found in writing for that age group.
Mafi was asked about the eyes on the book covers of her series. She explained it hadn't been her idea. The original cover was a girl in a white dress, which she didn't like because it had nothing to do with the story. Eventually it was changed to the eyes as the series progressed. The original eyes were scary, so she did ask for brighter eyes.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 1:19 PM
Stephanie Garber's Caraval trilogy was meant to be a standalone, but when the first book sold, her agent asked her to change the ending to open it up to a sequel.
One of the student moderators asked Tahereh Mafi a spoiler question about Defy Me, the fifth book of her Shatter Me series, so Mafi decided to explain the premise of the series: a young woman cannot touch others because her touch can kill. Mafi added that the prose reflects the characters' personalities. She struggled in giving further explanations because she was trying to avoid spoilers.
Garber praised Mafi's work, emphasizing that "the writing changes with the character."
"That was so nice," Mafi said, visibly touched by the comment. "She knows what she's talking about."
In response to an audience question, Garber explained what was the original ending to Caraval: Scarlett, the protagonist, is given an invitation to join the caraval. Considering that the caraval kidnaps the protagonist's sister as part of a "game"—not a spoiler; it's on the book jacket—I am intrigued to know how the story could've arrived at that ending.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 1:11 PM
As I hustle between panels, I notice a drizzle has started. I was hoping for a precipitation-free Fair, but alas, it's still Miami. Looks like others were also unprepared—no umbrellas emerging as people hustle to get under the shelter of the nearest booth or building.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 1:03 PM
I'm at my first panel of the day: "Fierce Fantasy."
G. Willow Wilson (The Bird King), who canceled her Book Fair appearance due to illness and was, therefore, not at her "Sci-Fi Explosion!" panel yesterday, was also scheduled to be at this panel.
Two students with Culture Shock—a program that offers $5 tickets to performances and museums in Miami-Dade to students ages 13-22—introduced the two remaining authors: Stephanie Garber (Caraval: Finale) and Tahereh Mafi (Defy Me).
I wonder if there had been a third student who was supposed to introduce/interview Wilson. Six people at the table would've been too crowded, though...
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 12:49 PM
I went over to the Books and Books set-up in Building 1, which is selling the books of the authors presenting today in that building, since all the panels I plan to attend are there.
After reading the book jackets, I decided to opt out of the 3 o'clock panel I had wanted to see. This frees up time to eat lunch later. The lemonade I have wasn't going to carry me over to 5 o'clock when my final panel ends.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 12:44 PM
On a panel about working against radical groups, the conversation of course turns to the current political climate. Mab Segrest released a revised version of Memoir of a Race Traitor that covers the last ten years of the far-right in the American South. She says she's "worried about the theocratic fundamentalist agenda of Jeff Sessions and Trump," as is the audience, from the content of the Q&A.
Megan Phelps-Roper (Unfollow) says that many evangelical Christians she speaks to will "accept even a grievous sinner" like Trump because of tribalism and fear of the other, in this case the political left. Segrest adds that evangelicals "front right-wing policies because they've locked down on sureties," and that radicalization is often a response to a need for certainty in uncertain times. "It's hard to counter the thinking," she says, "of someone with a lockdown on the Bible."
Segrest shared she's been on the opposite side of the WBC's picket lines from Phelps-Roper (Unfollow), who was the radical church's Twitter spokesperson until the social media platform exposed her to other ideas, and she left in 2012.
Phelps-Roper told us how her grandfather started as an anti-racist lawyer in Brown v. Board of Education-era Topeka, but his authoritarian hold over his family morphed into the infamous church she was born into. After leaving, Phelps-Roper "thought she was alone, because of having been a public voice" for the church, but she soon realized that "the only way to change my name and legacy was to work publicly to change it."
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 12:22 PM
Audience and panelists alike had a good time discussing Making Good Time: True Stories of How We Do, and Don’t, Get Around in South Florida. The anthology’s editor, Lynne Barrett, introduced the book with a long list of modes of transport mentioned, from airplanes to Winnebagos. Four of the 32 contributors read from their pieces.
Alex Segura’s “Transitions” was about a school trip Metrorail ride to—where else?—the Book Fair. Jennine Capó Crucet provided a burglar’s how-to guide in “Best Practices for Canal-Based Thievery.” In Terrence Cantarella’s “Ride-Along,” the journalist accompanies a patrol officer whose mind isn’t entirely on his job. And Sammy Mack’s “In the Zika Zones” has the health reporter covering the Zika virus threat while pregnant.
Discovery, chicanery, danger, comedy light and dark—anything can happen in these stories. And as Barrett pointed out, while we’re trying to get around and maintain our bearings, South Florida is in relentless motion around us.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 12:15 PM
The stilt performers are out and about in the Children's Alley making balloon animals for the kiddies. One stilt walker is dressed as the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland and the other as the Mad Hatter, the Tim Burton version.
It's my third day of the Street Fair, and I haven't seen Paddington Bear this year. I'm extremely sad. Might have to watch the movies later tonight to cheer me up.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 11:57 AM
James Fallows (Our Towns) shared a key insight—that, although most Americans now think the nation at large is doing poorly, they feel their local area is a "fortunate anomaly." As a result, he says, local communities are critically important in "the overlay of miasma over a still functioning country."
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 11:56 AM
At least once every Book Fair I am reminded why I'm a recluse with a general dislike for humanity. This year that moment came at the end of Carl Hiaasen's session when adults, in search of free writing advice, dominated the Q&A of a session targeting young readers then rushed out the door to beat those young readers to the autograph line. Have some self-awareness.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 11:50 AM
While visiting dozens of towns across the U.S. for five years, Deborah and James Fallows noticed that locals' getting-to-know-you questions depended on the place. Here is a small sample:
◇ Greenville, SC: Where do you go to church?
◇ St. Louis, MO: Where did you go to high school?
◇ Denver, CO: What do you do? (Not as in, for a living, but as in, skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, etc.)
◇ Los Angeles, CA: How did you get here? Where did you park?
◇ Miami, FL: Where are you from? Or more accurately, ¿De dónde son?
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 11:47 AM
A line is forming outside the MDC Live Arts Lab for the F. C. Yee and Michael Dante Dimartino's panel on Avatar, the Last Airbender: The Rise of Kyoshi. A few years ago I attended a panel on Avatar and the room was packed, with people standing along the walls or sitting on the aisle. Not surprising this year will draw a crowd, too.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 11:37 AM
When I read the description of James and Deborah Fallows' Our Towns, I knew I had to make it to their presentation this morning. Where else can you hear two people talk about their experiences criss-crossing the country in a single-engine airplane—an airplane so small it has its own parachute? What I didn't expect was an insight into the state of small towns in the United States, and what makes them tick.
After years as primarily international journalists, when the pair returned to the U.S. they decided to take to the skies and get a look at towns that are not part of normal national media coverage, from Fresno, California to Eastport, Maine and down to Pensacola.
James introduced their project, then Deborah focused the panel on two key institutions in small towns. First, public libraries, which she called "the second responders" after a crisis, providing resources after the first responders have left. She then spoke on how arts (including literary arts) act as both an economic driver and engine of community change. Hear, hear!
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 11:25 AM
I didn't get much of a chance yesterday to look around at the various tents, so I decided to do so this morning since my first panel isn't until 1:00 PM.
I stopped by a few used and new book stalls in my yearly quest to find a Spanish book for my mom. Found nothing of interest, yet.
The various literary magazines of Miami Dade College—each campus has its own—are at the MDC Literary Magazines tent. The Wolfson Campus's magazine, Metromorphosis, was well represented. All the magazines are free.
The MDC Alumni tent has a prize wheel anyone can spin, not just alumni of the college. I won a pen, sticker, and t-shirt.
Swung by the Books and Books tent in the Children's Alley, hoping it was air conditioned, but it was not. After a few minutes, I left hoping I wouldn't melt in front of the children and scar them for life.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 10:50 AM
How is it that it's cloudy and breezy today, unlike yesterday's sunny day, and I'm sweating more today than I did yesterday?
Glad I brought my umbrella because it's for sure going to rain.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 10:39 AM
It's refreshing to see young readers, all lined up to see Carl Hiaasen talk about his newest children's book, Squirm.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 10:29 AM
I didn't make it to the panel on Friendship, Resistance, and the Untold Truth Behind Black Activism at Swarthmore College yesterday, but I still wanted to pick up the book for the Swarthmore alum in my life. When I stopped by the Books & Books tent this morning, the very helpful salesperson told me they had sold out yesterday! Apparently the panel was a great success, but I guess I can't check that one off my holiday shopping list yet.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 10:02 AM
So many grab-you titles on Sunday's Writers' Row: You Should Know This; Life, Love and Butterflies; Grumpy the Iguana; Mui Over Miami. These three need to be read in sequence: The Future, Be Encouraged, Shot Down.
In the meantime, there's Live Your Life Now! Like I have a choice? Glad to be living it today at the Book Fair.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, 9:36 AM
Progress! After several years of my relentless ribbing, the Book Fair finally retired the "Author's Lounge" sign with the misplaced apostrophe in favor of "Author Hospitality." When in doubt, go for apostrophe avoidance.
Saturday Nov. 23
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 5:35 PM
Went back to the Gables Delight tent to buy the gift box containing three different flavored jams: guava, mango, and pineapple.
The gift box is for me.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 5:26 PM
I always make a point of visiting the Books and Books tent with the books from authors presenting at the Fair, just to look around and get more information than the Fair Guide can provide on any given book.
(Tip: If you miss a panel and the authors signing their books, Books and Books staff will have authors sign the remaining copies of their books and place these signed copies at this particular tent located at the intersection of Buildings 1, 2, 8, and 4.)
Two sets of graphic novels that caught my attention were The Man who Came Down the Attic Stairs by Celine Loup and Black Badge Vol. I and II by Matt Kindt, Tyler Jenkins, and Hilary Jenkins. Both Loup and Kindt are presenting tomorrow at 2:30 PM. Unfortunately, I already have plans to attend a 2 o'clock and a 3 o'clock panel.
Why is attending the Book Fair so hard?
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 5:03 PM
I have to say, I really enjoyed all the panels I saw today. Although they were all about graphic novels, they dealt with topics or genres that aren't my typical go-to when I'm looking for something to read.
After the "Comics! I Belong Here: Identity as Power" panel, I wanted to get all of the panelists' graphic novels. I found Maia Kobabe's and Erin Williams's novels. I looked through all the books outside the MAGIC Screening Room for Vita Ayala's novels when Ayala appeared at the table and told another person that their books weren't there.
I was disappointed, but as I bought Gender Queer and Commute, I made a mental note to look up Ayala's books online.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 4:58 PM
When discussing writing as catharsis, the moderator Kristen Radtke (Imagine Wanting Only This), personally, doesn't recommend writing about trauma, but she keeps doing it. She does not find it cathartic. (She later did add that what she encourages is seeking therapy to heal.)
Maia Kobabe (Gender Queer) does encourage others to write about themselves, as a "healing and service to others."
Erin Williams (Commute) described writing about trauma as a "triggering process." She explained her experience of critics researching her personal life and making assumptions, calling it an invasion and violation, especially after she gave so much of herself already in her work.
Kobabe doesn't use social media for personal content, only to talk about eir work and upcoming professional events/appearances.
Vita Ayala (The Wilds), who also writes licensed work, has gotten death threats for being brown, queer, and designated female.
The vitriol people get online for trying to be open as individuals or for just doing something as harmless as writing a fictional story about a beloved, fictional character is not surprising, but forever disgusting.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 4:41 PM
Vita Ayala shared their joy that modern technology allows marginalized people to reclaim and share their shories, especially in comics, for which "all you need is a pen, paper and a library computer to reach your audience." Maia Kobabe added, "you don't even need a scanner—just take a photo with your phone!"
Erin Williams then let us in on a secret—"I read Amazon reviews of my books." The rest of the panel, and some of the audience, burst into a chorus of gasps and "no!"s. She shared stories of readers invading her privacy, and Ayala noted they've received death threats from angry fans while working on an upcoming James Bond project. A takeaway from this panel: protecting one's online identity, and avoiding reading the criticism there, is a key part of becoming an author today.
News & Links
Check out the Miami Book Fair website, where you can learn about the programs which run all through the year. You can also see the downloadable fair guide with a full listing of events.
The Fair wkicked 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," has returned this year, hosting events and activities all weekend.
The Fair and the Festival of Authors offer something for everyone. Search the full list of hundreds of authors, or check out the map and list of exhibitors. 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
James Barrett-Morison, Reporter and Webmaster
Lynne Barrett, Editor and Blog Coordinator
More bloggers will be listed as contributions come in.
Saturday Nov. 23, Continued
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 4:40 PM
The "Comics! I Belong Here: Identity as Power" panel spoke about their writing process.
Maia Kobabe (Gender Queer) took two years posting panels on Instagram, then printed them when making the book, putting the posts in chronological order to see what was missing.
Erin Williams wrote Commute on her phone while commuting. She wanted to create a zine in order to print it and get it out of her body.
Vita Ayala (The Wilds) was home when Hurricane Sandy hit. The day before the storm was scary because everything was shut down. Ayala realized it was the first time their brother was made to do something (get water) that Ayala would normally be expected to do.
During their walk the day before the hurricane, Ayala approached a locked up subway station and thought they saw movement down below. The experience made Ayala recall the Greek myth of Orpheus. They eventually retold the story, but instead of it being about a husband and wife, Ayala's story is about a sister and a brother
Like Williams, Ayala also wrote their story in order to have it "live over there," outside the body, in addition to, hopefully, having a better relationship with the family. (The characters in the book are based off/inspired by Ayala's family.)
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 4:28 PM
Kristen Radtke (Imagine Wanting Only This) is back as moderator, this time for the "Comics! I Belong Here: Identity as Power" panel. Also back is Vita Ayala, now talking about The Wilds.
Radtke asked the panelists about artists working in a system of oppression. Ayala said there is more access nowadays to put your story out there.
Radtke followed up by asking the panel whether they see it as a responsibility or burden to represent a whole marginalized group. Ayala simply stated they cannot possibly represent a whole group, so they don't think of it. Maia Kobabe (Gender Queer) makes it clear/specific that e is talking only about one person.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 4:22 PM
At the I Belong Here: Identity as Power panel, Maia Kobabe explained why e named eir book Gender Queer—if you call a book what it is, you can find it on the shelf. Vita Ayala added that the reverse can also be true: they called their graphic novel The Wilds, and included "good-looking zombies," to attract a broader audience to a story about queer and brown people.
The panelists discussed different approaches to exploring one's identity in comic form, from Kobabe's more traditional memoir, Ayala's fiction, and Erin Williams' Commute, which details her interactions with men on public transportation to illustrate how identity (as, for example, a sexualized or invisible person) is created by others' act of seeing.
All three discussed their books as examinations of identity and shame; Williams wrote hers in part to highlight situations she felt aren't brought to light by the #MeToo movement. "Literature and memoir can be a project of shame reduction," added Kobabe, who used eir book as a "coming out" as nonbinary to eir fans and comics industry colleagues.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 4:14 PM
The Friends of the Book Fair lounge has relocated from the windowless bunker beneath Chapman Auditorium to the Tuyo Restaurant space on the 8th floor of Building 9. Spacious. Panoramic view of the city and the Fair. Bit of an upgrade to the food. And a happy hour. Support the Fair and enjoy a few perks!
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 4:05 PM
Erin Williams has replaced Mira Jacob, who could not attend the Book Fair, on the "Comics! I Belong Here: Identity as Power" panel. This is the second cancellation I've seen today.
I wonder how late authors are cancelling or how early the updated guides are being printed because both cancellations were not reflected on the guide. It must be a huge disappointment to have to cancel.
Best wishes, speedy recoveries, and positive vibes to every author who has had to cancel. You were missed!
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 3:55 PM
The "SpecFic Sci-Fi Explosion!" panelists were asked what were their next projects. Ben Passmore stated his next graphic novel, Sports Is Hell, is about sports: insurgency through an apolitical sports riot. Koren Shadmi has another graphic novel out: The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television.
The final audience question asked what the panelists change about reality to make sci-fi.
◇ Ben Passmore: "more lasers."
◇ Paul Pope: uses normal situations, but bizarre surroundings.
◇ Koren Shadmi: exaggerates reality.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 3:54 PM
Prompted by a question from moderator Joan Hilty, Paul Pope describes how his book morphed from noir, to heist, to romance, to cyberpunk. Koren Shadmi adds that "in our post-genre age, you're allowed to cross boundaries" between types of story, and Ben Passmore reminds us that graphic novels themselves come from a mixture of genres of art and literature.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 3:53 PM
Authors in the “Race in America” panel dovetailed nicely. In Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation, Steve Luxenberg tells the broad story of post-Civil-War Reconstruction and the backlash against it. Culminating in the Plessy case that nudged aside the 14th Amendment in favor of “separate but equal” schools and accommodations, legalizing racism for the next 70 years.
In The Accident of Color: A Story of Race in Reconstruction, Daniel Brooks localizes the story in New Orleans, where much of the population was mixed race and equal rights were the rule, including before the War for “free people of color.” Jim Crow laws were met by a civil rights movement that failed.
Luxenberg and Brooks discussed how “race became binary,” disavowing the mix in all of us. They speculated: Is there an American city now comparable to New Orleans then—multi-race, mixed-race, and that’s okay? The closest might be Miami. But we’ve still got work to do.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 3:49 PM
In response to an audience question, Ben Passmore stated he drew the protagonist of BTTM FDRS as belonging to the economic bracket of gentrification, but was ethnically part of the victims of gentrification. He explains that the story is an exploration of culpability.
The panelists spoke about international influences in their works. Paul Pope wrote Heavy Liquid for his Japanese publisher and was inspired by manga. Koren Shadmi is from Israel and at 18/19 years old discovered French comics.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 3:42 PM
Moderator Joan Hilty asked the panelists if they used reality in creating their sci-fic graphic novels. Koren Shadmi wrote Highwayman to deal with his anxiety about global warming.
The discussion turned to the phases the genre of sci-fi has gone through over the years. Paul Pope (Heavy Liquid) stated sci-fi has moved from applied science to space to now dystopian. (Ah, so I was right.)
Ben Passmore (BTTM FDRS) expressed disappointment in sci-fi stories that promised certain futures and then those futures not becoming reality. He asked, why go to other planets when Earth should be fixed?
Pope stated "hard" sci-fi is dead. At this point, Shadmi added that science fiction is a misnomer, that it's speculative fiction now.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 3:34 PM
I always make sure to drop in to at least one comics & graphic novels panel each Fair, and this year I'm doing two back-to-back! The first one features three graphic novelists in a "Science Fiction Explosion."
Paul Pope's reissued Heavy Liquid is named after a fictional addictive "sort-of-drug, sort-of-art-form." He opted to use a color palette restricted to magentas and blues in order to give a toxic feel to the book's visuals.
Koren Shadmi's Highwayman follows an immortal living in a post-global-warming America. With his episodic story, Shadmi wants us to get glimpses of our next few millennia, inspired by the episodic feel of trying to keep up with our current fast-paced world.
Ben Passmore's BTTM FDRS is a horror story set in a giant, windowless art colony, dealing with the monsters of racial and class gentrification alongside a more traditional monster. Passmore achieved the book's claustrophobic, creepy feel, he says, by embracing the notion that "brutalism is cool."
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 3:31 PM
During the panel discussion, "Caribbean Journeys Through Time and Space," author Sara Collins spoke about her book The Confessions of Frannie Langton. Regarding the journey to publication, she said, "I dreamt so long about publishing this book that when it finally happened, well, the best I could liken that feeling to is waking up one day and being Angelina Jolie."
She described the book as "a tribute to Jane Eyre, but if Jane had spent all her time shagging the mad woman in the attic."
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 3:29 PM
At the "SpecFic Sci-Fi Explosion!" panel, prompted by moderator Joan Hilty, Ben Passmore spoke about gentrification, a theme in his latest work BTTM FDRS. He called it a modern facet of colonization, adding that we are all victims or beneficiaries of it.
Fellow panelist, Paul Pope (Heavy Liquid), asked Passmore if he uses sci-fi to convey political messages, pointing out that sci-fi typically focuses on emerging technology.
Sci-fi is not a genre I, personally, gravitate to, but from my limited experience (mainly with dystopian novels), they can be quite political. But is sci-fi supposed to be only on emerging technology? I thought dystopian novels qualified as sci-fi...?
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 3:03 PM
Encountered my first cancellation of the fair—G. Willow Wilson (Invisible Kingdom) came down with a fever and couldn't make the Science Fiction Explosion! panel. Reminds me that last year at this time, the rest of the country was suffering horrendous blizzards, and canceled flights meant numerous absences. Glad this year is running more smoothly!
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 3:00 PM
I made it until 3:00 before the first cellphone interruption of the day, during William Kent Krueger's reading from This Tender Land.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 2:57 PM
The "Comics! The Memory Hole: Your Life in Pictures" panel just concluded. Again, like in the previous panel I attended, time wasn't exclusively allotted to the panelists to summarize (and advertise) their latest works. Brian Fies summarized his current novel plus a previous one during the discussion, and from context clues I can guess at some of the other panelists' stories.
I would need to look at my blog entries from previous years to see if I've gone to panels in the past where panelists don't first briefly talk about their latest project, but it has really struck me the lack of book summaries in my first two panels of 2019.
There is always the internet, of course. But still...
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 2:54 PM
An audience member at "Comics! The Memory Hole: Your Life in Pictures" asked the panelists what they have learned about themselves in writing graphic novel memoirs.
◇ Brian Fies (A Fire Story): he's an unreliable narrator.
◇ David Heatley (Qualification): his wife asked for more panels of her being happy and supportive. He added that memoirs are narcissistic.
◇ Cecil Castellucci (Girl on Film): her memoir is a "mosaic of my truth."
Another audience member asked whether they draw first or later.
◇ Kevin Huizenga (The River at Night): writes ideas down and looks at what can be visual.
◇ Fies: does the same. He starts too wordy and cuts because he'll replace the words with drawings.
◇ Heatley: doodles and lists. The typing comes later.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 2:44 PM
Moderator Kristen Radtke asked the "Comics! The Memory Hole: Your Life in Pictures" panelists about the time it takes them to complete their projects.
Brian Fies, whose house burned down in the wildfires of Northern California, started writing in the immediate aftermath and "vomited" 18 pages of drawings, which would become part of A Fire Story. For his graphic novel Mom's Cancer, Fies documented the illness for later use.
"Different processes for different purposes," he said.
The panel also discussed how their projects came to them. Kevin Huizenga said he started on the first issue of a comic, but his character Glen couldn't go to sleep, so Huizenga thought of milking it. He wanted to write a story that resets, and so wrote The River at Night.
Fies still does ink and paper and can do three hours of drawing and not know where the time went.
David Heatley (Qualification) serializes on Instagram and gets instant feedback. He tells followers to comment so he can continue posting. He views it as motivation. He also added that he sees the blank panels as a stage and gets performance anxiety before he starts drawing.
Cecil Castellucci (Girl on Film) didn't want to micromanage her collaborators—the illustrators of her graphic novel—so she relied heavily on the editor.
Fies once worked on a story for a year and finally gave up, but he views it as he had to go through that experience in order to get to a better story. Castellucci, on the other hand, took five years to complete Girl on Film after wanting to give up, but her editor told her to continue, to give herself more time.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 2:25 PM
Bottom line from the Florida’s waters panel: It was a bad idea to try to drain Florida of water. South Florida may die of thirst before the sea level swamps us. In the meantime, the state sells freshwater rights on the cheap to Nestlé so they can sell it back to us in plastic containers.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 2:21 PM
Kristen Radtke (Imagine Wanting Only This) is moderating the "Comics! The Memory Hole: Your Life in Pictures" panel with artists David Heatley (Qualification), Cecil Castellucci (Girl on Film), Kevin Huizenga (The River at Night), and Brian Fies (A Fire Story).
Radtke started the discussion by pointing out the "strange experience of drawing memories" and asking the panelists how they approached this phenomenon.
Fies replied he "distill[s] the essence" of the memory, while Huizenga said he mainly only has memories of drawing.
Castellucci, unlike her fellow panelists, is a writer and not a cartoonist, so the illustrators of her graphic novel—Vicky Leta, Jon Berg, V Gagnon, and Melissa Duffy—took her words and created the drawings, giving her a new perspective to her memories.
Fies brought up the fact that he misremembers sometimes, and Heatley said he has to ask others for missing details. Radtke added that a memory is not necessarily what happened, that it isn't a "verifiable truth."
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 2:19 PM
The panel on Florida’s waters was destined to be a downer. John M. Dunn has the facts in Drying Up: The Fresh Water Crisis in Florida. South Florida is already running on empty, with insufficient groundwater to support the current population. And with poor infrastructure and stormwater management, we’re not just wasting water but polluting Biscayne Bay.
Florida has 92 Superfund sites and 12% of the country’s septic systems. To keep things uncoordinated, there are five water management districts. Algae and red tide rule.
Lynne Buchanan’s Florida’s Changing Waters is the product of six years of photographing waters and waterways from the Panhandle to the Keys. She highlighted examples of clean water and polluted water in dangerously close proximity. In photographs, they can be, somewhat disconcertingly, equally beautiful.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 2:05 PM
Thought I would be late to the 2 o'clock panel I wanted to attend, but it hadn't started when I walked in. Now it has.
I'm back in the MAGIC Screening Room, where I plan on staying until the 4 o'clock panel ends.
Folks, if you enter a panel late, please, please, please, if the space allows, walk behind the audience to a seat. You can still get a front row seat at the MAGIC Screening by going around the audience. Do not walk to the front of the room and cross in front of the panel. It's awkward and distracting.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 1:54 PM
Carol Anderson and Walter Naegle are discussing the joys of studying history. "As a historian, you get to be really nosy, and the people can't get mad at you," Anderson says. "It's great!"
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 1:34 PM
Carol Anderson (One Person, No Vote) brought history to life with her engaging telling of the history of voter suppression in the south, from the poll taxes and literacy tests implemented in the 1890s through the Voting Rights Act that undid them, and, most recently, the VRA's gutting by the 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder. That ruling allowed states to implement the kinds of disenfranchisement policies they've been aiming at for decades, like voter ID requirements, voter roll purges, and ending of early voting, the details of all of which are crafted to keep Black people from voting.
Anderson noted that in 2016, the first presidential election after Shelby, Black voter turnout dropped 7% — not because of lack of enthusiasm (as the media often spins it), but as a direct result of these new policies. The results may be backfiring, though, as 2018 saw the highest midterm voter turnout since 1914. "Democracy," she says, "is simultaneously atrophying and growing."
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 1:30 PM
Taking a short break to eat lunch before the next panel. Got veggie fried rice at the Thai tent in the food court. Took the food to Building 8, which has tables and outlets in the hallways of the upper floors.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 1:18 PM
I'm loving the Equality and Justice for All panel in the Live Arts room. Walter Naegle read a passage from Troublemaker for Justice, his biography of civil rights leader and peace activist Bayard Rustin. He described the disagreements between violent and nonviolent protesters in the 1960s, especially in the wake of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and the march from Selma. Rustin, a lifelong Quaker, was a staunch advocate of nonviolent action.
Moderator Keshia Abraham asked Naegle about what Rustin, as a Black gay man, would think of the rise of the narrative of intersectionality in the last few decades. Naegle replied that although intersectionality is important for giving us the tools to discuss modern rights issues, it's tough to apply it to someone like Rustin, who throughout his life viewed people as all members of the human family, rather than by their specific identities.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 1:11 PM
The “Making Music” panel featured a couple of anthologies and some history. Evelyn McDonnell compiled Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyonce, Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl. Essays and artwork, all by women, celebrate 104 musicians individually and women in music collectively.
Jim Daniels edited RESPECT: The Poetry of Detroit Music, a compilation of both poems and music. He read “Detroit,” a litany of singers, musicians, groups, producers, and other music makers with roots in the Motor City. It was a long poem.
Jim Ward read from The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 2 a section on the birth of the Grateful dead.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 1:00 PM
Why go to see an author talk about his book, if that book is about a novel that he loves, but one that you have never read or even heard of? If the author in question is as passionate and good and well-read as Steve Almond, I figured, go, because you’ll be glad you went. And I was.
“It’s not just a book to me,” said Almond. “It’s been a sort of marriage counselor,” as well as a therapist and a writing teacher.
The book is the 1965 novel Stoner by John Williams, which Almond first read after a friend put it in his hands when he was a 28-year-old MFA student in Creative Writing in the 1990s. Almond’s is William Stoner and the Battle for the Inner Life. As he sees it, his book was published this year, but he’s “been writing it for 25 years.”
I’ll let Almond describe what the book is about, which he did in a May 2014 piece for The New York Times Magazine called “You Should Seriously Read Stoner Right Now.” (As you can tell, he’s been an evangelist for the book for a long time.) “The novel follows the life of an academic named William Stoner, a man forgotten by his students and colleagues, by history itself,” Almond writes. “The author. . . announces all this on Page 1. It’s as if he’s daring us to dismiss the book. I devoured it in one sitting. I had never encountered a work so ruthless in its devotion to human truths and so tender in its execution.”
Over time, as with any beloved book that you return to over and over, the book has meant different things to Almond. He said that at first it was about people’s inner lives. Then it was about feuds—“why we engineer them and why.” Then, when he was teaching creative writing, it was about waking students up.
As his life continued to evolve, so did the book’s meaning. When he got married, it was about marriage. And when he had kids, well, you get the idea. “When you have a favorite book, it burrows deeply in you,” he said. “As you change it becomes a different book.”
Comparing the book to the rock band that was not commercially successful but was so culturally and musically influential that it inspired the creation of countless bands, Almond calls it “The Velvet Underground of novels, a talisman passed around MFA programs.” He said the book’s message is simple, but profound: “Your job in life is not to win the world’s attention. You need to pay attention to your own life.”
And I need to read Stoner, along with Almond’s book about it.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 12:59 PM
An audience member asked the "Graphic Novel Adaptations" panelists what is their relationship with fans.
George O'Connor (The Olympians) stated kids will correct him in his retelling of the Greek myths, but he was the same at their age. Tini Howard (GLOW) stays quiet when fans react online, allowing them time to come to terms with her work. Those who do approach her say nice things.
This panel went over by a few minutes, but it was all interesting. I had been to panels before about adaptions and seen presenters promoting licensed work, but never to a panel focused on the nature of licensed work.
While reading an excerpt from a graphic novel to the audience is impossible—the slideshow behind the panelists did have the cover art as well as excerpt pages—I noticed the panelists were not asked to give a synopsis of the work they were promoting either. After each member was introduced by the moderator, they all jumped right into the discussion.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 12:55 PM
In a heartwarming moment, Rion Amilcar Scott dedicated the reading from his book, The World Doesn't Require You, to his mother, Monica Scott. She encouraged him to write before anybody else had but did not live to read his book. He invited her into the room.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 12:54 PM
The moderator of the "Graphic Novel Adaptations" panel, Connor McCreery, asked the panelists if they have ever taken work on something they didn't know about first. George O'Connor (The Olympians) tries to read every iteration of a myth. He carries his sketch book everywhere, so he writes and draws while reading.
Carey Pietsch (Adventure Zone), who is working with material from The Adventure Zone podcast, just listens to the podcast. Vita Ayala (Magic: The Gathering), like O'Connor, reads everything. Tini Howard (GLOW) said taking work that one isn't familiar with is a great exercise.
Pietsch added that writing fan-fiction is great practice for adapting licensed work and to find your "brand of garbage." The author George R. R. Martin and his negative views on fan-fiction were brought up. Ayala dismissed Martin's views, stating that Martin is writing a Wars of the Roses fanfic. (Martin has admitted to borrowing heavily from the Wars of the Roses, as well as other historical events, for his A Song of Ice and Fire series.)
I found it ironic that Martin dislikes fan-fiction when many of his readers have remarked that Game of Thrones, the TV show based on his books, is not an adaptation but a fan-fiction.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 12:42 PM
Regarding the panel subject of "Surreal Fiction," here's what author Juan Villoro had to say:
We often discount how absurd—a word that has become synonymous with surrealism at this point, by the way—how absurd our daily lives are. I do not need to create an alternative universe when I have the oracular legend of the rearview mirror, that objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.
He says that the story "Amigos Mexicanos" from his collection, The Guilty, is named for an old tale about two beat writers that once came to Mexico City. Before moving there, Jack Kerouac asked William Burroughs, who'd been there for some time, if Mexico City was a dangerous place. Burroughs told Kerouac that there was nothing to worry because Mexicans only killed their friends. Amigos. Mexicanos.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 12:39 PM
A packed crowd for the "Discourse on Discourse" panel, on the hot topics of the first amendment and modern academic culture.
Stanley Fish explained that The First: How to Think About Hate Speech, Campus Speech, Religious Speech, Fake News, Post-Truth, and Donald Trump is actually the truncated version of his book's title! The book is packed with "hot takes", and Fish ran through just a few of them. Fish says that censorship is a prerequisite for free speech; that "the more speech the better" is false; and that everyone wants to use the label "free speech" for their unrelated worries (like professional decorum in academia) simply because it's popular.
Robert Boyers' The Tyranny of Virtue tackles the state of academic culture as "a combination of memoir and polemic." Boyers shared a couple anecdotes about his time "quarreling with the members of one's own liberal cohort" over issues of speech and censorship, and the reactions members of academia have had to his pushback against the tide of modern culture.
As Fish and Boyers spoke, the audience was "mm-hm!"-ing, and occasionally grumbling, along with them. Clearly their takes were resonating with this Book Fair crowd.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 12:38 PM
In speaking about what made them get into graphic novels, Vita Ayala (Magic: The Gathering) admitted to not knowing how to read until age 10, but could interact with and understand simple video games and comics. Ayala, therefore, wanted to work in a medium for those who didn't know the language, a medium that you can engage in and is, at the same time, subversive in teaching you to read.
For Carey Pietsch (Adventure Zone), reading can teach empathy. Ayala, who mistook Wonder Woman as Puerto Rican, saw themself in comics at a young age.
Tini Howard (GLOW) prefers graphic novels because they are faster to read and realized she could be a writer of comics.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 12:30 PM
In response to an audience question about working with larger mythologies, Vita Ayala (Magic: The Gathering) said it was freeing because one can pick and choose what to use, which isn't always the case with modern licenses.
Tini Howard (GLOW) said that comics are contradictory, as are Greek myths, so who cares if one issue contradicts another? Howard added that even if you don't own the character, the character need to be important to you. Even if you create a character of your own, it's an archetype.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 12:20 PM
My first panel of the day is "Graphic Novel Adaptations" with Conor McCreey (Kill Shakespeare) as moderator. On the panel are Tini Howard (GLOW), Vita Ayala (Magic: The Gathering), Carey Pietsch (Adventure Zone), and George O'Connor (The Olympians).
The presenters quickly established that the work they have done is not so much "adaptation" but licensed work: working with licensors on established franchises. Besides the works they are promoting today, Howard has created comics of The Power Rangers and Rick and Morty while Ayala has done comics of Zena: Warrior Princess.
Howard stated some showrunners are genuinely interested in what other creators are doing with the product, which was her experience with the show Rick and Morty. O'Connor, who is about to finish his 12-book series of The Olympians, joked that he doesn't have active licensors, so he doesn't have to worry about any input from them.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 12:01 PM
Suds report: Choice of pale ale or Kolsch from Biscayne Bay Brewing Company. Also red or white wine. Booths near The Porch and in the Food Court. Five bucks. Friendly barkeeps.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 11:55 AM
Breanne McIvor told us of a real viral news item in Trinidad, where a Buck (a Guyanese imp-spirit) was supposedly haunting a family and stealing from their fridge. Imam Baksh, who is from Guyana, said that he didn't want his mythical spirits to get a bad name—after all, in Guyana they have a myth of a "were-jaguar", while in Trinidad they instead tell of a "were-donkey". After brief ripostes about their countries' cricket teams, the two explained that it's hard to say what a Caribbean myth really is, since it's a region crafted by the collision of cultures (indigenous, west African, Spanish, British) and by the collision of old and new technologies.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 11:41 AM
Ann Dávila Cardinal's Five Midnights brings a mythical being, Puerto Rico's el cuco, into a modern setting. The myth, originally Portuguese, appears across the Caribbean because it's such a universal, parents telling their children to "behave or el cuco's gonna get you!"
Karen Lorde (Unraveling) told a similar story she heard as a child, that the "Heartman" monster drives a hearse and dismembers lone children. It turns out to have been based on a real serial killer around her home at that time. She described myth as a process by which real stories are adapted to those who need to hear them a different way, be they children or readers of novels.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 11:35 AM
A fact about Sid Luckman that was hidden for decades was that his father was Meyer Luckman, a low-level mobster with connections to Murder Inc. Meyer Luckman murdered his brother-in-law and served a life sentence. In a Life magazine story about Sid Luckman, he was described as "the husky, shy son of a Brooklyn truck driver."
Sid's own son didn't learn the truth about his grandfather until he was 48 years old.
Sid Luckman carried with him to his death the fiction that his father had been railroaded.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 11:28 AM
"In the Caribbean, the supernatural is just a fingernail scratch beneath the surface." Breanne McIvor captured the reason a packed crowd turned out to hear four authors read their books of Caribbean myth early on a Saturday morning.
She read a section from her short story collection, Where There are Monsters, in which a man suffering a supernatural affliction goes with his girlfriend to meet an obeah, a "non-traditional doctor", that she found advertising on Facebook. The audience loved the combination of old-school monster lore with modern technology.
Imam Baksh (The Dark of the Sea) noted that he himself had seen Facebook ads for obeah doctors. His own book brings together Guyanese Hindu tales with Lovecraftian lore. He said it's a challenge as an author to update a myth to the modern age because "people still live it," and are adapting traditional myths to modern technology in their own ways.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 11:23 AM
I've been reporting on the Miami Book Fair for The Florida Book Review for about 7 years now, and when I started, I mainly went to panels dealing with mystery fiction and/or true crime. And while I still love a good murder mystery, in recent years, I have steered away from that while at the Fair.
As a Murderino, I already listen to several true crime podcasts, watch plenty of British procedural shows, read mysteries, plot out my own mysteries, and think way too much about crimes on a daily basis to subject myself to more mysteries and horror while at the Book Fair. If a favorite mystery writer of mine were to come to the Fair, then, yes, I would go to the panel. Otherwise, the Book Fair has become a place for me to discover new graphic novels and YA literature.
Therefore, this year I'm restricting myself to two particular rooms that normally host graphic novelists and YA authors: the MAGIC Screening room in Building 8 and the MDC Live Arts Lab in Building 1.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 11:19 AM
"Sid Luckman was the Tom Brady of his era." R.D. Rosen on Sid Luckman, the subject of his book, Tough Luck: Sid Luckman, Murder Inc., and the Rise of the Modern NFL.
Luckman's Chicago Bears introduced the T-formation to the NFL, changing the way the game was played forever.
Prior to the 1935 introduction of the T-formation, which relied heavily on throwing the ball, the passing game was an afterthought in the NFL. Within a decade, nearly every team in the country—high school, college, and professional—was using the T-formation offense.
The offense was actually inspired by Nazi military strategy that would create of diversion with the movement of tank divisions in one part of a country, then, when Allied forces shifted their divisions in response, would move other tank divisions into the now-defenseless territories they desired.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 11:15 AM
Food Court seems downsized this year by an adjoining construction zone. Fortunately, there was still room for "The Avocado Experience."
Additional food options await in nearby booths on the street—Crackerman Crackers, Angry Booch, Baguette Plus, and the now ubiquitous CBD ingestives. And, of course, arepa stands at every corner.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 11:11 AM
Rich Cohen, author of The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, a Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation, discussing the early inspiration for his book says that his father didn't know any bedtime stories, so he told his son stories of Jewish gangsters in New York. Cohen's parents were both Jewish, but because of the disparity between their education and family income they were considered a mixed marriage.
On July 13, 1860, Albert Hicks, the violent criminal on whom Cohen's book is based, was the last person executed by hanging in New York. He was hanged on Bedloe's Island, which is now Liberty Island.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 10:51 AM
First-time exhibitor: Cardthartic greeting cards "honoring emotions." They didn't have one for the emotion of being ticked off by Miami traffic. Best fit among the free samples was "Embrace Your Superpowers."
MAN #1: Get a free Bible.
Ah, brotherly love.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 10:26 AM
Before dashing to my first panel of the Fair, I made sure to stop by the lounge for the Friends of the Fair. And this year it's in a new location — Tuyo, MDC's restaurant in Building 6. It really feels like the lap of luxury, with plush seating and an incredible overhead view of the street fair. Thumbs up!
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 9:58 AM
For anyone driving south on I-95 to get to the Book Fair, be aware of new traffic patterns. Drivers cannot reach Downtown by getting off Exit 2D and will have to continue onto the MacArthur Causeway. Take Exit 3B instead.
It was relatively cool and cloudy these past few mornings, but not today, and I hate it.
I still recommend bringing a light jacket if you plan on attending a panel since these rooms can get quite frigid.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 9:43 AM
Most intriguing titles on Saturday's Writers' Row: Stumbling thru Adulthood; For Infinity and Beyond; Cracked Mirror, Clear Reflection; and Single Married & Divorced Happily (simultaneously?).
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 9:40 AM
The HistoryMiami Museum has a booth set up for Fairgoers to share their Miami stories. With prompts like "When do you feel like a Miamian?" and "What sound describes Miami?", they'll have excited storytellers lined up all weekend, I'm sure. Check it out in the lobby of Building 1 by the escalators.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 9:22 AM
Made my traditional beeline to Glover's Bookery in search of vintage mysteries and other holiday gifts. No P. G. Wodehouses this year (preferred holiday gift to self). Glover's is 50% of the designated "Antiquarian Annex," the other 50% being Kubik Fine Books.
Friday Nov. 22
Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, 4:45 PM
The students visiting the Street Fair are all gone, so I ventured forth through the Fair again.
Having earlier gotten an empanada at Rancho Mateo Asadero Colombia, I decided to get food to-go from there and to stop by Gables Delight.
Having encountered Gables Delight a few years ago at a farmers' market and at last year's Book Fair, I was so excited to see they were back. I love guava, but I have not been able to find a spreadable guava jam at stores like what Gables Delight makes. (At grocery stores I can find guava bars and guava jelly—the texture of the latter resembles a guava bar crammed into a jar—which are hard or impossible to spread on anything. One literally has to cut slices off.)
I bought a jar of the guava jam.
This year, in addition to their regular jars, Gables Delight has little gift boxes with three cute, tiny jars of various flavors that come with three small wooden spoons. You can try the different flavors on crackers. Flavors include pumpkin, wine, raspberry lychee, and pineapple coconut.
A new vendor I encountered is Book Page Art, which takes pages of beloved novels and prints images related to the book directly onto the page. There are some lovely selections.
While walking around, I saw one of those rental scooters popular in Downtown just abandoned in the middle of the walkway. I don't know if this will be a continued issue, but be on the outlook so you don't trip over discarded modes of transportation.
Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, 12:18 PM
My favorite part of the Book Fair is the Street Fair, so I was excited that this year, for the first time, I would be able to come to the Friday of the Street Fair. (The Street Fair is always the final Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the Book Fair.)
What I didn't know, because none of my former schools ever participated, is that the Friday of the Street Fair is field trip day when several local schools bring their students to, hopefully, enjoy the Book Fair.
So. Many. Children. Everywhere.
I'm guessing from the amount of students I saw in line getting food, hanging around sheltered spaces chatting with friends, and literally climbing every exposed area that hands could grab onto, students weren't only enjoying themselves simply for the love of books.
Besides visiting students, plenty of fairgoers are making the rounds.
Tuesday Nov. 19
Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, 3:50 PM
The colorful Miami Book Fair tents started appearing on Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus several weeks ago. The tents were originally sandwiched between Buildings 1 and 2, but now that the surrounding streets have been closed in anticipation of the Street Fair, the tents have been moved to their proper places, waiting to be occupied by booksellers and other vendors later this week.
Today, staff are hanging the banners that go over the tents.
Monday Nov. 18
Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, 7:17 PM
The Miami Book Fair officially started yesterday, but preparation for the Street Fair, which runs from Friday through Sunday, are still underway.
It seems the task of erecting the tents for the Children's Alley has been completed. It is odd seeing it devoid of human life.