Sunday, September 28, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hobnobbing with the mid-list and famous

Michele and I spent the week at the annual conference of the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers' Association. This year the conference was in Colorado Springs. Come along with me for a trip report in pictures.

When we drive anywhere, one of us drives for two hours, and then we switch. Our first pit stop when we head north is always at the veterans' nursing home in Walsenburg, Colorado, where we take advantage of the clean facilities.

The nursing home is right across the road from Lathrop State Park.

Here is Michele. She feels very refreshed.

The keynote speaker at the conference was Frank Wilczek, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2004. We enjoyed his talk about the Large Hadron Collider. After the talk, I shook his hand, and he posed for a photo. That was cool!
Does Peg admire Dr. Wilczek? Nah. Not much.

Rick Riordan, who wrote the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, spoke at the dinner for children's authors. He's a good speaker and an interesting person. He wrote the first book in a projected 10-book series that features trading cards, online gaming, and a contest in which you can win $100,000.00. (Kids these days. Why, in my day, we were happy just to have our own ratty paperback book that we read over and over until it became compost! We had fun with a piece of string and a stick!)
Rick Riordan tells how teaching influenced his writing.

The other speaker was j.otto Siebold, author of Olive, the Other Reindeer and his new book about a little vampire, Vunce Upon a Time. He's out of his socks. I'm still not sure what exactly he talked about, but we were all laughing hard.
j.otto vs. the microphone.

There are two cocktail receptions for authors. Two major book distributors, Baker and Taylor and Ingram, donate books, and the authors sign them. For a suggested donation of only $2.00 per book, which goes to MPIBA's literacy programs, you can get a ton of signed and inscribed books. 
Cocktails, snacks, and books: the ultimate human experience.

One of the signers was Noah McCullough, who at age 10 published The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia. He's now 13 and published his second book, First Kids: the True Stories of All the Presidents' Children. I was smitten (even if he is a miniature Republican).
Michele and Noah.

Another signer was Obert Skye, author of the Leven Thumps series. We talked with him for a while, and he said he'd like to visit the store. I gave him a card, and he wrote on the back "nice people," so he'd remember us.
Me and Obert Skye.

We also went to the annual authors' breakfast for literacy, another fund-raiser for the literacy program. We were at the top of the hotel, and the ballroom faced west and Pikes Peak.  The MC told the familiar story of how Katherine Lee Bates was inspired by the view from the top of Pikes Peak and wrote the poem "America the Beautiful." He then invited everyone to stand and sing "America the Beautiful." It was really moving to hear several hundred left-leaning booksellers sing the song without a trace of irony.

We then got to hear talks by Laura Pederson, who is the youngest person ever to have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. I'm reading her memoir, Buffalo Gal, about growing up in Buffalo, New York. It's really funny.
Laura Pederson signs her book.

The other speakers were John Hodgman, the "resident expert" on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Chuck Klosterman. They're both insanely funny. We accosted Chuck in the hall the day before he was to speak and shook his old cow hand. Later, at the trade show, I asked him to sign copies of Downtown Owl. I said, "You are so cool." He replied, "So are you."
John Hodgman and Chuck Klosterman.

The great thing about the conference is that you can get a ton of books for free or practically nothing. The bad thing is that you have to get them home. We filled up the trunk, and Sophie was resting on her axle.
One day's haul on the desk in our hotel room.

Outside our room were a pond, trees, garden, and wood nymph. 

On the way back we saw this sign. Michele asked, "No center stripe? Then how do they know where to cut?"

Right across the road were some horses. Michele suggested that I take a picture of them, and when I approached, they thought I had treats. Just north of Questa are some heartbroken equines.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Not generally associated with "any sense of shame"

We had a signing Tuesday with the best-selling mystery writer Margaret Coel. She's always a delight--gracious, generous with her time, and charming. She spent a lot of time with the folks who came to the luncheon in her honor, and most of the guests were nice about sharing Margaret with the others, rather than monopolizing her time. 

Among the people at the luncheon and the signing afterwards was local author Ina, who had a satchel full of press clippings, her books, scrapbooks, and photo albums featuring Ina in various athletic pursuits. She stood in line and talked at length about her travels, Jane Austen, and the fact that one of her books may be made into a movie, because a producer took a copy at a workshop she went to.

Margaret would occasionally peer around Ina at the other people in line, smile apologetically, and then politely return to Ina's monologue. Finally, I nabbed Ina, asked her nicely to let other people have a chance, and led her away.

Toward the end of the signing, Margaret said, "I need to give you my credit card. Ina wants me to buy her book [the one that may be made into a movie]." I told Margaret to put away her money. I went back to the workroom and asked Alan to take the book out of inventory so we could give it to Margaret. 

"Ina didn't give the book to Margaret?!" he spluttered. "She's making Margaret buy it?" When I went back into the store, Margaret said, "At least self-published authors can choose the artwork for their covers." Her observation was accompanied by the faint sounds of spluttering still coming from the workroom.

"Who knew she would recite Pride and Prejudice at a book signing?"

Sunday, September 7, 2008

So you'll be voting for the Marquis de Sade, Lord Byron, and Eliot Spitzer?

Michele and I volunteered to work with the local Obama campaign. Last Sunday, Michele canvassed in Quemazon, and today I canvassed in Western Area. We've also donated to the campaign. 

Canvassing was fun. We're not supposed to go into people's houses, but instead talk to them from the porch. One elderly woman in a wheelchair answered the door and invited me in. I thanked her and said that we weren't supposed to go inside, presumably so people can't whack us. She gave me a shrewd look and said, "You never know."

When I asked another senior about whom she would be voting, she said, "Not Obama, that's for sure! His wife is a lippy pitbull. And McCain's not much better. I think I'm going to vote for those Libertines, Barr and Root!"


Michele and I planted four hills of squash. Only two survived (thank god): zucchini and yellow crook neck. We thought we had been really diligent in keeping up with the zucchini, but one got away from us. Michele found it this morning. It is 18 inches long and weighs 4 pounds. The only thing we can think to make with it is a lamp.

Michele holds the freshly picked zucchini.

The zucchini is as big as Casey.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

May I present my cousin, Josef Mengele?

Our friend Georgia operates Buffalo Tours, and we are pleased to sell tickets at the store. Yesterday morning Georgia got a lengthy call from a woman who was apparently near Albuquerque and desperately wanted to take the tour. Georgia assured her that she would have plenty of time to make the 1:30 tour.

About mid morning Becky took a call. It turned out to be from the woman, who needed driving directions to Los Alamos. She spent about five minutes with the woman before she had to take another call, so she handed the phone to me.

"This is Peggy. May I help you?"

"How do I get to Los Alamos?"

"Where are you now?"

"On I-25."

"You'll need to be more specific. Have you reached Santa Fe yet?"


"Okay, you'll need to exit onto New Mexico 599."

"How do I do that?"

"Before you get to Santa Fe, you'll see a sign for the exit to New Mexico 599. Exit where the sign reads 'New Mexico 599.'"

"Then what do I do?"

"Then you follow 599 north to US 84/285."

"Wait! Nobody told me about 599. Where's a pencil? I don't have a pen. I left my pen in the hotel in Albuquerque! How am I going to remember all this? WHO HAS A PEN?" I removed the telephone receiver from my ear. If her voice were music, it would be "Sounds of Construction and Demolition" by some minimalist composer. "Okay, I follow 599 to 284 and 285."

"No, you follow it to 84 and 285."

"That's what I said."

"No, it's US 84 and 285."

"WHO HAS A PEN? I DON'T HAVE A PEN! What do I do after I drive on 599?"

"You exit onto US 84 and 285."

"Is there a sign?"

"Yes. It says 'US 84/285.' You'll be heading north."

"Which way is north?"

"Just get in the lanes that take you to Espanola, Taos, and Los Alamos."

"I don't want to go to Taos!"

"Go north on 84/285 to Pojoaque."

"Perky? They told me I'd turn at Perky."

"Right. You'll turn at Pojoaque."

"I turn right in Perky?"

"No, I was saying that your instructions were correct. Turn west onto New Mexico 502 at Pojoaque."

"Wait! Nobody told me about any 502! Which way is west? WHO HAS A PEN! WHERE ARE WE? We have to stop for gas!" Sounds of car doors slamming. Apparently they'd just hove up at a service station. "WHERE ARE WE?!" Lengthy pause. Muffled conversation. "Okay, I think we're in Perky." By now I'm wondering whether the woman has suffered some sort of brain damage that has left her without the basic instincts of driving or, indeed, life itself.

"Get back onto 84/285 and take the exit to Los Alamos. There's a sign. There's an arrow. 502 will take you straight into Los Alamos."

"How far?"

"19 miles. Just come straight into Los Alamos on Central. We're at the first street light."

"What do you mean 'straight into Los Alamos'?"

Between Perky and Los Alamos she had called the store twice more. Becky and Alan both tried to walk her through the 19 miles, but it was mostly fruitless. Alan turned off the ringer on the phone and said that no one was to touch it for the next 40 minutes.

The woman, who announced herself as Joyce, and her husband finally arrived about 30 minutes before the tour, so they wandered around the store for a while. She looked with evident interest at the framed Christmas card with the photo of Glenn T. Seaborg and his family. "My cousin knew Glenn Seaborg, but I don't recognize any of the other scientists in this photograph."

Becky said, "It's Seaborg and his family. It's a Christmas card. The other people are his teenaged kids, not scientists."

Joyce was unimpressed. "My cousin worked up here," she said proudly. "He was the one who injected people with plutonium to see what would happen to them." We didn't really know how to respond to that.

She browsed through the store and started a stack of items at the counter. Georgia pulled up in her van. I asked to speak with her in the workroom. "After the tour we are prepared to offer you Xanax and booze," I told her.

They all got in the van, and the tour apparently proceeded without incident. Joyce came into the store again to look at everything she had stacked at the counter. She didn't buy anything.