Friday, October 26, 2012

Celebrating IF JACK'S IN LOVE at the New York Yacht Club

This past Monday, Stephen Wetta and his novel IF JACK'S IN LOVE were honored at a ceremony and reception at the New York Yacht Club. The occasion for the celebration was Stephen's receipt of the 2011 Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction, a yearly prize given by Reba White Williams and Dave Williams for a novel of exceptional quality set in the South. (You can read more about the award and IF JACK'S IN LOVE in our previous posts here.) Stephen attended the ceremony in his signature fedora; he is pictured below with Reba White Williams and Dave Williams.

The evening was a lively affair involving wine, hors d'oeuvres, and many model yachts on display, given the location. The New York Yacht Club is simply gorgeous, and the five of us from the agency who attended thought the location fitting as the place of honor for such a gorgeously written book as IF JACK'S IN LOVE.

Early in the evening, Stephen read from chapter eight of IF JACK'S IN LOVE, in which the main character, Jack Witcher, reveals much of his father's background and obsession with blues music. IF JACK'S IN LOVE is a novel about a family of outcasts, and the chapter allowed the audience to catch a glimpse of who this family was.

Afterward, Stephen answered questions from the audience. One audience member asked what it was like to write a novel in the voice of a twelve-year-old. Stephen's response drew upon the structure of his novel. He explained that Jack narrates the story as an adult, looking back on his life as a twelve-year-old. While the reader experiences the events that happen to twelve-year-old Jack firsthand, the language used to describe the events is that of the adult Jack.

Another audience member asked where Stephen saw Jack now, as an adult. With his hands resting on the podium, his eyes on the audience, Stephen answered matter-of-factly, “Well, I see him standing at a podium, looking out at an audience...”

The statement was followed by much laughter. Stephen continued, saying that he imagined Jack in a place far from where he'd grown up, doing well, perhaps at Harvard. But despite Jack's later success in life, Stephen knew that Jack had been hardened by the events that had occurred in his youth, the events that are the subject of IF JACK'S IN LOVE.

Wetta signed copies of IF JACK'S IN LOVE after the questions ended, and everyone clamored around his signing table for the chance to receive a copy.

Before we knew it, the evening had come to a close. When we exited the Yacht Club and returned to the crowded city streets, we felt as though we had left a hidden enclave in New York, a place where the windows were shaped like portholes on a ship and we had been allowed to sail grandly through the world of literature and into the life of twelve-year-old Jack Witcher for an all too fleeting instant.

Read Stephen's own impressions of the award, ceremony, and reception at his blog, and don't forget to find yourself a copy of his book.

 Amy Einhorn Books, August 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

The secret world of rights at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Come October, when others are contemplating pumpkins, scarecrows, and costumes, the publishing rights world is packing its bags with business clothes, practical but fab shoes, and materials to let the world know about its amazing books.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the largest and longest-running book fair in the world. It began soon after Guttenberg invented the printing press as a printer's convention. Now it spans numerous halls and floors that can take days to see. Publishers from every country come to set up a stand and display their wares or recently published books in the hopes of selling them for translation into other countries. Editors from around the world get their exercise running from meeting to meeting to find their next imported gems to translate and make into a success in their language as well.

As agents, we have our special section at the fair – Hall 6.0 – otherwise known as the Literary Agents and Scouts Center. For me, my home for three days was table 12-O, a nondescript white table with four chairs and an electrical cord hanging down from the rafters. On the table, I laid out my lists of our wonderful fiction, nonfiction, and kids' books, business cards, and various notes to help me navigate the next 75 meetings. Yes, I did say 75 meetings!!!!! These meetings actually start two days before the fair in hotel lounges and coffee shops and continue each day after hours, during dinner and over drinks (I have learned the joys of Apfelwein!).

Every 30 minutes, a different editor finds my table and sits down to hear me talk about our books. I listen to their likes and dislikes, ferret out what is working in their country, and then steer them towards the books that would be the perfect fit. Invariably they leave with lists of titles to read, consider, and hopefully purchase for translation.

It is true that, at times, I feel like a wind-up doll, unwound until the butt hits the seat opposite me. I then animate and become a storyteller, trying to convey to my audience the specific elements that make a particular book wonderful and special in its own way. Luckily I am blessed to be in an agency where our agents have excellent and varied taste. I get to read and discuss kick-ass action, beautiful prose, and illuminating facts.

I also get a snapshot of how the world is doing, admittedly through the prism of books. Spain is in dire straights with one publisher telling me business is down 40% from last year. In Greece, our co-agent loves to come to Frankfurt just to escape the sad faces he is constantly seeing in his own country. Russia has recently lost their major bookstore chain and their biggest publisher is being investigated by the tax authorities, BUT this has opened up opportunities for the smaller publishers to expand their lists. Poland is obsessed with stories centered around the two World Wars. Historicals don't sell for love or money in Holland, but they are just what many of the Eastern European countries are looking for. Everyone has recently found, or is frantically looking for, their erotica novel, even though no one has any idea if it will perform.

In kids' books, realistic fiction is on the rise, picture books are more challenging to acquire with the recession hitting hard on the high cost of books, Korean manga is big worldwide, and many people want to find a funny middle grade. In genre publishing, romance is huge, science fiction is dead, crime is locked up by Scandinavian authors, and horror depends on the publisher. As long as publishers don't have an expert in their country to draw upon, prescriptive nonfiction has a chance – especially about sex and relationships. Great narrative or very serious nonfiction will make the right editor's eyes shine. And, as always, amazing reviews and/or sales can trump everything!

At the end of the week, the left-over papers and many notes get packed away, and we all grab our flights with sore throats and bleary eyes - satisfied that we have spread the word about our wonderful authors. Next stop: to the cobbler to resole our fab shoes in readiness to do it all again next year!

Favorite quote of the fair from an Italian editor about erotica novels – “We do it, we don't read it.”

The essentials: JVNLA rights lists, fab shoes,
a map of Frankfurt, and a backpack to carry it all!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Saving the Ocean with Carl Safina: A new PBS series

Carl Safina is the host of a new PBS series, Saving the Ocean, which not only illuminates the dire straits our ocean is in today, but also highlights the people and communities who are working to save the ocean before it's too late.  The series will premiere on PBS this Thursday, October 11th!

As the series' website makes clear, "Saving the Ocean is not just another doom-and-gloom TV show; it's about people solving problems. The news is grim: overfishing, pollution, coral reef troubles, and on and on. These problems are spread all over the two-thirds of the globe that is ocean. But a far-flung group of unsung heroes--scientists, conservationists, local communities--are hard at work inventing, advocating, and implementing solutions."

The show will premiere on PBS on October 11th, but viewing on local stations will vary. To find out when Saving the Ocean will appear on your local station, check the schedule here:

(Keep in mind that your local station may not show the series until some weeks after its premiere.  PBS only announces shows on its schedule board two weeks in advance, so be sure to check back later if you don't see the show listed immediately.)

Saving the Ocean takes viewers on an ocean expedition around the world, where you can see everything from the cutest baby turtles to the world's friendliest whales. Learn which animals and which destinations will be featured by viewing the upcoming season programming on the Saving the Ocean website here. Plus, be sure to watch the series trailer below:

Two pilot episodes for Saving the Ocean previously aired in April 2011. The full episodes can be viewed online at, but below are preview trailers for both! (Please note that the second trailer from the April episode is no longer online, and we have replaced it with the trailer for a different episode that is viewable online, as of December 2012.)

Shark Reef: Learn about the creative efforts that have been implemented to keep sharks safe from the shark fin trade.  View the trailer below, and the full episode here.

Watch Shark Reef | Preview Trailer on PBS. See more from Saving the Ocean.

Swordfish!:  Learn about the most sustainable fishery around and how swordfish won the contest for the best "big fish" comeback story. View the trailer below, and the full episode here.

Watch Swordfish! - Preview on PBS. See more from Saving the Ocean.

Carl Safina is the author, most recently, of THE VIEW FROM LAZY POINT and A SEA IN FLAMES.  Read more of our blog posts on Safina via this link, and don't forget to tune in for Saving the Ocean!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dazzling new poetry collection from Nancy Willard

Nancy Willard's dazzling new poetry collection came out this week: THE SEA AT TRURO, published by Knopf!  Willard was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for the collection WATER WALKER.  She is also a prolific children's book author and a Newbery Medal winner for A VISIT TO WILLIAM BLAKE'S INN (which also received the Caldecott Honor for illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen).

In this collection, her eleventh, Willard presents another stunning display of her talents.  As Knopf's jacket copy notes, THE SEA AT TRURO is about "the magic hiding in the ordinary days of our past and present," as well as "the natural world that witnesses these revelations, and the myriad, often surprising ways in which it intersects with our own human lot."

Willard's poem Grave is a testament to just this:


Last year four men planted you under a stone.
Today I plant the dumpy heart of a narcissus.

Sharing your bed, it will wake up singing.

Don't miss out on this beautiful collection from a talented author!  Below is a sample of several of the excellent reviews Willard's poetry has received over time:

"Her imagery is both elemental and ethereal, her characteristic forms the litany, elegy, and ballad. While she doesn't shy away from singularly painful subjects, her overriding impulse is to celebrate the ordinary." --Gardner McFall, The New York Times Book Review

"This poet possesses wit and skill in abundance, and she has a highly individual way of seeing and telling. If Willard writes with lyric grace, she also achieves tautness in poems wrested from pain and anxiety. She has a feeling for the grotesque and earthy, for the fanciful and surreal in so-called reality. Her vision, irradiated by a sense of humor, affirms both life and the art of poetry." --Robert Hayden, poet

"One of our most consistently original imaginations, Willard is a true magician generous and wise...A superb selection that should serve to remind readers of her high level of accomplishment over many years." --Field

"A magician of the simile and the stunning metaphor. Nearly every poem includes striking images...For [Willard], all cosmic matter is magically configured, even angel-struck, not least of all everyday objects, animals, flowers, vegetables, and fruit...An original approach...At once utopian, enchanted, and thoroughly concrete." --John Taylor, Poetry

"The poems are at once down-to-earth and magical, innocent and wise. Nancy Willard is a true original. Her book is enchanting in the real sense of the word." --Linda Pastan, poet

Knopf, October 2012