Monday, September 30, 2013

Boxing legends and a new noir hero featured in recent releases

John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro's nonfiction account of history's most famous boxing brothers came out this month to much acclaim from Lyons Press.

One Punch from the Promised Land: Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, and the Myth of the Heavyweight Title centers around the divergent journeys of Leon and Michael Spinks as they grew up in the St. Louis ghetto, each became heavyweight champions, and then had to deal with fickle fame. The book features a celebrity cast of boxing legends, including Muhammad Ali (who Leon Spinks defeated), Mike Tyson (who Michael Spinks fought), Larry Holmes, Gerry Cooney, Dwight Qawi, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, and many more.

Check out the thrilling trailer below, which was Trailer of the Day on Shelf Awareness:

The book has been featured on several sports broadcasts this month. Florio was interviewed by Jeremy Schapp on ESPN's The Sporting Life (listen here), Jim Rome on CBS Sports Radio (listen here), and The Rock Newman Show (listen here).

Excerpts were also featured in a Sporting News exclusive. You can read them here.

The book has gotten fabulous reviews, including the below sampling:

“Revealing detail...An excellent read for boxing fans.” --Booklist

“A great introduction to the heavyweight division from the late 1960s to the early '80s...Just as much about America's racial and socioeconomic situation as it is an exploration of the dynamics of family and the history of the sweet science...Teaches a lesson.” --Publishers Weekly

Well written and deeply sourced, One Punch from the Promised Land fills in a lot of blanks.” --Bob Costas, a 22-time Emmy Award winner, NBC sportscaster and host of Costas Tonight

"It's a story that transcends boxing." --Jerry Izenberg, sports columnist for The Star-Ledger, four time Pulitzer Prize nominee for sports reporting, and author of Through My Eyes

“A vivid and compelling dual biography populated by the giants and demons of boxing's last golden age.” --Jeremy Schaap, ESPN reporter and New York Times bestselling author of Cinderella Man

John Florio has had quite the publishing season.  He also had a fiction crime novel, Sugar Pop Moon, released from Seventh Street Books in July. The novel tells the story of Jersey Leo, an albino of mixed race nicknamed “Snowball,” who bartends at a speakeasy in Prohibition-era Hell's Kitchen. Jersey gets embroiled in a great deal danger after inadvertently purchasing counterfeit moonshine for his boss.

Sugar Pop Moon was named to the “Best Mysteries and Thrillers” category on iTunes in July:

Florio gave an interview on The Big Thrill, in which he speaks to why he chose an albino character to be his novel's hero and how a prior stint as a music composer helped him write and structure Sugar Pop Moon. Read the full interview here.

The sequel to Sugar Pop Moon, Blind Moon Alley, will come out in 2014 from Seventh Street Press.

Below is a sampling of the excellent reviews for Sugar Pop Moon:

“Don’t miss this absolutely riveting, gritty debut coming-of-age tale. Absorbing and briskly paced.” --Library Journal, starred review

“This is a hard-boiled, Prohibition-era novel and Jersey Leo is a well-developed, engaging character. The story moves fast, the violence is appropriate to the times, and there are laugh-out-loud moments amid the mayhem. Sure to appeal to fans of Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, and, more currently, Robert Fate’s edgy Baby Shark series." --Booklist

“The brisk story and its unusual hero pack a considerable punch.” --Publishers Weekly

“A fast-paced tale where you never know what’s coming next…One of those good, old prohibition-style mob stories that brings a tear to the eye and a laugh out loud …After this small taste, readers will definitely hope that the author produces more Jersey Leo stories.” --Suspense Magazine

“Crackling with Chandleresque crack-wise charm, a breakneck pace and wonderful characterizations, Sugar Pop Moon delivers the goods...Jersey is a wonderful character, in league with great ultra-outsiders like Beverle Graves Myers’ Tito Amato. Highly recommended.” --Historical Novel Society, Editors' Choice

Lyons Press, September 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Celebrating 35 years and toasting a new president

The Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc., (JVNLA) is delighted to announce that Vice President Jennifer Weltz is succeeding Jean Naggar as President of JVNLA. Naggar will continue playing a role in the agency in the new position of Chair.

The announcement came as JVNLA celebrated its 35th anniversary at Battery Gardens Restaurant in New York City on Monday, September 16.

In attendance at the celebration were approximately 200 guests including authors, editors, international publishers, scouts, and friends and family of Naggar. The party began just as the sun was setting over New York Harbor. Speeches were made in the middle of the evening, backdropped by sun-stained clouds, ferries traveling to Staten Island, and the Statue of Liberty.

In her speech announcing the agency change, Naggar expressed how pleased she was to be passing the torch to her daughter, Weltz, who joined JVNLA in 1994 and became agency partner in 2004. Naggar touched on her experience founding the agency in a corner of her living room in 1978, where work and family intersected. Some of her earliest authors were among the guests in attendance at the party, as were editors with whom she first worked 35 years ago and former agency employees.

Naggar then introduced Weltz as “the architect of JVNLA's future.” She noted that Weltz “has been president in all but name these past few years” and that “her incisive intelligence, energy, marketing acumen, love of books, ready humor, and editorial flair have combined to build and lead JVNLA confidently into a future all of us here are reaching to identify.”

Weltz began by remarking, “Yes, publishing has changed drastically, but no matter how much it grows, shrinks, or morphs, the core is still the wonderful words our authors write.” Thirty to forty books a year are published from the manuscripts JVNLA sells. Weltz underscored the agency's multidimensional role in bringing its authors' manuscripts into print—from helping its authors strengthen their stories, build their platforms, and harness social networking; to match-making its authors with the best possible publishing houses and seizing all opportunities to widen its authors' audiences.

In her remarks, Weltz emphasized that it has long been, and will continue to be, the agency's priority to stay one step ahead of shifts in the industry, to build communities, and to share strategies in an effort to keep the publishing industry healthy and vital.

She finished with promising words about the future: “Publishing right now is where anything is possible. Having conquered 35 years, we at JVNLA can't wait to champion many, many more wonderful stories to come.”

From Naggar's one-woman agency in 1978, JVNLA has now expanded to eight, including new President Weltz, Senior Agent Alice Tasman, Literary Agent Elizabeth Evans, Agent-at-Large Anne Engel, Contracts Manager and Audio Rights Agent Tara Hart, Literary and Australian Rights Agent Laura Biagi, and Assistant Ariana Philips.

News of the announcement was featured in Publishers Lunch here and Publishers Weekly here.

Some select photos from the 35th anniversary celebration are below, but be sure to visit our Facebook page here to see them all!

Jean Naggar with MacArthur Award-winning author Carl Safina

Publishing veterans

A view of the gorgeous sunset from the restaurant

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lots of buzz for ON THE COME UP!

On the Come Up by Hannah Weyer has been receiving fantastic press since its release from Nan A. Talese Books/Doubleday this summer! The novel is based on the true-life story of Anna Simpson, whom the author met when Anna was thirteen, pregnant, and newly cast as a star of the indie film Our Song.

The launch party for On the Come Up took place at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in New York in July, and it was spectacular. It was a dual celebration of the novel and a screening of Our Song, which Hannah's husband, Jim McKay, directed. The theater was packed, the book buying/signing lines long, the energy HIGH.

Anna Simpson (AnnMarie in the novel) spoke after the screening and gave some insight into just how On the Come Up came to be. She spoke about how she and Hannah met during the filming of Our Song and were instantaneously drawn to each other (Hannah to Anna's charisma, Anna to Hannah's mentoring), stayed in close touch over the years—through pregnancies, GED's, jobs, raising kids in two very different worlds—and never gave up on each other both personally and artistically.

Their energy and vibe was so ridiculously infectious at the launch, the place was buzzing!  Theirs is an inspired, extraordinary story. #Beautifulwomen #Beautifulstories

Below are some pictures from the evening:

Left to right, Hannah Weyer, Anna Simpson, and Jim McKay

A shot of the audience

Bottom left, Anna Simpson; bottom right, Hannah Weyer

Our Song was also the movie that gave Kerry Washington, the star of ABC's Scandal and Django Unchained, her start in film. She tweeted about the launch event the day of:

But if you're feeling sad that you missed the launch party, don't worry! On the Come Up is a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, and this coming Wednesday, September 11, Hannah Weyer and Anna Simpson will be reading from and discussing the novel at a Barnes and Noble store in Manhattan. The event takes place at 7 pm at the W. 82nd St. and Broadway location. Learn more here.

In addition to being picked for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers program, On the Come Up was highlighted as a Best Book in O Magazine...

...and received four stars from People Magazine.

Curious what Hannah was thinking about as she began writing On the Come Up? Hannah discusses this and more in an article she wrote for Women in the World. An excerpt is below, but check out the full article here.

When Anna and I first started to play around with the idea for a book inspired by her life, I knew her story hooked directly into themes that have always resonated with me as a storyteller and as a mentor. What are the small ways individuals find to level the playing field, to cross class lines or cultural barriers? How do we challenge the status quo if we know it to be unjust?

Praise for On the Come Up:

“Meet AnnMarie. She's 13, pregnant and living in a gang-ridden housing project. Not a promising scenario. But the heroine of Weyer's luminous debut turns out to be a survivor with rare spirit. She gets herself cast in an indie movie, attends its Sundance premiere and then, back in the 'hood, struggles to build a life for herself and her baby. AnneMarie is based on a real person, which makes it all the sweeter to cheer her on.” --People Magazine, Four Stars

[Weyer] writes with confidence and agility, and readers will quickly sink into the groove of her storytelling...AnnMarie's interior monologues feel hypnotic and impromptu, silkily cadenced with what freestyle rappers call flow...On the Come Up isn't a cloying rags-to-celebrity tale...'Having gone out into the world and come back again' gives AnnMarie a glimpse of a future beyond Far Rockaway. Ms. Weyer convincingly charts the brave steps she takes to get there.” --Wall Street Journal

“Vibrant debut novel based on a real-life story...Weyer skillfully handles each phase of AnnMarie's life with a tonality that serves her growing maturity and shifting goals. Weyer's compassionate storytelling and experience as a mentor for at-risk youth lends her compelling novel an inspiring pathos without losing its sharp, realistic edge.” --Publishers Weekly

“Hannah Weyer proves to be a formidable ventriloquist in this inspired-by-a-true-story tale of one girl's fight to make it out of the projects and into the middle class...What ensues is a moving account of AnnMarie's struggle to free herself...and leverage her experiences into a better life.” --San Francisco Chronicle

“I couldn't put this book down. This world, this voice, this young woman are all so vividly raw and honest, my heart was broken open and I was hooked until the very last page.” --Kerry Washington, actress, Django Unchained and currently on ABC's hit show, Scandal