Wi7 New Orleans 2012

This was my first bookseller’s con. Surely not my last, now that I know these kind of goings-on actually go on. It was completely different from the cons and festivals I usually hit, too. For one, nobody was dressed like Data, or Boba Fett, and there were no remote-control robot fights or Bat’leth instruction sessions or zombie defense demonstrations, and there was nobody in steampunk hats or goggles. The name tags, though, they were galaxies better. Not that I’m against the lanyard-with-alligator-clip shuffle, but, too, I didn’t even really know there was another shuffle going on: a neck-strap that attaches to both sides of the badge-part, keeping it from always flipping the wrong way? And a clear pocket you could stuff schedules and room assignments and whatever in? It rocked. Also, when you leave the hotel, it barely (see: ‘perfectly’) fits in your back pocket (should you be wearing jeans). It could probably function as a flotation device, even. This nametag, I would never shortchange it, never underestimate it.

So, whoever chose those: thanks. I’m keeping mine forever, going to try to re-use it. Though, next time: maybe make our last names as big as our front names? There was a lot of squinting in New Orleans, and it wasn’t just from having to drag out of bed before noon.

But cons aren’t nametags, cons are people, of course. And these booksellers—they’re really not that different from the people with Klingon foreheads I usually meet in hotel lobbies. They just love books, they’re lost in reading. Just, they’re on the industry side of it. Which I won’t even pretend to completely understand (I know advances and royalty checks and reviews, and I guess writing, some, occasionally). But, now, after Wi7, I know it’s all in good hands. These people are keeping books alive, they’re keeping reading vital, they’re handselling their way into whatever good afterlife they’ve got waiting.

Thank you, all of you. I so wish I could have somehow hung out with each of you the whole time, but, time being what it is, here’s who I mostly talked to:

    • Emily Adams of Third Place. I talked to her at the supercool author reception Thursday night, of course—signed something like eighty, ninety books?—but then ran into her at The Spotted Cat, I think it was. Which we’d found thanks to Kris Saknussem, and I’m thinking Kris’s editor Jarret Middleton of Dark Coast bought the first round. Maybe. If so: late thanks. And at Spotted Cat, aside from way cool music (put me in mind of Squirrel Nut Zippers, but that’s just because I don’t know anything, I’m sure), I was able to offload a twenty-peso note I’d been carrying since Todos Santos. Wrote something on it sharpie and the bartender taped it to a post. Which is what you do there. Obviously. Anyway, I think Emily found us from my ostrich-shouldered jacket. Then we ran into her the next night outside the Erin Rose, which has these cool no-glass windows you can kick back in, and ended up at the Chart Room, as usual, a place Pat Walsh had found, magically (he does many and diverse magic things). But then we shared a shuttle and a plane, and, thanks to her, I know a lot more about a lot more than I ever knew to ask.
    • “Suzanne” from I don’t know where, but I’m guessing . . . Seattle? Though for no reason whatsoever. Anyway, Thursday night, my publisher MP and Tyson Cornell of Rare Bird Lit, they threw an absinthe party at the Pravda. Very cool little bar. And, absinthe: it tastes like melted candy. It’s cool to watch it made, and I’m sure it costs enough that I should like it more, but, you know, after one, it was back to what I knew and trusted. Anyway, Suzanne, she swept in with those beignettes from Cafe du Monde—it’s on the walk from the Astor to Pravda—and gifted me with one, and it was still hot, and, I don’t know if they know this down there, or if they care, but it’s fry bread. And it’s so, so good. Thank you, Suzanne. And, hopefully I’m spelling your name close to right. And I wish I could link your bookstore. Help, somebody?
    • Calvin Crosby of Book Passage. We share a deep appreciation for pearl-snap shirts and are infected with similar longings for flashy boots. So of course we had to meet at the first author reception, at some old-timey museum (or: are all museums old-timey, kind of?). What’s scary, though, is we probably wear about the same size shirts and boots. Meaning, if I show up dead in an alley one dressed-up night, you’ll maybe now know who to sic Columbo on, yeah? Also, at that museum, my editor Guy Intoci’s girlfriend Lauren, who knows more about museums than a museum on museums, she walked us through the displays, telling us not just this and that, but the other as well, so that now I kind of feel like I have a degree in museum science. Or that I could fake it, anyway. Though I’ve got to not say ‘old-timey’ in relation to Civil War outfits, all that. That’d be a dead give-away.
    • Paul Yamazaki of City Lights. Paul who’s always on the move, but he knows all the good bars, too, is the one who told us about Erin Rose, which was close enough to Bourbon Street for Kris and me to take many strolls, with pit stops back at Erin Rose, of course, for sustenance and refreshments. Guess we saw the police take some guy down there, now that I kind of look back. Guy wasn’t too happy about it (I’m not talking about my editor here, though, I mean, that Guy maybe wasn’t too happy about it either, I’m not sure). Neither was who I take to be the guy’s girlfriend. Also, on Bourbon Street, I completely don’t understand how people can walk up to police horses and pet them like they’re long lost friends. Some good horses, not to be face-kicking people down the block. Or maybe that was all after I left. Also after I left, apparently: Woody Harrelson showed up at the Chart Room. I think it was there, anyway. But you can’t stay out until four every morning. Unless you’re everybody else at the con, I mean. Anyway, I wore my City Lights t-shirt home. Except for my Waylon shirt, which is showing its age, my City Lights shirt is probably my favorite.
    • Darrin Sennett and Jill Owens, of Powell’s. Actually I think there were about six of them, somehow; they were everywhere, all the time. Think on night one we ran into them at LaFitte’s, maybe, a place with a piano player and no electricity. And, after running into them once, I of course wanted to talk to them all the time. Very cool people. Guess I also have five or six Powell’s shirts, but they’re all maybe too worn to travel with me anymore. Alas. But I’ll be back before too long, to restock. Anyway, somehow I know plenty of the Portland writers, and of course they do as well. So it was kind of like we already knew each other.
    • Javier Ramirez from Book Stall at Chestnut Court. He ran me down walking out of a hotel, then I ran him down at (of course) the Chart Room. Great guy, and I’m not just saying that because he’s been passing All the Beautiful Sinners around for years, now. Hoping he digs Growing Up Dead in Texas just as much.
    • Greg Michalson of Unbridled, who published my friend and former prof’s Goodnight, Texas, which I wrote about here. So, so impressed with that book, and now I have an ARC of (William J.) Cobb’s new and definitely-hot The Bird Savoirs. And, this doesn’t relate to Unbridled, but, talking ARCs, I also got Lydia Netzer to autograph her Shine Shine Shine for me. Book looks so cool. Also nabbed books from Stewart O’Nan, Stephen Dau (his is The Book of Jonas, which was/is freaky to/for me, as, of course, Stephen and me each know how to spell our names and I’ve also got a ‘Jonas’ in Growing Up Dead in Texas), and my signing buddy (we shared a table, and she hit our absinthe party), Leigh Bardugo. And of course Reverend America from Kris Saknussem; I’ve already slipped through the first chapter. More happens in it than in most whole novels. Too, Kris has got what has to be the decade’s coolest blurb (in addition to the coolest trailer), though I don’t know if I can say anything yet.
    • Kathy Langer and Sarah Harvey from Tattered Cover. For some reason I had to go all the way to Louisiana to meet them, yeah. Seem like good people, though. Or, judging from the shelves at Tattered Cover, maybe the best people.
    • The Green Apple Books guys—Kevin Hunsanger, Kevin Ryan, Pete Mulvihill—who transported us to Praline’s, I think it was. Over by (and just before) dab (that’s a club) and Kenny Brown. Anyway, Praline’s, they’ll fry anything, I suspect. And we had it all: pickles, chicken livers (okay, everybody else had those first two), chicken of course, and I forget what-all, except there was alligator and shrimp and jumbalaya and catfish and more and more of it all, until we absolutely had to stumble to the next place. And they have way-excellent sweet tea. And Kris and his editor Jarrett were there as well. For an hour or so, it was the place to be. And probably even after.
    • LeAnna Herrerra at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach. Talked to her a bit over at Erin Rose, and she, as marketing and events magician, is doing some very cool stuff, it sounds like. Instead of podcast tours and the like, she’s projecting writers’ faces up on screens in her store, letting the audience interact that way. These are the ways things change. For the better.
    • Bridget Kinsella, who did that so-cool Shelf Awareness write-up, which included some nice in-front words from Geoffrey Jennings of Rainy Day Books, who I got to hand a book to personally. Anyway, Bridget was nice enough to let me have her side-dish of macaroni one night. Was maybe the best macaroni I’ve ever had.
    • Matt Falvey and Dave Mallman of Next Chapter Bookshop way up in Jeffrey Dahmer land, in Laverne & Shirley land, in Ed Gein land. And in some other land they told me about but I can’t call up right now. Another killer, though. Well, not that Laverne or Shirley were either (don’t trust Lenny, though). Anyway, if you’re in there, talk to these guys, they know what’s what, what’s not, and what’s in the middle. And hit this, from Lanora Hurley (her name’s in Growing Up Dead in Texas, though spelled slightly differently, as it’s a town, not a person).
    • Mitchell Kaplan of the many Books & Books stores, which I definitely need to get down to. And he knows one of my old profs, Virgil Suarez. And also everybody else in the known book-world. Which I suspect he also maybe wrote the maps for. You know that guy who does the Dos Equis commercials, who doesn’t always drink beer, but when he does? He was the second choice for that role, I think.

And, man, too many more. No: not enough more. I should have gotten business cards better. Taken cell-pics of name tags. Something. Met so many essential people, so many people I had excellent discussions with. Sucks that I can’t rolodex each one of them up. However, I did run into a . . . what do you call somebody you went to school with? ‘Ex-fellow student?’ Surely not ‘alum.’ I would hate being an alum, I’m pretty sure. No matter for where. Anyway, Adam Johnson. Him and me got to FSU the same year. And his The Orphan Master’s Son is rightfully and righteously climbing the charts. And of course my editor Guy Intoci and marketing guy Pat Walsh, I know them and their degenerate ways from way back, but it was wonderful catching up with them again. And with New Orleans. Haven’t been there in, I don’t know, three, four years? Something like that. But eating at Deanie’s, grabbing shrimp poboys left and right (even though, when I order, I pronounce them right), so many beads on Bourbon Street it feels like skating on very small, untrustable roller skates. Breathing that sea-level air, having to tip everybody, taking cabs (yes, cabs are still a novelty to me), sitting in bars that slowly, disorientatingly rotate (Carousel at the Monteleone, where we stayed a couple of nights). Even watching That 70’s Show the one time I turned my hotel tv on, it was different in New Orleans, somehow. And I never once got any frou-frou fancypants tea. It was all the real deal, even when I was in the most plastic of places. And what more can you ask for than really good tea, right? Well, bookstand good friends, I guess. This time around, though, I had them all. Couldn’t have been better.

iPhone snap by Kris Saknussem
iPhone snap by (somebody holding) Kris Saknussem (‘s phone)
Author: SGJ