Writers and Publishers Mix it Up in Europe: the first blog en route to the Frankfurt Book Fair

In the month that I am here in Europe, between three countries–Holland, France and Germany–half is dedicated to research and to writing on my second novel in the Textile Trilogy, Linen Shroud. I follow Carole Maso’s dictum that form should follow function, therefore silk is by definition sensuous and heady: in our country, a novel of ideas only rarely includes the erotic, but it’s no surprise that my favorite writers combine intellect and sensuality: Durrell, Duras, Nin, Miller, Maso. Kundera.

Linen Shroud, by comparison with Burning Silk and their respective textiles, is tough, difficult to produce, flexible and enduring. The theme of Linen Shroud– war–presents me with a particular challenge, as I am a lifelong antiwar protestors even while I acknowledge that WWII–my father a medic in Patton’s Fourth Army–was necessary for the continuation of our western way-of-life.

The other half of my month, one might say, is dedicated to developing an audience both for my books and for the other books that we–the publishing collective that is sitio tiempo press–intend to publish.

So I am en train de traveling from Brittany, where I had the opportunity to put face and place–essential to a novelist–on the oystermen I had only read about in The Oysters of Locmariaquer. I am heading to Le Havre where I will be a presenter at a conference given by the University on The Woodstock Years, a fine bilingual audience for my books and our ideas I think. And after, I will be meeting a friend, Inke Schwab, who has the advantage of being trilingual, to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair.

I will be issuing reports on a daily basis from the Frankfurt Book Fair in my blog.

Purposes always overlap in my estimation. And so I began doing research years ago on selling foreign rights. A file disgorged an article I clipped from the NYT several years ago that followed Mizzi van der Pluijm of Contact Publishing in Amsterdam, around the floor of the Fair and to parties in the evening. This allowed me to google Mm. van der Pluijm, read her articles and appreciate how she analyzes the book market for foreign rights. How could I cold-call a possible publisher without doing at least this? I sent her my book Burning Silk, together with the bound bilingal booklet with the first chapter in French and English and a personal note on the press’ executive stationery. I emailed her asking her to expect the same. I think I can’t do more.

While in Amsterdam, I checked out the two bookstores in Spui (said Spow): the American Book Center and the Athenaeum. Of the two, I would have to say Athenaeum is the more literary and multicutltural, while ABC and its attendant performance/

meeting space The Treehouse, is largely for an English speaking audience. The buyer at Athenaeum, who will remain unnamed, implied that I was cracked to be going to Frankfurt without appointments. And, though I know this is how the Book Fair works, I have always had to see a product in production before I completely understand it.

Inke Schwab and I will attend instructive seminars in buying and selling foreign rights. With 20,000 people there, all agenda driven, we will be able to tease out (I hope) the players that we are interested in speaking with us. That’s the plan.

While in Paris, I made a personal contact with the manager who books readings at Shakespeare & Co, as conversation we had begun months earlier towards understanding how to book a reading with Shakespearte & Co (Mondays only and months in advance.)

I contacted a writer of historical fiction that I have always wanted to meet. She is also a textile artist. We have communicated by email over time and yes, Barbara Chase- Riboud, author of the puissante Sally Hemmings and other poignant investigations into the lives of women at once powerless (Venus of Hottentot) and influential (Sally Hemmings.)

Turning the corner from my hotel, I ran into Gallimard’s offices. I emailed a scout I met ten years ago while producing a limited edition book in France’s book village Montolieu and asked him if he had a contact at Gallimard. He did and would not only give me the name of his close friend, the foreign rights acquisition editor, but also invited me to use his name.

Everything bodes well. Stay tuned if you are interested.