I was thrilled to have Carol Fitzgerald's insightful interview with Garth Stein from this past weekend's Book Group Expo about his bestselling novel The Art of Racing in the Rain. I'm even happier to hear directly from Garth about his entire Book Group Expo experience in this guest post!
I'm getting caught up from spending another whirlwind week away from home, this time in Sunny California for some readings and, of course, to attend Book Group Expo!
I had been warned by my dear friend, Jennie Shortridge (Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe), that Book Group Expo was going to be fun, and she was absolutely right! The Friday evening Author's Reception was a blast, even though I missed meeting Andre Dubus III, who lingered on the other side of the room and then vanished while I was chatting with others. I did get to meet some really wonderful writers and "talk shop" with them: the very funny Diane Hammond, whose daughter is a big fan of mine; the lovely Diana Spechler and Janelle Brown, whose books I look forward to reading; and Selden Edwards, who's about seven feet tall with shockingly white hair and a mischievous grin that seems to say, "I know where the cookies are kept and I'm happy to share...."
I didn't attend any salons on the first day of Book Group Expo, as I had a signing to do up in Sonoma, at Infineon Raceway. It was a beautiful day for a drive and well worth the effort, as the Porsche Club and NASA racers were very enthusiastic about The Art of Racing in the Rain. I returned that evening and went to a cocktail party hosted by the wonderful and dynamic Carol Fitzgerald, who seems to have been the inspiration for the Energizer Bunny, as she knows absolutely everybody, has no enemies, and is always smiling and laughing her way around the town--whichever town she happens to be in (I've run into her in several, including Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Clinton, NJ!).
At the mention of dinner, we all moved to Eulipia Restaurant, and we picked up more people along the way: the clever Joshua Henkin, who I'll be seeing in a couple of weeks at Wordstock in Portland (I'm speaking at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov 8, for those of you in the Portland area!), and the absolutely hilarious Esther Bushell, a Book Group Facilitator, who admitted she'd never heard of me and was a bit skeptical, but who I managed to win over by the end of the weekend--as she left the Convention Center on Sunday afternoon, she held up a copy of my book and swore she was looking forward to starting it on the train to San Francisco.
I turned in early so I could be rested for my 10 a.m. salon on Sunday. And what a great salon it was! Gospel singing. Sam Barry, the facilitator. Van Jones, who is very smart and has a great sense of humor--he managed to make his non-fiction book, The Green Collar Economy fit right in with a couple of novels. Kristin Billerbeck, who has written a million or so books, the latest being Back to Life. It went very well, and I enjoyed thinking about and discussing the different themes and ideas introduced by the panel, and how those ideas applied to my own book. This is one of the points of Book Group Expo: understanding that writing is a dialogue, not a monologue, and the writer has to be open to a variety of interpretations of his or her work and none of those interpretations are incorrect. Every opinion counts!
I was able to meet and chat with lots of readers at the signing which followed the salon, which is what I like best. I love meeting readers; they have so much energy and are so happy, even after two long days at an Exposition!
My afternoon was spent doing interviews and hanging out in San Jose, and then Jennie and I got to relax a bit over a martini while waiting for our plane back to Seattle. We both agreed that the wonderful magic of Book Group Expo is something that everyone should try. It's about people sharing their love for words. As writers, our job is to start conversations; it's the job of readers to continue those conversations. Books are still read one page at a time, one reader at a time. But, once read, the fun is to gather together and share our ideas and thoughts, to see where our imagination has taken us, and where other people's imaginations have taken them.
I do want to give a special shout out to the bookstores that hosted me: Black Oak Books in Berkeley, Willow Glen Books in San Jose, and of course, Books Inc. who hosted my Mountain View reading and who also provided book support for Book Group Expo.
See you at next year's Book Group Expo, or sooner if our manifesting is good!