Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bookshelf in San Francisco

As a member of the National Book Critics Circle, I was alerted to the events that would be held in San Francisco in conjunction with the announcement of the finalists for the NBCC's yearly awards. Usually, the organization does all of its announcements and big events in New York. This time they decided to venture to the West Coast. Because my husband's family lives outside of San Francisco, I decided to pop out, visit the family, and participate in the NBCC's panels.
The awards finalists were announced on a Saturday night, and literary panels were held on Thursday and Friday evenings. Authors, agents, editors and critics participated in the three panels. They addressed the role of California authors, the globalization of literature, and new authors to watch for.
Listening to the discussions that were held was fascinating. As a reader and critic, I got some great insights as to new books that are coming out and new authors I haven't read before who would be worth some attention. Newer writers in this category included Micheline Ahoranian Marcom, who participated in the first panel on Thursday night. She has a new book coming out in a month or two, and I bought one of her earlier novels to get an idea of her style.
Older writers whose work I haven't read before included James Houston and his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, who collaborated on a book about Jeanne's family's experience in a Japanee internment camp in California during World War II. It's a touching, engaging piece of autobiographical writing that I highly recommend.
I also got to hear Daniel Alarcon speak in this panel. He wrote Lost City Radio, which our reviewer Steve Whitton was able to read this past summer.
Listening to the lively interaction of these lovers of the written word was inspiring. The audience on the second night was particularly large and was vibrating with energy and interest. The panels were held in a small independent bookstore and in a small art gallery, so the energy was held in a very compact area. My take-home message was that writing and books and reading is still quite alive and well. We're all thirsting for great new books from new writers and more established writers too. As long as great stories are told, we will read them.
I was excited to hear from one panelist who is originally from the Mobile area and graduated from the University of Alabama. Michelle Richmond has a new book coming out in the spring called No One You Know. I will be looking for that, especially after getting to meet her. She may live in the Bay Area now but she is still an Alabamian.
As I talked to other attendees, authors and some organizers of these events, I assured them all that we in Alabama are excited about the literary scene. I and my reviewers will continue to bring the Star's readers reviews and information about some of the worthwhile literature that's newly available. Here's to a great new year full of satisfying reading.