Monday, June 04, 2007

Immortality Achieved

If you click on the title to this post, you'll see my photo on The Yarn Harlot post about BEA / BookExpo America. Not much more to say right now.

Knit on!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Yarn Harlot Comes to New York...again

Today was my Yarn Harlot Day; I was privileged to see Stephanie Pearl McPhee three times at three different events. The last event included other knitting glitterati: Debbie Stoller, Kay Gardiner and Ann Meador Shayne. This morning I arrived at BookExpo America at 8:50. Anyone who knows me understands what kind of a miracle it is for me to have gotten to the Javits Center that early. What motivated me? It should have been my job. Sadly, my goal was to get in line early for Stephanie Pearl McPhee's autographing free copies of her newest book -- Casts Off: The Yarn Harlot's Guide to the Land of Knitting. Happily, I was third in line with most congenial fellow knitters. Strangely, only two of us were knitting -- the first person in line and me. Well, we were all standing.

Celebrities don't usually impress me. For one, I'm a jaded New Yorker. My first job after college was at The William Morris Agency where famous people of all sorts were everywhere. I used to see John Lennon and Yoko Ono in my "hood" and once even studiously avoided making eye contact with them in an elevator at Saks -- even though I was only one of two non-Lennons in that elevator. New Yorkers give famous people lots of private space in the public arena. Meeting The Yarn Harlot was different. It mattered personally and, unlike most celebrities, she actually seemed to wish to speak with us. I was happy to get her new book. And, this is a Big Secret ... Stephanie (if I may call her that!) also autographed a copy for my daughter, Caroline. No one will be surprised that I found Stephanie as sweet, witty and personable as everyone has reported her to be.
All those on line were invited to come to Highbridge Audio's booth at 1 pm to get autographed copies of the audiobook edition of At Knit's End. Again I was third in line and in the company of delightful fellow knitters. We shared goodies -- like the tee shirt and the fact that at Storey Publishing's booth, just next door, they were giving away the most adorable boxed skeins of yarn to promote Judith Durant's One Skein Wonders. One generous stranger, when I admired her "Knitting Rules Button" (no longer available), gave me her duplicate. Aren't knitters lovely people. I'm looking forward to listening to At Knit's End on my ipod. I do hope Stephanie's knitting hand isn't too cramped by all that book signing today. In between these two autographing sessions, I actually did accomplish a lot for my job. After all, they did make all this possible.

There was one more knitting extravaganza in store. After meeting My Dearly Beloved and sharing lunch, I headed for the panel discussion about marketing knitting and crafts books in retail bookstores. In addition to Stephanie, the panel included: Debbie Stoller of Stitch 'n Bitch fame; Kay Gardiner and Ann Meador Shayne, authors of Mason-Dixon Knitting; the president of the Craft Yarn Council of America, Mary Colucci and Rene Martin (sorry, I can't make the accent work) of Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC The panel was ably chaired by David Didrikson of Willow Books and Cafe in Acton, MA.

Stephanie, Kay and Ann joined most of us in the audience who were knitting by working on their own projects.

Although the panel was meant to educate booksellers about marketing craft-related books, particularly knitting books, the majority of the audience was knitters. However, it is hoped that the conclusions reached by the panel will be received by retailers. Stephanie, who says her life recently has been one long book tour (Go, Stephanie!) explained how time and again bookstores vastly underestimate the number of attendees to expect at her appearances. Debbie Stoller, an avid feminist (yay feminism!) explained how she originally found herself defending her love of knitting to those who
thought it was, paradoxically, "only" women's work. She feels her Stitch 'n Bitch series has fueled the current revival of the craft. Ann and Kay described wonderful and successful appearances in small town bookstores, despite smaller turnouts than one might expect in urban locations. Mary related how her work with the Craft Yarn Council of America works to educate the various segments of the industry, consumers, manufacturers, publishers, about trends and needs.

Not surprisingly, everyone agreed that the national bookstore chains haven't a clue about the importance of knitting or other crafts --- and that they are missing the boat in a big way.
David and Rene, on the other hand, each have had great success with knitting events. They've listened to knitters, knitting authors and worked with local yarn stores. The panelists reported that book store owners and managers always underestimate the audience size for knitting book authors. Their appearances inevitably draw a larger audience than appearances by novelists, nonfiction writers or poets. Partnering with local libraries and using school auditoriums has been a successful strategy for larger venues.

Various suggestions were made, some from the audience. Because knitters tend to be "loyal as dogs," (Stephanie's phrase), if bookstores have the right titles, they'll win a following. Knitters will know at a glance whether the bookstore is serious about serving their needs so the panelists suggested making sure that hard-to-find classics, like Elizabeth Zimmerman, were kept in stock. The audience confirmed that they must resort ... gasp... to Amazon for a lot of the classic knitting books. My own suggestion is that book store owners ask local reference librarians or craft guilds to provide extensive bibliographies. David and Rene agreed that knitters make great audiences and tend to be quite tidy, apparently important to some booksellers. Stephanie assured the panel that all they need to keep knitters happy is enough cake. She also pointed out that knitters buy books -- lots of books because a book seems so cheap in comparison to the cost of yarn to make a sweater. It was also suggested that knitters ought to be invited to purely literary events as a way of insuring an audience. The popularity of knitlit or craftlit events was noted. Let's hope retailers get the message.

It was a truly fascinating discussion. I find it interesting that libraries have outstripped book retailers in this area, at least at our libraries in New York and Sussex County. I'm always surprised by how poorly the national chains deal with subject specialities. On the knitting and spinning list serves, the local libraries' excellent collections in the crafts are often noted.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tagged by Caroline

Havng been tagged in a game I didn't know I was playing, I'll join the fun. Apparently the rules are that you must tell 8 random things about yourself. And, you have to tag others. The thing is, I don't know any other bloggers besides Caroline and Spinning Spider Jenny but she's busy enough without getting tagged.
1. On May 6 Marsha, my beloved partner of 10 years, and I were civilated (NJ's legislature wouldn't give us marriage tho' the NJ supreme court mandated that we be given every privilege of marriage). I made up this word to point out the adsurdity of it all.
2. I was born in Spain in 1947 and have lived in the U.S., France, and Germany.
3. I have two wonderful children, Sam and Caroline and a great new child, our newish son-in-law, Scott.
4. My parents christened me in the Episcopal Church in Madrid when I was born. Two years later the whole family converted to Catholicism at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In November, 1966 I became an ex-Catholic. By the end of college I was an atheist. When I married my children's father I converted to Judaism because, as an anthropology major, a fan of The Book of Ruth and someone who had lived in Germany, it seemed the right thing to do. It turned out to be a great decision.
5. My profession is Judaica librarianship. I love it and am very happy in my place of employ and really like the people I work with. Maybe even love a couple of them like family, would you believe? How lucky is that????
6. Besides knitting, which I learned over 50 years ago, the other fiber arts in which I dabble or have dabbled are: crocheting, embroideries of various kinds, needlepoint, dyeing, macrame, sewing, quilting, spinning, weaving (in my youth but I want to take it up again soon). I also have a number of non-fiber interests.
7. We have 3 cats, one in New York, the other two in the country. We'd have many more, and dogs, and angora bunnies, and .... if we only had the time and room.
8. I have been surprised by the gifts middle age brings. Despite inevitable health issues, it is a very liberating time of life. I'm happier than ever before. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have had the advantages and happenstance experiences that have made up my life. You never know!
9. Like many librarians I'm a confirmed dilettante. No, it's not self-deprecation. It's just that I don't want more than a cursory knowledge of a wide variety of subjects and to concentrate on the few I wish to delve into more deeply.
10. When I was approaching 30 I was disappointed that I hadn't yet learned everything I needed to know. As I approach 60 this October, I'm delighted that there's still so much to discover.

It turns out I couldn't stop at 8. Oh well.