Harriet Shaw, editor-in-chief of Foreword magazine and moderator of Saturday’s Indie Editors’ Buzz panel, said, “I picked the publishers myself.’ What she selected was an impressive if idiosyncratic array of editors/houses, each of the five with fascinating books that have every chance of selling. Jim Minz, a veteran fantasy/SF editor (Tor/Doherty) now with Baen books, spoke with great enthusiasm about The Stoneholding, a “Tolkienesque” fantasy by James Anderson and Mark Sebanc. Originally self-published and then released in a limited edition by Peter Glassman, owner of Books of Wonder, The Stoneholding is, said Minz, the most remarkable fantasy he’s come across since Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody. One thing he’s learned in his many years as fantasy editor, said Minz, is that “the golden age of science fiction and fantasy is 12”—that is, 12-year-olds, and that’s why Glassman’s enthusiasm caught his attention.
Tom Swanson, from the University of Nebraska, presented the case for Pulitzer Prize—winning poet Ted Kooser’s memoir about his mother, Lights on the Ground of Darkness—the title, he said, taken from an Edwin Muir phrase about memory. Swanson quoted from the preface, wherein Kooser writes that this “is a book I put off for more than 50 years because I wanted it to be perfect.” With his mother’s health in decline, Kooser finally told the story of her German-American family’s settling in the Midwest, and he showed her the manuscript shortly before she died. She approved. Said editor Swanson, “If it’s good enough for Ted’s mother, it’s good enough for us.”
Pleasure Boat Studio is a press that few have heard of, but Shaw, in her post at Foreword, has been extremely impressed by the list from this “tiny” New York press. Publisher Jack Estes was on hand to pitch a debut mystery, Swan Dive by Michael Burke. The mystery is based on the myth of Leda and the Swan—that is, Zeus transforming himself into a swan in order to seduce the beautiful Leda, generating several children—“loosely based,” Estes hastened to add, in this “extremely intelligent” mystery by the son of famed literary critic and philosopher Kenneth Burke. The detective at the heart of the story is one John “Blue” Heron—none too smart, innocent, naïve, with an eye for women and enough ambition to get the next month’s rent, barely. Estes said the narrative techniques are sophisticated but that he considers Swan Dive a “blue-collar mystery—earthy, thought-provoking and very, very smart.”
Juliet Grames was on hand from Peter Mayer’s Overlook Press to talk about another debut in fiction, this from Amy Foster. When Autumn Leaves is a story about a magical Pacific coast town. Autumn is the name of the beloved town witch. Faced with a “promotion,” she has to recruit her replacement, which leads to a series of engagements with the town’s womenfolk. Foster, Grames pointed out, is the daughter of a well-known music producer, David Foster, and has herself written many songs for artists such as Diana Krall and Destiny’s Child.
Finally, Judith Gravitch, publisher at Other Press, stepped forward to give two pitches for Beg, Borrow and Steal: A Writer’s Life by Michael Greenberg. The first pitch—“the clean pitch,” in Gravitch’s words— was that this is a book “for aspiring writers, who will learn “you have to beg for attention, borrow money and steal from other people’s lives.” The second pitch is connected to the extraordinary success Other Press had with Greenberg’s previous book, Hurry Down Sunshine, the extraordinary account of the summer when Greenberg’s 15-year-old daughter suffered from severe mental problems. The book was ecstatically reviewed. According to Gravitch, many readers, impressed enough with the Greenberg family story, were even more impressed with "this truly gifted writer, about whom they will get to know much more.” She added, “the true hero of this story is Michael's writing.”
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