The 23rd Jerusalem International Book Fair ended February 23. Almost immediately, the 50+ editorial fellows and agents began exchanging e-mails—discussing their Jerusalem experience, planning get-togethers at London and other venues, talking about current and future book projects, getting feedback on publishing issues. A friendly global network was firmly established—one that will benefit the 2007 group personally and professionally, as it has their predecessors since 1985.
That is the magic of this fair, and the reason why a record number of applicants—more than 300 worldwide—began the long process of becoming part of the fair's acclaimed fellowship program. Said Kristine Puopolo, a senior editor at Doubleday Broadway: "As a fellow, I finally 'got it' that there are editors just like me all over the world, and that if we talk and share our enthusiasm, I might get the inside scoop on a book just right for my list or learn about competitive titles or, in some unexpected way, do my job a little better." Olivia De Dieuleveult, an editor at Flammarion in Paris, added: "We cannot stop writing to each other. Networking is already underway."
Brenda Segal, HarperCollins director of foreign rights, who was not a fellow, but was a first-time fair participant, said she enjoyed the "relaxed atmosphere, in which ideas and projects can be exchanged on a very personal level. Since the fellows are a group of young editors and agents, one has the chance to meet the people in whose hands the future of publishing lies, and to see the publishing world from their perspective."
"It was an incredible week," said Penguin UK editor Helen Conford. "You are sucked out of normal life and placed somewhere where you rediscover the sheer delight of publishing—thinking and talking about books, about what works and what doesn't, about instincts—and the fission that occurs when you are with people who are just as engaged as yourself in these things."
A key aim of the fair is to introduce authors, both Israeli and Arab, to editors and publishers; an excellent opportunity was the all-day program at Tantur, an ecumenical center in Bethlehem where a number of authors participated in panel discussions and read from their works. A hit was 76-year-old Arabic poet Taha Muhammad Ali ("What do you hate, and who do you love?/ ....I hate departure. I love the spring and the path to the spring, and I worship the middle hours of the morning"). Ali is published in the U.S. by Copper Canyon Press; when she returned home, foreign rights agent/fellow Chandler Crawford bought copies to give to interested fellows. Crawford, who represents Khaled Hosseini's foreign rights, signed a deal at the fair with Israel's Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, to represent its books worldwide and to help sell translation rights. One of her first projects is a collection of letters written by prisoners in concentration camps.
At Tantur, Philip Rappaport, a Bantam senior editor returning for his third Jerusalem Fair, was especially interested in speakers at the "Where Literature and Cinema Meet" panel. Novelist Ron Leshem and film director Joseph Cedar showed clips and talked about their movie, Beaufort (the film is based on Leshem's debut, If There Is a Heaven), about the months leading up to Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Leshem's book won the 2006 Sapir Prize (Israel's Orange Prize) and sold more than 100,000 copies. A few days earlier, at the Berlin International Film Festival, Cedar had won the prize for best director. Agent Deborah Harris conducted an intense auction—many of the participants were editorial fellows—before signing with Rappaport. Since then, she's sold the rights to several European countries.
Nilli Cohen, director of the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature, got numerous offers at the fair for what she calls "a stunning first novel" by Boris Zaidman, Hemingway and the Dead-Bird Rain.Established authors, like Zeruya Shalev, Eshkol Nevo and Savyon Liebrecht, who all took part in the Tantur conference, continue to generate interest, she added.
London Penguin editor Simon Prosser summed it up: "The fair is the best place, bar none, for developing strong and lasting relationships with colleagues from around the world. May it continue for many years to come."