Monthly Archives: September 2012

Booktoberfest at the Mechanics’ Institute Library



Mechanics' Institute Library

Mechanics' Institute Library

Yesterday I went to Booktoberfest, which is more or less a publishing intern’s dream event: a book publishing trade show, with microbrews, at the Mechanics’ Institute Library.  Heyday, McSweeney’s, Tachyon, Zyzzyva, Smashwords, and the SF Writer’s Grotto all had tables, and there was a panel discussion with John McMurtrie, the San Francisco Chronicle’s book editor. As you can see, the Mechanics’ Institute Library on Post Street was the perfect setting for the event. I had no idea the library existed, but apparently it’s been around for a while and it’s wonderful: “Founded in 1854 to serve the vocational needs of out-of-work gold miners, the Institute today is a favorite of avid readers, writers, downtown employees, students, film lovers, chess players, and the 21st century nomadic worker who needs a quiet place to plug in a laptop and do research.” Beers were provided by local breweries Anchor Steam and 21st Amendment (I used my drink tickets on the latter’s Hop Crisis IPA and Hell or High Watermelon watermelon wheat beer, both of which I highly recommend!) It was a lovely event, and it definitely did not spark any existential crises in the hearts of any struggling interns.

…But, um, if it did have some poor lost soul questioning her future in the publishing industry, if she felt like she’d been concentrating on learning about publishers for so long that she had no idea who the big writers in the Bay Area literary scene were, if she wanted to know what to read next to stay in the loop, and she already had the latest issue of Zyzzyva and a copy of New California Writing 2012…

…what authors and writings would you recommend?

(Yes, this is me admitting I lack expertise on my own blog topic, and yes, it was mostly precipitated by people dropping names all night that meant nothing to me. The literary scene in San Francisco is so rich that I know I could live a whole lifetime here and not discover all the events, books, writers, zines, classes, and publishers that are out there, but I need a fresh perspective, so hit me!)

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Poem: Bernal Hill

Bernal Hill by night
Bernal Hill 
by Randall Mann
Something has to give.
We stand above it all.
Below, the buildings’ tall
but tiny narrative.


The water’s always near,
you say. And so are you,
for now. It has to do.
There’s little left to fear.


A wind so cold, one might
forget that winter’s gone.
The city lights are on
for us, to us, tonight.
(source: Poetry magazine)
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The Painted Word at City Lights Books

The Painted Word cover

Last Thursday I had the good fortune to be able to see Phil Cousineau talk about his new book, The Painted Wordat City Lights Books in North Beach. This is a book that we’re promoting heavily at my internship right now, but I hadn’t had the chance to sit down and read it. I got the sense that the author was kind of a big deal, but I wasn’t familiar with him or his career, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As it turns out, Phil Cousineau is an incredibly charismatic, engaging guy who puts on a heck of an event. He appeared with his illustrator, Gregg Chadwick, who brought along some of his original artworks for The Painted Word and talked about them at length. The idea behind the book is word histories, not just of extravagant, sesquipedalian words (although there are plenty of those in the book), but also of seemingly mundane, everyday words that have fascinating histories hidden in their roots and suffixes. Although the writer and illustrator didn’t consult in depth on the illustrations, preferring to let images arise naturally from the words, there are plenty of serendipitous connections between art and word. For example, the illustration for the word “aesthetics” is a painting of a maiko in Kyoto, with emphasis placed on the nape of her neck; elsewhere in the book, Cousineau explains that the word “gorgeous” arose from the French word gorge, throat, at around the time high-necked fashions gave way to more libertine necklines. Cousineau also tailored his appearances to each specific venue by selecting words that fit the place; for City Lights it was shanghai (the verb, not the city–a common practice in the old Barbary Coast). It was far from a typical reading, though–the extemporaneous drawing of connections from word to word to word was a lot more like poetry, and it was a joy to witness, especially when members of the audience began suggesting their favorite words. It was also a highly successful event from a promotional point of view–the store sold out of books, and sales of his previous book, Wordcatcher, are also way up (as one of my bosses says, you know you’re doing well when you bring the backlist along!).

Unfortunately, City Lights was the last Bay Area event for The Painted Word, but here are his remaining appearances, including four more in central and southern California. (I’ve just grabbed these from our website and don’t have full event details at the moment, but if you’re interested in any of them, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll happily get more info for you!)

9/25/2012            Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee
9/30/2012            Institute of Noetic Sciences, Chicago
10/4/2012            Golden Notebook, Woodstock
11/7/2012            Warwick’s, La Jolla – with Gregg Chadwick
11/7/2012            The Inside Edge, Irvine
11/8/2012            Book Soup, LA – with Gregg Chadwick
11/9/2012            Esalen, Big Sur

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Link roundup: Podcasts, courses, events and more!

Still working on getting some real posts up, alas. Here’s what I’ve got for now:

  • Books and Booze, a group for Bay Area publishing professionals, is having a networking event at Chronicle Books on November 8! Now to convince some fellow interns to go with me.
  • UC Berkeley Extension now offers a course on Litquake, where you can learn about the festival authors and their work. Way out of my price range, but a totally cool idea. (That said, Litquake itself is coming up fast and the volunteer party is this weekend!)
  • The SF Arts Commission’s Deep Roots podcast features San Francisco’s poet laureate Alejandro Murguia this week. (via Mission Loc@l)
  • Not lit-related, but AWESOME: Shawn Clover has put together a set of composite photos that blend scenes from the 1906 earthquake with modern San Francisco. Dennis Smith’s San Francisco Is Burning has been on my to-read list for some time now… maybe I should bump that up. (via Burrito Justice)

I’ll be attending this panel on West Coast publishing at City Lights tonight, and I’m pretty excited about it (though a bit gutted that I’ll probably be late thanks to work). The publisher of one of the houses where I intern (who I haven’t actually met yet) will be on the panel. I’m really interested to hear what everyone has to say!

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Jack Kerouac Alley and City Lights Books

With two internships, a part-time job, and a freelance writing/social media gig, I am crazy busy these days and have had no time to post! But here are a few pictures I took of City Lights Books and Jack Kerouac Alley last week while waiting for a book event at City Lights for my internship (more on that later). If you don’t know, City Lights Books is a wonderful bookstore founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, and Jack Kerouac Alley is the alley next to the bookstore, which runs between North Beach and Chinatown.

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