This is an annual event at the Tattered Cover Book Store http://www.tatteredcover.com/writers-respond-readers, this year's star-studded line-up included Heidi Durrow, Jennifer Egan, Julie Orringer and Jess Walter. Here's what I thought...
Without saying a word or acknowledging the audience she walked to the podium and began to read. She's stunning and quite fashionable. Her novel The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is currently perched at number 18 on the New York Times (Paperback Trade Fiction) Best Sellers List and getting A LOT of praise from fans and critics alike.
Durrow’s journey to to becoming a published novelist is interesting and inspiring. A graduate of Stanford, Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and Yale Law School, the successful corporate litigator (who worked with the NBA and NFL) decided to quit her job and write the next great American novel. She wrote her novel and proceeded to be rejected 48 times before receiving the 2008 Barbara Kingsolver Bellwether Prize for literature of social change for The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.
After meeting and listening to her I was sold. She's got a bright literary future ahead and enough charisma to fill an entire bookstore. Look for big things from this budding talent.
I’m currently reading A Visit From the Goon Squad, the highly acclaimed book by Jennifer Egan that Time magazine called "a new classic of American fiction". I was anxious to see, listen and meet her. When I did, the first image to pop into my mind was Cate Blanchett in Notes From A Scandal. Egan is tall, thin and sophisticatedly sultry. Sporting black knee high boots I would've pegged her as a former model rather than bestselling author.
Egan had my favorite quote of the day when she said her latest book was the literary equivalent of a concept album- I love that! She went on to joke about resurrecting her novel of historical fiction and said that her next project will be very different than Goon Squad, which is too bad because I'm really enjoying it so far.
Orringer was the third author to speak and unfortunately she had the after lunch time slot. That's usually when the coffee is wearing off and I slip into an after-lunch-coma, especially when I opt for the oversized burrito (it's a weakness). Of all the books talked about today hers is least likely to rest on my shelf. That's not to say she wasn't good because I thoroughly enjoyed her talk.
She discussed the difficult parts of writing a novel and experiencing "holy panic". I love hearing the inspirational stories of being a writer but I think it's equally important to hear about the struggles, Orringer brought the pain. It took 5 years to revise her collection of 9 short stories called How to Breathe Underwater, she methodically revised/trimmed her latest novel from 1300 to 600 pages, and went through 14 different titles before deciding on The Invisible Bridge.
Last but not least was Jess Walter, initially he was the main draw for me. After seeing, listening and meeting the first three amazing authors I wondered if he would be disappointing? He wasn't, Walter has jokes and he's hilarious! I read his most recent novel and experienced a few laugh out loud moments yet I was pleasantly surprised how well his humor translated off the page.
The other thing that stood out was how different he looked in person compared to the book jacket photo. The photo isn't bad but in the flesh he looked younger and more vibrant. I learned that he came from humble beginnings, he wrote his last novel quickly (at the speed of light compared to the previous authors) and he's a little shy. Walter read from his novel, answered a few questions and hasta la vista baby!
I sort of expected the audience to be a little put off by the pot-oriented humor of his novel, yet the mainly female audience laughed hard and laughed often. A few ladies looked uncomfortable but he had the majority at hello.
Below are the free galleys from the event. The Tattered Cover also provided free eats throughout the day and a wine and cheese reception afterwards. Thank You Tattered Cover!