Hot Buzz About Books and Book Clubs

For those of you in the greater Hartford area (and beyond), I will be joining a panel of esteemed book lovers and professionals in the publishing industry to discuss book recommendations on Thursday evening at 7:00 at the West Hartford Jewish Community Center. This is an annual event that runs in conjunction with the JCC’s Jewish book festival.

It’s always a great night.

RJ Julia Booksellers President Roxanne Coady and Random House sales reps and Books on the Nightstand hosts Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness will be joining me on the panel to talk about books that we love. 

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Prior to joining the panel, Elysha and I were regular attendees of the event, so you now it’s good. 

There will also be prizes given out throughout the evening and a book swap. RJ Julia Booksellers will also be selling the books that the panel recommends on stage. 

Details about the event can be found here. Hope to see you there!

Hot Buzz About Books and Book Clubs

I’ll be speaking on the panel below alongside RJ Julia Bookseller’s President Roxanne Coady and Books on the Nightstand hosts Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness.

If you’re a reader and a book lover, you should come. Before I joined the panel onstage, Elysha and I attended this event for years.

It will be fun. I promise.


Random thoughts and observations from a weekend spent with authors and readers

Booktopia, the annual weekend retreat in Vermont that brings authors and readers together, has come to a close. Hosted by Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, producers of the Books of the Nightstand podcast, it has become one of our favorite weekends of the year. As I sit at my dining room table on Monday morning, I reflect back on some of my thoughts and lessons from this amazing weekend.

________________________________ Two authors compared the release of their books as a wedding day. I must assume that this is a female thing.

I think of a book release more like opening day of the baseball season.

Let the competition begin.

________________________________ Steve Yarbrough and I have identical writing processes. Identical. I feel like slightly less of a hack today thanks to Steve.

________________________________ I heard three writers talk about how their first books brought validation to the time spent away from families, friends and other pursuits, as well as self-assurance about their standing as a writer. I suspect that this is also a more typical female reaction.

Sometimes the arrogance, selfishness and self-centeredness of the average American man makes life a little easier.

________________________________ Listening to Nichole Bernier talk about how she finds the time to write with a large family and other obligations was a lesson for all. She doesn’t watch television. She apologizes for her messy house. She has given up on running a marathon. She strips her life of things that do not contribute to the pursuit of her goals. It’s impressive. Possibly insane. But that’s the life of a writer.


So many times I hear would-be writers say they just don’t have the time to write. I asked this question at a writing session this weekend:

Would you rather get out of bed at 6:00 AM every day for the next year and have no book written at the end of the year or get out of bed at 5:30 AM every day for the next year and have a book in your hand when the year is finished?

Everyone can sacrifice 30 minutes of sleep in pursuit of their dream.

________________________________ Author Jon Clinch and I have a book idea that will hopefully expand the base of male fiction readers.

This should be easy, since none exist.

This is an exaggeration, of course. Of the approximately 100 Booktopia attendees, there were was a solid five or six who were not female.

________________________________ A tip I learned while listening to Will Schwalbe speak to readers during one of his author sessions:

Will asks just as many questions of his audience as they ask of him. It’s a generous and genuine way of engaging people in the discussion and something I should do more often.

________________________________ I was both surprised and entertained by the debate over how readers and authors should handle online reviews of books. It was one of my favorite moments of the weekend. For a few seconds, I thought we might have actual fisticuffs, which would’ve been AWESOME.

A Booktopia rumble.

I think Ann Kingman would’ve kicked all our asses.

I have my own opinions on the subject and will save them for a post later this week.

________________________________ It’s often said that publishing is a small world. It’s true.

It turns out that author Will Schawlbe is my editor’s former boss. Unfortunately, Will was too much of a gentleman to offer me any embarrassing stories about Brenda.

Also, author Amy Brill has been serving on The Moth’s advisory council for years and is telling her first story onstage on Tuesday night. Sadly, Amy and I kept missing chances to chat this weekend, and I didn’t learn about her Moth connections until after she had gone home.

________________________________ I listened to two female authors speak about the challenges involved with balancing their writing life with their various other roles, including those of mother and wife.

I found the inclusion of the role of wife interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a man talk about the demands associated with his role as a husband.

I’m not sure what this means. Perhaps men simply don’t speak so openly about these demands as often. More likely women are more thoughtful and considerate than men.

I’ll continue to think about it.

________________________________ Combining 19 people at three separate tables on one $600 check was a terrible decision by our waitress. Failing to inform us of this lunacy prior to doing so was inexcusable. Explaining that we could each pay cash or simply divide the total by 19 was insulting.

Yes. I’m still annoyed about this.

________________________________ A couple of years ago I wrote a post about all the jobs that I’ve had over the course of my lifetime. After listening to author Chris Pavone speak on Saturday night about the multitude of jobs that he has held during his lifetime, I’d love to see him write a similar (albeit considerably longer) post.

________________________________ I have always believed that one of the best questions to ask a person when getting to know them is about the path that led them to their current job. Paul once again proved me right on Saturday night. His paperboy-turned-wholesale produce manager was one of my favorite stories from the weekend.

________________________________ My wife is not afraid to speak in public. In a few weeks, she will be hosting our first Speak Up storytelling event at Real Art Ways.

Still, I was shocked when she rose from her seat in the audience on Sunday morning, walked over to Booktopia co-host Ann Kingman, and demanded the microphone so that she could thank Ann and Michael for the incredible weekend they give to us each year.

I was less surprised when she became verklempt while speaking and had to tag-team her closing remarks with author Nichole Bernier. She’s as easy to make cry as Ann Kingman.

Still, had you told me that my wife would spontaneously offer the closing remarks for Booktopia 2013, I would’ve thought you crazy.

________________________________ Both of our children slept through the night for the three nights that they spent with the in-laws. Charlie even napped fairly well.

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________________________________ I left Vermont thinking that if I didn’t have to spend so much time writing, I might be able to read as often as these crazy book fanatics. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness


You launch a podcast in order to share your passion about books and story with the world. You dedicate your time, money and expertise to the cause.

In return, you expect nothing. In fact, you actively reject opportunities to profit from your enterprise.

As a result of your time and effort, a community of like-minded people is born. It is an extraordinary group of extraordinary people, but it is a group that would have never come together without your efforts. Lifelong friendships flourish. Bicoastal bonds are born. Introverts like those who Susan Cain spoke about in her now-famous TED Talk are given pathways to meeting new people who share their same passion and values. Stories are shared. Books are passed from hungry reader to hungry reader.

It’s a real community that did not exist and then did.

It’s an amazing story. Honestly. 

But you are not finished. Not even close.

You decide to bring the community together in real life. You plan a weekend. You assemble a group of authors. You assemble a group of readers from the community. You most assuredly lose money in the process, but in the process, magic happens.

Authors meet authors, and lifelong friendships are established.

Readers meet readers, and lifelong friendships are established.

Readers meet authors, authors meet readers, and they discover that they are all simply book lovers at heart.

For some, it is the best three days of their year.


And you do all this without an eye towards profit or growth or income or fame. You do this simply because you want to spend time meeting people in the community that you have helped to create. You do this because you care about the people in that community.

But you are not finished. Not even close.

The following year you bring the community together again. Not just once but three times, to locations stretching from coast to coast, insisting every step of the way to make these retreats unconscionably affordable even though members of the still-growing community would pay three or four or five times your fee in order to attend and consider it a bargain.

But you prefer to keep the cost low, your stress level high and your workload almost unmanageable because you insist on placing every member of the community ahead of yourself.

Once again friendships are born. Relationships are strengthened. Readers and authors come together in conversation around their mutual love of books.


Next year you’ll do it again. The stress and workload will remain the same, but you don’t care. It’s what you do. 

Most astounding of all, you think this is normal. You think that anyone would have done it this way, this how. You don’t think that what you’ve done is terribly special. You think it’s the members of the community who make this special, and while this may be true, you fail to realize that you are the single most important members of the community.

All of this would never have happened without you.

You have done something great. Something amazing. Something rarely done before. 

But you don’t have time to listen to such nonsense. There is a new podcast to record. A new retreat to plan. A new book to read. A new story to recommend.

The people who I have described exist. They are Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, hosts of Books of the Nightstand, a weekly podcast about books. But after reading this, I hope that I have made it clear that their hosting duties are just a tiny part of what they do.

I have spent the last five years publishing books. In that time, my life has grown and changed in ways that I could have never imagined. The blessings that my novels have brought to my life are incalculable.

I rate Ann and Michael’s friendship and my membership in the Books on the Nightstand community among the very best of these blessings.

If you love books, do yourself a favor:

Give their podcast a listen. Become a member of the community. Join us for a retreat. Meet Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, the two people who have made all this possible.