Books Alive! Conference: A Banner Day for The Independent and Writers

  • by Grigsby Crawford
  • June 10, 2013

The Books Alive! Conference occurred this past Saturday: here's a wrap-up of the day.


Best-selling authors. High profile agents. Seasoned and aspiring writers. Renowned reviewers. And readers and book lovers of all types.

The first annual BOOKS ALIVE! conference had it all and launched with thumping success last Saturday, as more than two dozen panelists, sixteen literary agents, and more than a hundred attendees gathered at the Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in North Bethesda for D.C.‘s literary event of the year.

“It was a thrill to see such a strong turnout and to hear such fascinating conversations throughout the day,” said David O. Stewart, president of The Independent, which staged the event. “The panels were avidly attended, with great questions from the audience. This success boosts the emergence of The Independent as a new force in the world of books.”

Some of the choicer remarks from the many featured speakers included:

  • From Marie Arana, author of recent biography of Simon Bolivar, a memoir and two novels: “The thing I dread most is boring myself.” Asked if she writes with an audience in mind, Arana said she writes for her sister, her husband, and her late mother.
  • Jennifer Miller, novelist, described retailing her book from her “novel-ade stand” in Brooklyn and visiting book clubs via Skype.
  • Gail Ross, literary agent: Pre-orders are the key to jump-starting the launch of a new book, because they count in the first week’s sales numbers.
  • Bestselling crime novelist George Pelecanos (also producer/screenwriter for TV series The Wire and Treme): To learn dialogue, sit in a bar, sip a beer, and listen. Or go to a trial: “Listening to people on the stand, there’s poetry in that.”
  • Paul Dickson, author of more than fifty books: When it comes to marketing books, “timidity is its own punishment.” On the state of publishing: “It’s tough now, but it’s always been tough.”
  • Bill McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic on his philosophy of minimally editing book reviews: “It’s the writer’s review, not the editor’s.”
  • Novelist Keith Donohue: Why does he read novels? Because it’s good for the soul.
  • Novelist Robert Walker, who markets his books exclusively through Amazon Kindle, was challenged on whether he made any money at it: “More than I make as a full-time teacher,” he responded.

And so much more. Many attendees signed up for “speed-dating” with as many as four or five literary agents. Also, taking place were fascinating talks from National Book Award winner Alice McDermott and another Pulitzer-winning critic, Michael Dirda, plus panels on memoir, biography, effective research, the state of the book industry, and taking advantage of new forms of e-publishing.

BOOKS ALIVE! was a unique chance for aspiring authors to jumpstart their careers. If you missed it this year, don’t make that mistake again next year.


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