My book-related travels have taken me to New York City the week of the annual Book Expo event.  Specifically, I came to present AFTER THE AUCTION to a Jewish Book Network (JBN) “Meet the Author” session.  The audience, the members of the JBN, consists of Jewish community center, educational agencies, and synagogue programming staff members who “book” author speakers for their sites.  The JBN schedules 4-5 of these sessions over a three-day period during its annual conference just ahead of the opening of the huge Book Expo exhibition at the Javits Center here.

I’d really targeted this year’s JBN meeting as my timing goal for getting my book published.  And I was amazed at how many other authors apparently had, too.  The sessions run like a well-oiled machine: Each author gets two minutes to speak, and the next speaker sits in an “on deck” seat.  While the timekeeper doesn’t exactly use a hook or play Oscar night music, her bright red signs announcing 1 minute, 30 seconds, 10 seconds and her ultimate times-up rise from her seat are pretty effective in keeping the speakers in line.  That is, except for a couple–including at least one prominent novelist, Cathleen Schine, whose latest book, The Three Weissmanns of Westport, only got a great front-page review in the NY Times Book Review (which she did mention, but who wouldn’t?).  It surprised me that such a relatively well-known writer would appear for this try-out session; maybe it surprised her, too, but that was no reason for her to disregard the rules and ignore the timekeeper trying to be polite but firm.

There were other higher profile writers either there last night or presenting at one of the other JBN sessions.  The range of subject matter was from cookbooks to novels to religion to memoirs to history to a  single Jewish woman’s guide to life “between Bat Mitzvah and babushka.” (Age-wise, that talk put me in the babushka category, I think.)  From 5 pm to after 7–bang, bang, bang–there must have been 35 presentations with a few quick stand-up and stretch breaks (I don’t think anyone even got up to go to the restroom).

Afterward there was a kosher wine and hors d’oeuvre reception (the site was the Park Avenue Synagogue on the upper East Side of Manhattan) which was a chance to network with the Jewish Book Network.  Cathleen Schine may be a literary star, but this is where  neophyte novelist Linda Frank shines!  Armed with my new business cards (book cover on the back), I made the rounds and tried to talk with a representative of every city there.  Of course, my peripatetic life gave me a head start, as there were people from Milwaukee, Denver, and the Bay Area, and I already knew a few of them, as well as a friend’s daughter who runs the Jewish Book Festival in Austin and an old friend who’s an active volunteer and donor at the West Palm Beach JCC.

Will I get any speaking gigs from this?  Who knows?  Budgets are tight across the country, so flying in an unknown from San Francisco might not be a slam dunk.  In Austin they only bring in one fiction writer per festival.  I’m assured of Bay Area appearances, I’m told, and possibly as “home town girl” in Milwaukee.  Maybe Montreal, DC, New Orleans. But I got myself and the book out there.

And I’ve got some great tips on new books I want to read!

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