I have hundreds of new friends I’ve never met, and a profound appreciation for the people who created them or shared their lives.
I recently attended my first BookExpo at the Javits Center in New York City, where I was surrounded by booksellers, librarians, agents, book publishers and authors including Stephen King, James Patterson and John Grisham, with numerous budding luminaries in the mix.
A highlight for me was a panel of children’s book authors, which included actress Isla Fisher, who has starred in movies including “Wedding Crashers” and “Definitely, Maybe.” While I was intrigued to see Ms. Fisher in person, the other authors owned the stage, as Fisher readily admitted that she wasn’t a writing peer to her fellow panelists.
Jason Reynolds, an African-American writer for middle-grade and young adult novels, electrified the audience.
He talked about how he used to visit his great Aunt Blanche in South Carolina, where the sun was so scorching it burned his neck. His aunt, who was 85, sat on her hot porch, smoking cigarettes and watching the children.
Aunt Blanche planted a pecan tree — as he said, a “pea can” — when she was 4. The tree had become enormous by the time Reynolds was a child, providing shade for the younger crowd.
Reynolds, a 2016 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature with “Ghost,” suggested that books offered the kind of shade he desperately needed, providing relief from the heat.
Reynolds asked himself, “What if I get to be the pecan tree?”
Jennifer Weiner, meanwhile, has ventured from the world of adult fiction and “Good in Bed” to writing for a younger audience, which includes her recent book, “The Littlest Bigfoot.”
Weiner said she does much of her writing in the equivalent of a large closet in her home, although she completed “half of a book waiting in a carpool line.”
Dutch author Marieke Nijkamp shared some insights into her latest book “Before I Let Go,” which is about a girl named Corey who loses her best friend Kyra.
Nijkamp, with fans waiting in a long line for the blue-haired author’s signature, said she “definitely goes for a walk right after I kill a character.”
While circling the Javits Center exhibits, I bumped into Owen King. He is the son of acclaimed author Stephen King, and is promoting a book he wrote with his father called “Sleeping Beauties,” in which all the women but one in a small Appalachian town become wrapped in a cocoon when they go to sleep. If someone awakens them, they become violent. That leaves the men without the civilizing and calming influence of women. It sounded to me like an adult version of William Golding’s classic “Lord of the Flies.”
In describing the novel, Owen King said he enjoyed the time writing and editing the book with his father. He described how a King dinner time activity includes coming up with story ideas, many of which never see the light of day.
I asked Owen, who was clad in an untucked plaid shirt and looks remarkably like his father, what caught his eye at the Expo. He highlighted a book by Steve Steinberg about a Yankees pitcher named Urban Shocker. King said he loved the name and found the story compelling, about a pitcher who went 18-6 in the Yankees’ famous 1927 season despite battling heart disease. I picked up a copy, which was autographed for my son, and I look forward to learning about Shocker’s world.