Job title: Publicist
Bookstore: BookPeople, Austin, Texas
Brief Bio: I was born on a warm Spring morning in April of 1981; John Lennon was dead, Charles and Di were engaged and the internet was but a gleam in Al Gore’s eye. I grew up in Elmont, NY, across the street from Belmont Racetrack and next door to an auto body shop. My dad was a mechanic. My mom babysat for extra cash. They were both serious Stephen King fans.
Then I became a bookseller.
OK, but really: I was the Publicist/Events Coordinator for Book Revue in Huntington, Long Island, for five or six years and then moved to Austin to work in BookPeople’s Marketing Department, where I’ve been for the last three years. I handle BookPeople’s social media, coordinate our marketing and work with our Marketing Director to coordinate and execute our events.
I am the proud caretaker of a Black Satin Rabbit named Nate. You can follow him on Instagram: @bunnylovenate
What books recently rocked my world:
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay: Whoa. I was riveted from page one. Gay is fearless and unflinching as she conveys the emotional, psychological and physical devastation of a woman kidnapped for ransom in Haiti. The woman’s strength is the real backbone of this novel and got me through the difficult scenes of brutal treatment at the hands of her captors (I’m generally a wuss when it comes to anything gory; I couldn’t finish The Son and still put a hand to my head to make sure my scalp is still there just thinking about that book). An Untamed State has me thinking about freedom, what it affords me and what it really means to be free, what I take for granted, and how a presumption of freedom defines my sense of self. Just a phenomenal, unforgettable read. And it’ll be in paperback! Book clubs! Book clubs! Book clubs!
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom: I’m a Bloom-a-holic and won’t deny it. I totally rode the elevator with her in Seattle during Winter Institute and I totally told EVERYONE about it. (We got off on the same floor! It was a sign! And I played it cool, for the record. I only asked her to sign one arm.) This novel was fast paced and so much fun. I read this book in under 48 hours, stopping only to go to work. Amy Bloom spins a non-stop tale of the lives of two sisters as they move from Detroit to Hollywood to New York. Old Hollywood, World War II, love and lust and family and forgiveness – Amy Bloom is a natural, masterful storyteller. Perfect summer read.
Best damn events we’ve hosted:
Willie Nelson: It’s always fun when we’re as excited and starstruck as the people who show up for the event. And it never, ever gets old watching people meet their idol. The night before, four of us met his driver Gator in the parking lot of the Broken Spoke (an old Austin honky tonk) to load a few hundred copies of the book into the bottom of Willie’s tour bus so he could sign ‘em while he talked to NPR. And then we got to watch him play. This was pretty much the best event of my life.
Sonia Sotomayor: Everyone walked away from that signing table inspired (including me). It’s the largest in-store event I’ve ever done, anywhere. Well over 2,000 people showed up to hear her speak. There was an incredible energy in the store. And she’s hilarious!
Most entertaining authors we’ve hosted:
John Hodgman: He played a ukulele and judged a mustache contest.
Simon Pegg: Someone brought a rifle in for him to sign. We have some pretty perfect pictures of Pegg eating barbecue.
Mac Barnett: Days when I’m feeling down, I just look at that guy’s author photo. You cannot be in a bad mood when Mac Barnett’s in the room.
Why our store kicks ass: Because our booksellers kick ass. I work alongside some of the smartest, funniest, big-hearted, most creative and well read people I’ve ever met. This whole thing wouldn’t work if they didn’t give a hoot, and they give many, many hoots.
What makes our neighborhood and customers awesome: They understand how important it is to support local, independent businesses and are committed to doing so. God bless you, Austin. You really do get it. And we’re right in downtown Austin, so it’s a short walk or bike ride to the bars.
Why I do what I do: Because I can’t imagine doing anything else. Also – FREE BOOKS! Oh, and the snacks at events. I’ve cobbled together so many dinners from cheese and cracker platters. The event hosts out there know what I’m saying. Oh, and I love books. They pretty much make life worth living (in addition to my rabbit, of course).
If I weren’t selling books I’d be: Running a rabbit farm. And writing more. Oh my god, I’d write rabbit cozy mysteries!
Books that changed my life:
The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel: I was just pushing this book on a group of friends last night. This collection is the closest thing I have to a sacred text. What am I saying, it IS a sacred text. Reading Hempel feels like going home. I don’t know how I lived and breathed before I read her stories.
Top three authors, living or dead, I’d invite to my dinner party: David Foster Wallace, Amy Hempel, Raymond Carver. Amy and Wallace could bring their dogs (dogs make any party way more fun), Ray could bring the booze and I’d make a nice lasagna.
Top three songs on the soundtrack to my life:
“(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” by Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley: Really, anything off the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. I have a scar down my elbow thanks to those songs. That movie was a serious situation for me when I was eight years old.
“It Wasn’t Me” by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins: “It wasn’t me/ I wasn’t there/ That was not my love affair.” Yeah, that sums up a good chunk of my 20s. Jenny Lewis and cans of warm Diet Coke saw me through many a heartbreak.
“Ol’ 55” by Tom Waits: I’m a hopeless romantic. This is my favorite Tom Waits song.
(P.S. – All I can really listen to right now is that new Beck album. Holy pajamas! I love the groovy freak-out cover. When I think Scientology, I absolutely think rainbow clouds of stars drifting over Beck’s face.)
My last meal request: Velveeta Shells and Cheese and a big bottle of bourbon. Or gin. Bourbon AND gin, what the hell, I’m not going to feel the hangover.