Typically I’d post these ahead of time or within the same month to help facilitate meet-ups or spread the word about readings and appearances, but May was a very busy month for me, so this one is a little bit late!
This May, I was excited to be able to attend the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, and to speak to the Electric Sheep reading group.
There are times I really miss living in New York. On rare days in the spring and fall, when the weather is just perfect, it’s the most magical place in the world. Grey clouds blanket the sky, broken occasionally by glimmers of sunlight that sparkle in the glass and metal and make the park glow green. A balmy breeze blows in from the ocean, reminding you, as John Crowley says in Little, Big, that the city is a sea island. And all around you stretches New York – endless and of finite boundaries, the city that’s constantly changing and yet always the same. The few glorious days I spent in New York for the Antiquarian Book Fair were some of those days.
I’d dreamed of attending the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair since the first time I lived in New York back in 2015, but had never gotten the chance to go.
While in Seattle, I was able to attend the 2018 Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair, and it was one of the highlights of my time living there. On a gloomy winter day this past February, I watched The Booksellers on Amazon, and it cemented my need to attend the New York fair. When it was announced the fair would be held in person again this year after having gone virtual in 2021 for Covid, I bought tickets and began eagerly counting down the days until I would be in the city again.
Being in New York again felt right – the pace, the weather, the subway, the taxis honking all night… and being able to walk down the block and see and do a million new and wonderful things all at once. But the fair itself was spectacular. Put on each year in May by ABBA and Sanford L. Smith + Associates, the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair is held in the Park Avenue Armory and attracts rare booksellers and buyers from around the world.
I took a taxi from our midtown hotel up to the armory, feeling like I was living inside a Wes Anderson movie about chic and bookish uptowners.
I had my tote bag from The Strand ready to fill with fancy books. I was wearing the wrong shoes.
The sprawling fair was enveloped in a religious-like hush, magnified by the gleaming wood and bronze finishes of the Gilded Age building. It looked more like an old university library than an armory. Inside, I quickly realized I was one of the youngest (and least wealthy) people in attendance – though the New York Times has since published an interesting article about the new generation of young antiquarian booksellers.
On my tour of the fair, I saw everything from novels signed by Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte to an actual Kelmscott Chaucer – at over $100,000 and nearly four feet high, both the most expensive and the largest book I’d ever laid eyes on. Medieval illuminated manuscripts abounded, along with Edwardian photo albums, Beat poets, and Rackham originals. It was a bit of a hunt to find anything in my price range, but I did come home with two new volumes for my collection of Victorian and Edwardian illustrated fairy tales.
Before I left New York, I was also able to visit my favorite bookstore in the city, Argosy Books, and chat with a couple of other younger people who were in town for the fair. Coming home to my house in North Carolina felt a bit like time suddenly standing still. Everything was so quiet!
Later in May, I got to chat over Zoom with the Electric Sheep reading group.
Electric Sheep is a small group reading SFF short fiction. The week before Mother’s Day, they’d read my stories “What Remains to Wake” (originally in The Deadlands) and “The Nine Scents of Sorrow” (originally in Uncanny). The Saturday before Mother’s Day, we met to chat about feminism, motherhood, fairy tales, and my struggles with writing middles and pantsing my way through a novel.
It was my first time answering questions from a reading group, but Electric Sheep did a great job of making me feel welcome and at my ease. I was worried conversation would lag, and had written myself some notes just in case, but the group had so many insightful questions I hardly had to consult them!
This month has been quieter.
I’ve finished what was hopefully the final round of major edits on that pantsed novel, and sent it off to the editor I’ve been working with. I have a new story coming out in Uncanny this August that I’ve finished final edits on as well. In the meantime, I’ve been struggling with how best to use this moment of stasis – chase my shiny new novel idea, or finish some of the short stories I abandoned to work on my last novel?