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Grotto Lunches/Tour Stops/Bookseller Cocktail Hour

We don't really know what to call these events, but we've started having touring authors come by for coffee, bagels, and some writerly conversation. Or lunch. We try to offer an hour of sanity and good company for the writer exhausted by unfamiliar beds and repetitive interviews, who wants to remember what it was like to be a writer before they turned into a Traveling Author.

So far, we've had some wonderful writers visit:

Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire, contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and former editor at Harper's Magazine. We picked his brain about how he conducts his research, conceives his stories, and writes his introductions.

Alice Seybold, author of The Lovely Bones, and her husband Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil, came by the day after her interview on Fresh Air. Her success was just about to explode. She and Glen talked about how they met at the UC Irvine writing program, about combatting jealousy among fiction writers, and of how The Lovely Bones originated.

Adam Haslett, author of the story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here, came by during the month his book had been picked by Jonathan Franzen for the Today's show's book club.

Paul Flores, who's excellent first novel Along the Border Lies, spoke about the love/hate relationship with the small press that published him. They gave him praise and encouragement earlier in his career than most get it, which helped pull this novel out of him, but upon publication they were underprepared to take advantage of how well his novel was received. Along the Border Lies follows several characters living on both sides of the Tijuana/San Ysidro border. The story lines absolutely defy stereotypes, and are remarkably fresh. A great read. Paul lives in Oakland and is educational director for Youth Speaks. Okay, so he wasn't on tour, but it was cool to get to know him and his work.

Phoebe Glockner, author of the very cool illustrated Diary of a Teenage Girl, one of books that most successfully blends serious text and comic art.

Then we started hosting pre-publication events, where we invited all the local booksellers over, served some wine, and brought in an out-of-town author to show off. It's been a chance for authors to pimp their book before it arrives in stores.

First we had Jim Surowiecki, the New Yorker business columnist and author of The Wisdom of Crowds. We also had about 50 booksellers. It went over so well that we've continued.

So we had Alan Burdick, who spent seven years laboring over his wonderful book about invader species, Out of Eden, a book that was later a finalist for the National Book Award.

Then we had Benjamin Kunkel, before anyone had heard of Ben Kunkel. We hadn't heard of him either, honestly, but we loved his novel, Indecision, which we had seen in galleys. Not a month later his reputation soared when he hit the cover of the New York Times Book Review with a rave from Jay Mcinerney.

So we've had quite a string of good karma around the authors we've hosted events for.