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tv   2016 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books  CSPAN  April 10, 2016 12:00am-2:01am EDT

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phones during the session. personal recording of sessions is not allowed. my name is betsy after. i will be your moderator today. i'm waiting, publishing lifer. am a pu only wanted to be in publishing my whole life and have been in pretty much my whole life.sa i west coast agent, started out in publishing as an editor.at p i want to introduce our panelists. .. wanted to introduce our panelists. i will start with tom mayer, senior editor and vice president at www. norton who publishes literal fiction and nonfiction including history, politics, music, biography, popular science and narrative journalism. his books include the new york times bestsellers smoke gets in your eyes, building a better teacher by elizabeth green, whitey bolger and shelley murphy
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and somewhere toward the end by diana and hill which won the national critics circle award. other notable authors include lidia gladstone, i poked around his twitter account and learned he is a sometimes musician, someone who is willing to swear on twitter. >> and on live tv hopefully. >> nicole dewey has worked in publishing the last 19 years and is vice president, associate publisher for little brown and company, she worked with a broad range of critically claims authors including jk rowling, adam hazlitt, kevin powers, malcolm gladwell, amazing list, jody cantor, elton john, barbara ehrenreich, nancy pelosi, steve martin, michael caine, and mark
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haddon. she is council of literary magazines, and eager traveler who lives in new york with her husband and two sons. the president of the literary agency in a represents writers of fiction and nonfiction, ranging from current affairs like pulitzer prize winner henrique's journey and men explain things to me and paradise built in hell call in the extraordinary disaster, and the best-selling funny, mexican time and mexican days and david's living the sweet life in paris. the fiction she represent range from the last chinese chef to antonio nelson's prize-winning short story collection and novels to all of the books in
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fiction and nonfiction by david foster. at the end, dan worked in various aspects of the publishing industry for 20 years. and executive editor at ballantine he published such award-winning books as the ice harvest by scott phyllis, the speed of light by elizabeth ruffner, down to a sound the sea by thomas steinbeck and among the missing, 2001 finalist for the national book award. he is executive editor for counter point press, one of the largest independent publishers in the country and one of the few located on the west coast. he acquires and edits action and nonfiction and his project include works by neil jordan, dana johnson, todd kohlberg and karen tender, 2015 finalist for the national book award. welcome to our panelists. [applause]
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>> i have a friend who recently called publishing a buggy whip business. do you feel you're making buggy whips? is everything we do antiquated? >> what is that? >> it is a thing you would make to move when driving your buggy. there is a spot that is very old-fashioned business that proceeds at a glacial pace. what do you think? >> no. creating magical apps, you can play with them on your phone, you can read them. it is cool being in la. many of us are from new york, where we are far from the television and movie business. we work on stories, stories exist in a lot of places and
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exist in tvs and films, even if people are not buying a walk -- a book but want to watch game of thrones, game of thrones was a book. working on stories in any media is perfectly moderate. >> people are still reading, they are reading on e-books but still reading books, i can't imagine -- we don't need buggy whips. >> having breakfast with reese witherspoon being a powerhouse in the book business and gwyneth paltrow and all these people starting in prince. and wanting to get into the book business, my entire publishing career has always been the sky
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is falling, what is the nature of this business? we spend our whole career doing this. i would say expect the opposite since these people want to do what we are doing and do every day. >> good point. do you want to add anything? >> that covered it. books are timeless. the connections our writers were able to form with readers is timeless, aspect of this business of interest to none of us that were antiquated. it is a creaky business but as progressive as we can be with all the different options now to read whether that is on a phone or an ipad or what have you and the essential act is what we do which is making them better and getting into your hands is timeless. >> i used to joke i got up every morning and put on a t-shirt
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that says old-school but i am proud of that. i have been in conferences where people rail against publishers for being gatekeepers. how do you feel about the gatekeeping function? they wrote something interesting, i wonder if you could answer first. >> i hope i can remember what i said to you about that. we are a conduit. we are here to -- put them in human's hands, going through publishing to do that but i don't think -- i think our job is to let people through the door, not keep people out of it. >> it is not always fun being a gatekeeper.
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i find people are astonished to discover how many people want to be writers. people who want to be writers are amazed that hundreds of thousands of other people want to publish books and they don't want to read their books. the other day -- i read 500 book proposals a year and published 12 books a year and those are things are represented by really talented book agents who have also looked at 500 manuscripts from people who want to write them. there is a lot of stuff out there. a lot of stuff out there. to find really interesting things is what we are passionate about. it is our passion to dig through big piles of stuff and find something really electric and exciting. to be a reader and to find things is very challenging. what i find all the time is people want book recommendations, what should i read? i don't know what to read, what should i read? to be able to say you should
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read this, i looked at a lot of stuff, this is the best i have seen all year, it is incredible, you should read it. it is a happy appearance for the reader, happy experience for me is a really happy experience for the writer. i see it as a service rather than a defense mechanism. >> how do you keep from getting overwhelmed when dealing with that many things happening in your eyeballs and brain, how do you keep from getting overwhelmed? >> as a gatekeeper we get 200 submissions a week every week, maybe five ask to see the entire proposal or the entire manuscript, out of this five may be one that we feel confident taking on and feel we can help the writer make the book shine and be the best possible book. the thing is if you keep reading
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bad things, would i know something good if it came across my desk? we have entrance where they are like how will i know? you will know. they are like -- you always know. it shines. there's something to a voice, something that captures you. i feel like you always know, the good ones always rise to the top. you can always tell. our job is to make it better but it always rises to the top and you can tell. >> the good ones also continue to be good at 4:30 p.m. as opposed to 10 am after coffee. at 10 am, this is incredible and 4:00 it is the worst i ever read. >> the fifth time you read them when you are editing them they continue to be good also. >> i find being overwhelmed we have probably been at peace with that many years ago. if you just did the numbers
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there will always be more writers and people who wish to write then those of us who can help and facilitate and publish that. i think that is probably just part of the job, feeling overwhelmed. publishing is a business and sometimes people forget that because there are so many other things you attach to writing. it is a hope, a dream, and aspiration but from the side it is a business and there are rules to follow within that business and i feel the system works. whatever words you wish to do as a gatekeeper, facilitator, there are ways in place that help us get to as many writers as we can. >> another way to think about it, i play music sometimes and when i was in younger i used to
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be in band, to start a band is to start a small business and some bands succeed really well because somehow a group of four or five people in the band have the talent to do the defending the business needs, not just to make the music but record the thing well and talk to the media and the press and be good business people and a right or whoever you are, whether you are sitting at your desk writing for yourself or a professional bestseller you have to think of your self if you are jacqueline smith, this is jacqueline smith's writing career and you hire people along the way to help you run your business are jacqueline smith hires a book agent in order to help sell her works to publishers, she hires a publisher in a certain way to help publicize her craft. there is another side we are working for the writers in a lot of ways and some writers have all those talents themselves and don't need publishers, they
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don't need the gatekeepers. some people don't have the talent of publicizing their own work and they need to hire people who can do the job for them. >> i was once at a speech jonathan glassy gave, he was saying his sister at that time worked at nestlé and had to explain publishing was like trying to figure out a marketing plan for every chocolate chip. >> this is also delicious but in a different way. >> that is a huge challenge. how do you decide who the market is for the book, how do you reach that market? >> you read the book 1st of all. >> do that. >> i know it sounds crazy, but there is this point when we are
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looking at things in a proposal, looking at acquiring things where we are talking about what the potential market is, we read the book that is the thing that answer the question for you the best, and we have things like comparable titles we use to think about what that market is but almost everything we have is like a separate chocolate chip. they are all separate products, people don't like that word, but being able to define what is different and unique and special and wonderful about that particular book, that particular product, helps you figure out what the audience is and then it is a math problem of figuring out different conduits to the audience, the job of the publisher is to be that conduit between the media, retailers and audience who want to read books like that book. >> a conduit to the reader.
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>> if readers find her books through following other writers on twitter, we need to do that. if readers find their books on the front table at a bookstore when they walk in, all those things are conduits. >> to what extent do you depend on the author to trail marketability? making their own gravy as marketers? >> i would be very interested to hear from agents what you think of that because we get proposals from you that help that this that is among the author's toolkit. sometimes the only thing the author does well is right, and that is fine. we need to know that so we know what other parts we need to fill in for someone or other ways we
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can utilize the other talent if we have more talents if they are great public speakers. if they have a huge media platform we want to use that but i don't think we require that of anyone. >> to what extent do you look for that care about it, not care about it? >> it is helpful, absolutely as an independent press we are 12 people doing 70 originals a year. it is not a small list or a small workload. each book is evaluated on its own merit and whatever strengths of the author may be may help us get the word out on the book is helpful. it is not a requirement, it is an advantage and something that will help the author for this book and all future works as
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well. >> as a long time agents, calls notwithstanding, publicity is often the weakest link in publishing because you wind up with a 22-year-old who does not read the book, at her first job and entire understanding of what to do for publicity is put a book in an envelope and send it off and nothing happens and when you ask them what are you doing? i sent all the review copies out. i am sure betsy knows this as well, yes, publishers spend more and more on what they referred to as a platform and some authors have a platform and some authors don't and some are good at social media and some shy away from it because what they do best is to write it is particularly hard with fiction as we will all tell you but even nonfiction when you have a
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subject matter people are interested in, whether it is science or food or plumbing, whatever it is. >> do you have a really good plumbing book you want to sell me? just thinking about that. >> chocolate chips. i would buy that right now. >> it helps when someone has a subject matter they are an expert in but it is true that publicity often is lacking and it does rely on the author doing as much as possible. >> smart authors think of publishers as microphones. the thing about microphones is whatever you say to them comes out louder and sometimes distorted so the best authors have very clear things that they say, very clear messages they want the publishers to promote and they help their publisher to spread them. one of my writers is caitlin doty, a young mortician who wrote a memoir called smoke is
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in your eyes. caitlin hits a lot of targets. she is a blogger with a small social media following, she is writing about dance and what happens to the body and people are curious about that. and she is creating fans, wouldn't go to play a show in seattle. and and here is the person to talk to. and
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>> if your work as promise, we will nudge you to improve your platform and suggest different ways and different consultants you could talk with. it can be difficult to sell your work if you are invisible. i like the band analogy a lot. you wouldn't go somewhere -- >> bands fail. >> i know. to go where their audience is or develop their audience. statistics on who makes a living as a writer kind of sad. the question of discoverability, where our industry is now is there is a resurgence among independent bookstores, who have been prized traditionally for
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their ability to encourage discoverability, consumer discovering a book. are there new ways of discoverability? the retail landscape the bill is challenged even though there is a resurgence of independent bookstores either new ways you guys are thinking of especially publishers of promoting discoverability? >> i would say discoverability happens on bookshelves in bookstores, from humans that work in bookstores, the frontline, people placing books in people's hands, that is why they are really important and more important, as shelf space dwindles and the retail landscape, i like social media,
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because it is a way for others to interact directly with their audience, something that was really hard for authors to do unless they had a volkswagen book -- a bus or a publisher willing to send them into the world to meet a lot of humans, you can meet a lot of humans who like reading books like yours and interact with them and develop not the same kind of relationship but develop a relationship with them through social media platforms. it is a way when we talk about platforms like how many novelists had a platform 20 years ago and there are plenty of novelists that have a platform now because they have a way to talk to people. at is another way for people to discover books, certainly not
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through the heartfelt conversation and building actual relationships. >> the best way still with all the social media and modern inventions the best way to discover writers is through word-of-mouth. that is the one thing we can never manufacture or expect. that is why this business is mostly magic and luck. we can get it reviewed everywhere, put it in front of you 50 different ways in bookstores and print media and social media but if that book doesn't catch on, if it doesn't capture your imagination, if you are not talking about it with your friends and other readers, we will be stuck. >> you hit the zeitgeist at the right moment. sometimes you do and sometimes you don't and when you do it is light likening natalie -- lightning in a bottle, you had the conversation or you change
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the conversation out there and it is not even something, once it starts, you can make the train move faster. it is an amazing thing. >> a lot of it, you made a good point about putting a book in front of people in a lot of places. discoverability is the biggest challenge publishers have. a lot of little things too, we work on keywords to make sure google searches are higher, make sure it is in bookstores if you happen to go to one, you will find it. make sure it is on the radio so if you are listening to the radio you might discover it their too. all of that is giving the book a chance to survive. we can't force you guys to walk to the cash register with a copy of the book and put down $25 to buy or click on amazon or whatever it is unless you really want to. we try to reduce the friction of
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you finding the book, make it is available and present for you but the book itself has to make you want to buy it. >> there is a huge element of serendipity in publishing which is why our motto is basically you never know. that is a really fun aspect of this industry and something that keeps us involved. >> a great business model too. it doesn't keep you up all night at all. >> what we do in our daily life aside from answering a ton of emails, is sell our enthusiasm for our authors but i would like the audience to get to know you panelists better and i want you to abandon all modesty and talk about what you think you're special knack is that serves you
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well in publishing. when i first met you i was struck by how extremely well you pitched your books just in conversation. that is a knack of yours. what do you think is your special thought? >> justify your existence. do it now. i just want to confirm this is live tv. i think it begins with personal and editorial act of discovery when you read something that moves me or touches me or illuminate something i didn't necessarily know about, a very exciting thing, whether a debut writer or continuing writer or whatever, that is the kind of initial burst of passion that
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fuels me as an editor and as someone who acquires a lot for a list and that initial passion that gets me through 5, 7, however many drafts we have to get through, more tedious aspects of the job, meeting upon meeting or whatever it may be so when you go out into the world and talk to other people about it, the natural spark, what you are hearing is this is what i found and can't wait to tell you and it happens a lot that is a great and joyful thing. >> i can say this with dan, having turned down a book that dan actually bought, i will not say the other's name, i couldn't see it. i couldn't figure out where she should go and you figured it out.
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we live in the same neighborhood driving somewhere, how did you figure out what to do with this? proceeded to explain it to me. >> yes. >> okay. >> i was very cryptic. probably staring out the window watching a bird. that is another kind of great old-fashioned creaky thing about this business. it is the same for us as it is for you. we could every one of us in this room read a book and all have different thoughts and feelings and opinions on it so i will read something and not get it and you will get it and have great success with it so the book found its right people. a lot of that remains absolutely true. that is one of the great aspect of this business and we have a diverse and interesting group of publishers and writers here.
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>> so i am a sucker for voice. someone who essentially takes you by the hand, come here, i will tell you a story, they just take you away with it. i suppose as an agent i tend to be fairly honest, you might even say brutally honest because because essentially i need editors to trust me and i need writers to trust me and i need editors and publishing people to trust me that if i say this is the one, this is really good, three bad things before this so they pay attention and read this right away, actually do. there are agents who are like yes, this is good enough, see if it sticks, i have never been that way and the few times i tried it always lit up my face,
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that didn't work out at all. i take on what i love because if i don't it doesn't work. you have to tell writers the truth. part of what we do as agencies manage expectations. i remember years ago a woman writer who was well known but not best-selling and not famous was like i would like to be in the new york times like on the front page. i would really like to be a writer in residence somewhere. i would like a tv deal or a movie deal and i looked at her, i am an agent, not a fairy godmother. i am sure you know this, part of what we do is manage expectations of what is possible and what isn't possible. >> to echo what dan and bonnie
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said, if you succeed in this business you can figure out how to convey your optimism and enthusiasm for a book in a way that makes people want to open the cover and read it and you find a lot of joy in being able to do that, something that sustains you and you get excited over and over again about discovering a voice or discovering a story and wanting to share that with the world, it is up really thrilling thing to be able to do. >> what was the question? >> what is your special knack? >> a special song? >> we are publishing a book. >> i saw that. >> the books i like tell me how the world works.
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one of the first books was the art world, 7 days in the art world, about each chapter took place in a different institution as sociology, how does that work, it opened at an art auction, christie's art auction, selling $10 million and the writer goes on to describe $10 million and the others worth nothing, and more valuable than a green and the market dynamics, and go to la, and sits in a grad school course and the professor talking about breaking all the rules and she notices everybody breaks the rules and things look like art. does that make sense? it was a book that showed intellectually, physically and economically how a particular community operated. the rules of it. i found that really interesting and always look for books that
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explain how things work, the hidden substrate of culture or business or society or period of history. that is the sort of nonfiction, narrative is important. i love nonfiction storytellers and i love novelists who bring ideas, we are publishing her novel next month, her fourth novel, it is at once a thriller, a woman is on the run and her husband is chasing her, you heard that story before but by the end of the book it turns into a story of the fate of humanity, where we are going if we keep doing what we are doing to the planet, it is all these big philosophical ideas you come to while reading a great story. so i think books that are able to give us a different perspective on the world and show us how things work so we come in and use that elsewhere in our lives, those are the books i really love. from a business standpoint i
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always want to tell a story about an author. we all read books because there are a lot of reasons. a constellation of reasons to pick a book up and spend money on it but also spend time on it. there is other stuff you can do, a novel takes however many hours to read or nonfiction book, to do that you have to have a lot of reasons for it. i like to say this author thought this way, went to this experience and thinks this way and that is why he is telling the story now, this book is informed by this author's experience and there is a theory of our criticism and the artist intention should have nothing to do with a product that they made and we all respond to the story on the page but also the story of how the page came to be. i like books where i am able to talk about a writer in a way that i narrowed it as much as i can. >> i love that we are in a
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business where love is a factor. you can see this and all the panelists. i often think back to my days of being an english major when no one cared if i loved beowulf or not. it is really uplifting to be in a business where how we feel about what we are representing the publishing or publicizing factors in to our work. did you want to say something? >> no. but love is really important and there is a measure of belief we feel with any piece of work, and so much stuff is art fixed but you have to believe the story is real and it matters to you. you have to believe this author is worth listening to and there ideas are valid, they are not charlatans, their advice is
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going to help you become thinner and have more sex and become richer or that their history will tell you what happened in 1776 better than anything else and that kind of authenticity and conviction is important and those stem from a love of the topic of the writer or the story. >> my most successful books have been almost without exception little engines that could, started small and ended up with movie deals or sold 1 million copies. one of them, the tribes of palos verdes i sold 20 years ago for not much money to saint martins after seeing a fragment she wrote in a little literary magazine that was only distributed in my silverlake neighborhood called one little ball and she wrote very beautifully about a girl who served. when the book came out it went to the bestseller list, she was
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on the cover of everything, there were foreign sales. it has been under option for 20 years and is now being made into a film starring jennifer garner. it started out really small and i love those. i adore them. do you have any similar little engines that could stories you would like to share with your audience? >> an independent press, every engine is a little engine that could. we are and -- what you are waiting for is going out on huge level, and talk about beautiful and wonderful writer named karen vendor who struggled for years, a couple short stories and nice
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magazines, we collected them into a book called refund which was beautiful and amazing but a story collection, this business teaches you to manage your expectations when it comes to short fiction. we published it in january, the reviews happened almost immediately to great acclaim. she was put on the contest for the franco connor prize and a finalist for the national book award last year. that would be my cinderella story from a deeply talented writer who had faced adversity and struggle and placing these stories and had a wonderful experience with her collection. >> i think we all have stories like that. i would use the book men explain things to me which is a book
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that hit the site guist at the right moment. i represented her for 20 years, we met in san francisco. i sold her first book for $10,000 to range rover revolutionaries, they drive the range rover's, never pay royalties. i know this is live tv. >> this is on live tv. >> you make good tv. >> notice the -- lots of versions of the same story. this book men explain things to me was a collection of essays some of which you can find on the internet if you looked. i sold it to a really small publisher called haymarket which is two guys in a room in new york and it took off and every
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young woman read it. everyone tweeted it, excellent essays about gender politics and men and women and communication and it keeps going and going and many thousands of copies because it was the right book at the right moment. >> first book i ever worked on in publishing i worked at an independent press which is not so little anymore called 7 stories press and our publisher had bought a collection of nonfiction essays, a homeless crack addict who lived in the tunnels under grand central station for ten years. he was a smart guy, a camera man, working in advertising and
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a casual drug user who fell over the edge after his brother died of aids, the book deal was made because the publisher, dan simon, bought a copy of street news from someone on the train, his train got caught between stations and he read the whole thing and noticed even though a couple stories had different bylines they were all written by the same person and were really well-written and all about the experience of living as a homeless person in new york city and having a crack habit. he gave, can't remember, a couple thousand dollars he gave, it took him several years to write the book, he had to -- he was going to rehab and finally finishing the collection, kurt vonnegut read it.
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this book landed in my lap and they said any publicity for this? and being able to tell the story of the writer as well as my telling in the book. and i called people because i had no idea what i was doing, cnn crews followed them around going under the tunnel to grand central and i think maybe they advanced 3000 copies of that book and sold 50,000 copies. lee stringer is a writer today who has written a couple of books and i thought this is what publishing is like? this is great! i think thinking about that, that i could have the opportunity to get somebody's voice out in the world like that
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is something that makes me have a spring in my step when i go to work every day. >> that is a great story. one of my heroes i have to say, it is really exciting to have you tell that story. mine you mentioned in the intro, born in 1919, nearly numb 100 years old, lived through world war ii, lived all the 20th century, she was a book publisher who published all the great american, hit the booze so she could finish her novel, she used to say when things got bad at least i am not married to nightfall, was the worst. she wrote this book on her 89th birthday called somewhere towards the end, what it is like
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to be very old. >> a great title. >> it opens with this incredible scene where someone bought her a tree, imagined a big beautiful tree for and that would be in her garden and she would gaze on it from her window and realize i am not going to be there as these get any bigger. because i am quite old, can't get a dog because it is not fair to the dog. she wrote about it so precisely and honestly, unflinching about the problems but also the beauty of it. the book was wonderful, 190 perfect pages. not a word out of it, it was published in england, the english rights director came to my office, said you never heard of her? it is about being old. don't you want to buy it? i don't want to do that, who wants to do that? i fell in love with it and made a small offer and they sold it.
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they started publishing it and started sending out copies of it, handwritten notes, went to alice munro, famous writers i admired and started getting calls back, paula fox called me, i read this book, too old to review it but i think it is wonderful, send me a postcard. she won a nobel prize. it came out in december, and a front-page review, started taking off, things started sparking, it hit the bestseller list. she went on to win in the
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critics circle and became -- uk letters and when she won book circle awards, went to this dinner and here i was, back seat. had publishing lady and walked into the room and they all responded as if a great beauty had arrived, she was 91, here i am at 91, a showstopper. i went to england last year, she is a national treasure, someone everyone calls to talk about being old always. she is beloved and i am going to see diana, moving to the old folks home, gave people a lot of courage, i am going to see her. it became a were shocked tests of people hiding. you should bring her a book you love. that is not going to go
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anywhere, should bring a big bottle of whiskey. that is a better idea. one publisher said you should print her a really hot caribbean man. that is exactly what she wanted. she is the little engine that could. >> i love those stories, i adore them. we will open up to a few minutes of questions. very practical question. what can writers do to increase their chances of being published? >> they should write really well. >> i thought someone might say that. >> maintain good attitude. people who can publish your book or publicize your book are overwhelmed, they get a lot of submissions, asked to do a lot of things and have a lot of homework to do. if you are polite to them and help them out and seek to understand what their role is rather than saying why haven't you got me in the new york times yet, that goes a long way.
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>> maybe remembering they want to get you in the new york times, publishers want the same things writers want, agents want, the same thing they want, most number of people to read your book, that is how the word-of-mouth happens, how more people find the book and more people read the book. we are working towards the same end. >> even in the la times, i would say as a writer to do research. research agents, research publishers, look on your bookshelf, see if you can find the agent who represents those people because the more you go into the process the better and faster it is for you to find the right person. do your homework before you
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start because it gets rid of a lot of disappointment because you are going to the right peop as opposed to the wrong people. >> to professionalize yourself, think of your writing as a career and work yourself up from the bottom and you are not going to magically become malcolm gladwell or some famous writer. you have to work hard for a lot of years and a lot of professional steps you have to take and learn what those are is really important. >> to be part of the community, read, come to events, be a part of the community you wish to join. it is not difficult, not hard, but it is necessary and helpful. >> that is really important. i maintain i am often approached because my last name begins with a. that is not a compelling reason. we would love to hear your questions.
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we have 11 minutes. if you would line up at the microphone and speak clearly we will try to answer your questions. >> i heard the statistic recently that 80% of books are bought because of the cover art. if that is true it is kind of sad i think that people are not buying it for the content. do you have any experience or comments on that? >> a good cover can help sell a book but you assume when people do, the cover can catch your eye but what most people do is read the first page and then the second page and see if it appeals to them and decide whether to spend their money on it or not. it helps, but it is not the be all end all. >> do you think that statistic is wrong? 80% sounds awfully high. >> i think that presumes that people buy anything for one
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reason, which is a false presumption. it is hard to quantify something like that. >> i don't know about that test. >> the subtext, is the game rigged. a cover can determine so much and i don't think so. it can be very helpful but the question i was asking myself is can i think of books that have terrible covers that sold a lot of copies? yes. >> thank you. >> i wanted to thank you guys for coming out. as novel writing month winner or accomplish her or leader i'm in the stone skin phase of sending out queries. any advice on how to write a better query or what you look for and a query that jumps out, you get 500 a year, 200 a week,
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what helps jump out off of the query page to say maybe i want to look deeper into this? >> i think it is they are extremely well written. it is a professional moment for you and you would be amazed by what we get. i am not a writer but i wrote a book. i have a whole comedy routine i do a conferences, they are alarming. the good letters stand out and you want to be able to describe your book succinctly and position it, part of the little parlor game we play, what else would you add? >> don't compare yourself to hemingway and thomas pynchon in the same sentence because it doesn't work.
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put them in different sentences. in different sentences you are fine. >> if you are reading out of the literary scene you will know that a new book just came out in february and it is by this particular writer and it is kind of like that and i am friends with her because i went to her book event, demonstrating knowledge of the scene, where we are now. it doesn't help me if you are like voorhees, you have to be somebody who is writing in contemporary. >> the any advice on any channels on how to -- i don't remember who said look at the back of books that you have on your bookshelf, are there different ways or channels i can look for to find key masters for the gatekeeper? >> there is a website called publishers marketplace. there is a huge wealth of information. >> thank you so much.
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>> i am not a negative person but i'm about to go a little negative. i will try to be coherent. i want to challenge something dan said a little earlier, publishing is a business, there are rules to follow and i feel the system works. i was hoping to get you speaking a little more about that. i have been working in the publishing industry between 9 years, all the evidence i have seen is it is only working for the people already in the system. young people are getting pushed out of their jobs, people of color not being represented in the industry as much as they are in the world and i was hoping you could give me some evidence of where it is working, how it is working, who is making it work and especially how it is working for people who aren't already sitting at the table having these jobs. >> i didn't say that, did i?
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that quote you used, we were talking about the gatekeeping and submission part of the industry meaning new writers have to find agents who work with them to find good homes as opposed to writers trying to approach publishers themselves or go off on their own thing. that was a specific part of the business. if you want to talk about the changing demographics or not changing demographics of those people who work in the industry that is a different industry. >> a big problem, diversity is a huge problem in publishing. number of people of color who have editorial jobs is very low and it is deeply distressing. and that is the thing. all we can do is be aware of our
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own biases and tried to overcome them. >> publishing is open to all sorts of sources, and talking about gender, most publishing editors and agents are open to this and very aware of this, and increase, it is true and not particularly diverse industry, but not for lack of trying. >> to echo what bonnie says it is not -- and outside of publishing, people need to be asking that question and looking
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at ourselves and actively trying to make our workforce not just an editorial department but make the entire workforce more diverse because that will foster more diverse voices of all kind true publishing. any industry you try to get started is hard to get a job in. in the last year. >> it is an apprenticeship business. we all worked our way up and the whole business is based on apprenticeship. >> it is a great panel topic. >> i am a teacher, constantly
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working for good literature, well-done books to pass on to students and one of my concerns is, a lot of entertainers publishing books, i don't think they are actually good literature. getting to your level becomes there entertainers and we put their name out and hope they make money? >> it is instructive to go to book expo, the major book publishing industry show that happens in a different city every year because you see how many different kinds of books are published every year and to a certain extent the market determines what gets covered and what gets bought. if you are famous you have a platform and there are people who have heard your name who might be interested in your story and that is the basic market demand for celebrity
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memoirs. i work for a publishing company that is independent. we have a huge academic division, we are expanding to sell really good books to high school students and ap students and try to get good books in the hands of smart young people who want to read and it is tough to cut through the noise of what appears to be a lot of celebrity blather but there are really good books, lots and lots of them. in a lot of ways we are trying to connect with teachers like you to find good books. publishers publish schlock because it makes money. we tried to publish good stuff because it also makes money and people want to read celebrity memoirs, a lot of people do. >> it is not the memoirs i'm talking about but the fluff really -- and depending on the celebrity they have a great
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story to tell. but often they don't, they just -- >> also make a point for reading begetting reading. we are very proud to publish things that i consider incredibly great literature.
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>> stumbling around in the, as a writer in the business for 25 years and have really written a number of books that haven't gotten anywhere, i was under the illusion that self-publishing had thrown a rock into traditional publishing, so i went that route. and now i have books where i'm stuck with distribution, hence, have still not gotten anywhere. so do you accept books that were self-published? that's the question. >> we've bought books that were self-published. >> you do? >> the majority of the books are original. it's better for us to have published them originally and not to have been published beforehand, but if the book is succeeding in the ecosystem, it makes a lot of sense to amplify -- >> i understand that. i'm talking about books that sat
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in your house in boxes. [laughter] but your panel has given me hope. thank you. >> oh, that's wonderful. >> thank you so much. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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>> host: and you're watching booktv's live coverage of the los angeles times festival of books here on the campus of the university of southern california. that was the first panel of the day, and that was a panel on publishing. coming up in about a half hour or so, an author panel on history is next. now, our full schedule is available at our web site at booktv.org. the l.a. times festival of books is held here on the campus of the university of southern california for the past four years or so. prior to that it's in its 21st year. it was held on the campus of ucla. our schedule available at booktv.org. >> and now joining us on our call-in t heret l.a. i author and actor taye diggs. his most recent book is called "mixed me!." mr. diggs what inspired "mixed me!"? >> guest: my son.
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he is a product of a mixed relationship. he is african-american and his mother being a russian jewish white woman. >> host: have you had issues? >> guest: luckily we have them enrolled in school or there are more kids that look like him, then the other. but i still felt it was important for me to tell his story just because there are so many people out there regardless of ethnicity that feel different and kids these days especially in light of all of the bullying and what not need to know that it's okay to have a healthy self-esteem and it's okay to love and appreciate oneself and that is what this book is about. it's a series. the first one is about my own experiences and the second one
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is "mixed me!". the characters loosely based on my cell. >> host: 9 million people according to the u.s. census bureau argument five is being from a mix parenthood. what are some of the issues that mixed kids space? >> guest: oh my goodness it goes on and on and on. for starters identification. you know what and who and whom they identified. i got into a how about recently with this book. i was trying to explain to the interview that i want him to be proud of both his mother and his father and a lot of the african-americans kind of contingency interpreted me as saying i didn't want my son to be called lack.
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lack. that can get pretty hairy because there's a difference between ethnicity and identity. in america you have a few jobs of black blood in you and you are supposed to identify with being black and what you are supposed to do. a lot of african-americans take offense to that. when i was just saying i want him to see both sides of that's an issue. when i was growing up some of the mixed kids were forced to pick what kind of friends you know. if you are mixed and you hung out with a white kids anywhere like enough for the white person. there were issues. there are issues of people mistaking you for something that you are not.
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i don't know how many times friends of mine have been chilling out and somebody walks up to them and speak spanish to them. so you know, it's an issue and now that i'm getting older and doing the press for this book i'm hearing all the stories of young people who have a certain period of their childhood taken from them because they weren't allowed to identify with their white mother or their latin father because they would -- in school and some of the stories are really bad. it's too bad how we all -- i understand that but we as human beings we feel the need to categorize and you know label just for our own edification you
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know what i i mean instead of just accepting people for who they are. >> host: taye diggs will be with us for the next 20 minutes or so. if elected colon we are talking about his book is "mixed me!." his first book was chocolate me and we are talking about generally the issue of race in america particularly from his perspective. 2027488200 if you live if you live in a central timezone 748-8201 and for those amount of pacific timezones. if you want to send a text message (202)717-9684. we also have a couple of ways that you can contact us by social media, twitter and facebook did we will put those of dresses up as we go along as well. taye diggs you mentioned there was a bit of a kerfuffle when you are doing press for this book but i'm going to quote you hear and let you talk about
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this. we are talking about president obama here and this is you speaking. everybody refers to him as the first black president and i'm not saying it's wrong, i'm just saying it's interesting. it would be great if it didn't matter and people could call him that. do you consider him to be the first black president? >> guest: i do, do but that's only because i'm playing by the rules that have already been said. i always tell my friends i'll bet you you know i would bet you that growing up there were black folks that did not accept him or black folks have said he talked white and you know after you reach a certain level lot of times the same black folk turn that around and say now that you've established yourself now we can accept you. we as a race because of slavery
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we have been put through so much that when it comes to identity a confusing. it's really confusing. i can understand you know how we as a people want to find as many as possible. i get that but at some point that's going to have two and because where do you draw the line? where are you going to drop a line to ask there are some black people that are brighter than you and have been treated certain ways their entire lives and it's not fair. i think at some point we are going to have to move on. >> host: do you think that because of your notoriety as an
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actor that perhaps her son has an easier time of it? >> guest: i would probably say yes only in that we have a little bit of money so we can afford to send them to certain schools where diversity is paramount. what is experience would be were he to go to public school. i don't know. but this is what i do know. regardless of who i am he's going to come across some problems. he is going to come a cross some kids whether it's college or high school or wall street that are going to ask him with whom
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he identifies. i remember a while back tiger woods not saying that he was black and everybody getting so upset. for me it just made sense, you know. but people when it to ethnicity and race, people take it very seriously. with good reason but we have got to try to move on. >> host: 2016, when you think about the conversations, the conditions of race and ethnicity? >> guest: you know it's getting better. it's nowhere near, you know i will try to stay positive. it's getting better. it's getting better. we have got a ways to go but it's getting better and i'm very
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hopeful. i'm trying to come from a place of understanding and love. people can get very angry and aggressive and at times it can become easy to kind of fall into a defensive mode but i'm trying. i'm trying to understand and be apathetic and hopefully you know we all can kind of walk in unity with that, and it will get better. >> host: you want to write a children's book. what's the number one rule for writing a children's book for you? >> guest: i don't know man, for me it's got to be fun. i've decided i've found my own kind of rhyming rhythm poetry
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and i've been very fortunate to work with one of my very best friends. i call her my cousin. it's shane evans is the illustrator and being able to work with one of your best friends is awesome. being able to see him you know what art into the words that i have come up with you know it's like opening presents on christmas morning. >> host: let's take some calls. taye diggs you have seen them have seen them in rent and eutzy midwicket. you have seen him how stella got her groove back. you've seen him and private tract is in the good life as well -- the good life as well. the first call for him is dorothy in haiti missouri. dorothy you are on booktv. good morning. >> caller: good morning. >> caller: good morning.
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hello? >> guest: good morning. >> host: dorothy please go ahead with your question or comment. cocco my granddaughter, she is mixed and she is absolutely beautiful and she is great. we kind of have a different sort of problem here in our school with her. she has problems with the black kids in school. we had to take her out of school and homeschool her. quite kids have accepted her but the black kids are the ones that are bowling her and giving her trouble but yes our time, we have small rural town and its there are but that is what has surprised us. so do you have any explanation for that?
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>> guest: i mean there are tons of people out there that can relate and i'm sorry that your family has to go through that. but as i said earlier, you know i guess i should say you know most ethnicities that have been disenfranchised have issues and that is one of the issues that we as a race kerry, wanting to include or not include people for certain reasons based on how they look or how they speak or how they dress and how that kind
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of place and to race. once again it's powerful and it can be hurtful and it can be harmful. and that's something we need to work on. >> host: this is is dan and kim to missouri. go ahead, dan. >> caller: i had a relationship with a number of black either friends or working and my question is how do you feel about the psychological effects of blacks in america who don't ascribe to being african? >> host: what did you hear
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from that? >> guest: what did i hear? the gentleman wants to know where i stand on i guess and correct me if i'm wrong, african-americans that don't identify with being african. that's an interesting question. once again, you know we are making up these rules as we go along and the difficulty with that is that there is no real right or wrong when making it up. african-american is a made-up word. i don't know for a fact if my lineages from africa but that's a term that we can work with.
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it's hard to speak on something like that when there is no semantic answer. i think the term comes from a time when black people needed to feel like a group of me needs to feel, we need to feel unified, strong, powerful, so once again i get it but when you are making things up as you go along, you start to run into some bumps in the road and you get people up there are that want exact answers. when it comes to race and ethnicity and prejudice there are no exact answers.
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posts of the last two calls were from missouri in the next two calls are from california. do you think that the problem or the issues faced by those two in missouri are going to be the same issues faced out here in southern california? >> guest: sure, sure. it's all over. it permeates the world. it's all over. that's one thing you cannot count on, unfortunately. you can always count on people drawing lines and wanting to separate unfortunately. i feel like it's part of our nature, do you know what i mean? making a judgment so that you can identify them and better understand them. and i think through the years we
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have tried to do that in many different ways and race has been one of them, you know. that's why you have issues with blacks. i remember in college i was an african-american studies class and as we were talking about stereotypes there were so young black man outside the window and for five kids pointed them out and said that's a white sport and why is he doing out white sports? you know as opposed to what, playing basketball and you have people getting upset with -- basketball because you are
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black. it's muddy and messy and you know it's complicated. >> host: lily in here in los angeles you are on with author's taye diggs. please go ahead. cocco thank you. i have never really read any of your books but for the past 22 years i have been going to an indian reservation in south dakota and one of those amazing things that i heard from legitimate -- is that do you know if you are a full-blooded indian the fbi would not trust you but if you are a mixed indian -- why is that? they think that full-blooded
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indians cannot be trusted that the that mixed indian and can be trusted. i remember --. >> host: lily thank you for that. in a response for that? >> guest: you know all of these questions, the answers are the comments they all come from a similar place and we as a people and a lot of cases where ruled i fear. a similar situation is african-americans, you know a lot of mixed race folks are considered to have good hair. when i was growing up the dash african-american was considered better looking.
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so it's something that we are stuck going with and as i continue to say i can understand where it comes from but at the end of the day i think its more polarizing that there is more of a spirit of that than bringing people together. mostly you grew up in newark new jersey? >> i was born in newark and raised in new york. >> host: karen is in pasadena in the southern california area. hi aaron. go ahead with your question or comment. cocco hello, thank you for taking my call. but would like to ask mr. diggs with regards to understand you exclusively date white women i guess my question would be if you delve than this psychology around that and the other question i have is with regard to the societal ills that black
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americans face in this country can we really afford to be taking on the struggle that mixed race kids have? how do we embrace something else >> host: are you african-american? >> caller: yes, i am. >> guest: first off i don't date exclusively white women. that's wrong. so there's that and secondly our problem is a problem and problems need to be dealt with. and my son, i love my son. if he causes me on the sidewalk i don't let the cut on his knee bleed as i'm taking care of the earache. i help him with his earache and that i help him with his cut. problems need to be solved and
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it's just that simple. i find it difficult to believe or understand how being a member of the earth you would say certain problems need to be taken care of and some problems as opposed to others. what about the homeless? what about education? are we supposed to ignore all of those problems and just deal with the problems that african-americans have? no. we have problems. it in me to deal with it. >> host: have you heard those comments before? >> guest: not this one, no. post a couple of text that we have received that i would like to congratulate taye diggs for saying what a lot of people are
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simply afraid to speak about. keep that -- keep up the good work. you can include your first name and city, that would be great and this one as well come a shout-out to taye diggs for the movie the wood. about friendship and growing up and here's one from caro in detroit. what race do you consider your son, black, white, mixed and why? >> guest: raise? i will answer that if the person can define race. >> host: it via text. >> guest: you do find it. >> host: leyna in landover maryland in the washington d.c. area. you are on with taye diggs. >> caller: hi or they want to congratulate on your -- congratulate you on your project. >> guest: thank you so much. >> caller: we are all god's
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children first of all. >> guest: first of all, good point. >> caller: let's start there and when you allow that egg to meet that and life is created we are all here because we are all meant to be here. i must conclude by saying i am 51 years old. i am african-american. i know that my roots and my origin comes from -- my people were forced to from that region so that's how i identify myself as african-american but i am 51. i've never been married and i have no children but i just think it's sad that we put our own desires to love -- i'm glad you found someone that you can love and you can share that portion of your life with that created a life. but i think it's sad for people who choose inter-racial -- inter-racial relationships do
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not consider that legacy they are passing on to their children in the world of racism and bigotry. i just hope that if i find someone i am too old now but if i do i want to not pass on related to my selfishness. >> host: you are 51 years old. has the relationship, conversation etc. about race in america change in their lifetime? >> caller: i don't think it is changed. i think that it has become more exposed. .. european father.
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so while i'm sure during my mother's mother's era -- she was born in -- the 7th would have been her birthday,. she would have been 102. rest in peace. >> host: all right, brea, we're going to have to live -- leave it there, i apologize. taye diggs, what did you hear from brea? >> guest: i, i understand where she's coming from, and i, you know, i commend her. she has the right to, you know, to date or hold any kind of relationship she chooses. ask that's her prerogative. -- and that's her prerogative. for me, i choose to work from the heart. and as she said, accept and
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appreciate all of god's children. you know? if you pick one specific type, there's no way you can pick one specific type without excluding others. and i believe in being inclusive. period. is writing addictive? is there a third book? >> guest: oh, yes. there's going to be more. yes, yes. i'm very excited. >> host: the next one? >> guest: it's a secret. [laughter] it's a secret, sir. >> host: all right. >> guest: oh, my goodness. >> host: mixed me -- >> guest: yes. >> host: is the name of the book. the author, taye diggs. thanks for being on booktv. >> guest: good to see you, my friend. all right. >> host: booktv's live coverage from the l.a. times festival of books continues. now, we're going back to an author panel on history, and you're going to hear from three different authors. after that we've got several call-ins, several more author panels coming up, and you can find our full schedule at booktv.org.
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this is live coverage from the l.a. times festival of books. >> patient and constitutional law. his dramatic new book, "dark places of the earth: the voyage of the slave slip antelope," is an eye-opening account of a little known yet horrifying episode in american history. and here's book. but you can get it later. so, jonathan, bring us back to what happened with that ship and the supreme court case that followed. so what happened in 1880, 1821? >> in 1819 a slave trader left cuba to voyage to africa for a load of newly-enslaved blacks for the cuban sugar economy. while they were there off the coast of africa, they were captured by a privateer. these were ships with a commission.
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this ship had a commission from the revolutionary government of what would become uruguay. and having captured the ship, they set off back to the western hemisphere with 321 living captives aboard the antelope. there was a ship wreck. the privateer was destroyed on the coast of brazil, and so the antelope itself continued north trying to find a market. this is 1820. the united states with, france, great britain and holland have all outlawed the international slave trade. so they're desperately searching, in essence, for a black market in which to sell these enslaved people. they're finally captured off the coast of amelia island, florida, by a revenue cutter and brought in to savannah, georgia, where 258 -- and, remember, there were 321 to begin with -- 258 living captain -- captives emerge from
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the vessel emaciated. half can't walk. average age, 14. 41% are 10 or younger. and they're, however, worth a fortune. if enslaved. the legal community in savannah begins their struggle to divide up these people and to profit from them when suddenly the united states attorney there asserts that, no, these are free people, and they should be returned to africa. that attorney's fight continues on for eight years, goes to u.s. circuit court six times, to the u.s. supreme court three times. and the supreme court issues arguably one of its most important rulings on slavery in this case. i suspect many people here can guess the direction that ruling went. the ruling, in essence, was that
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the law of private property superseded natural human rights. this is a devastating ruling for people who are interested in destroying slavery. and interestingly, however, this case had largely been lost. we were talking about epic, what makes something epic. well, if this was epic, how is it it was forgotten? and that, too, i think, is a little bit of an interesting story, but i've gone on long enough. >> not at all. so for another forgotten period in american history, the revered historian richard reeves -- [laughter] your past new york times "frontline" journalist, author of "thousand days in the kennedy white house" professor here at usc and he's here to talk about
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the japanese interment in world war ii. and he took my book, but i'm returning it to him. [laughter] here it is, it's a wonderful book. >> hi, good morning. my voice hasn't come yet, but there are a lot of pair rells between your story -- parallels between your story and my story. at the heart of my story, which is the incarceration in concentration camps of 120,000 japanese-americans in world war ii, two-thirds of them american citizens, and they were treated -- as were the africans, as were the tories after world war, after the revolution, the irish need not apply, slavery, the trail of tears -- are all part of an american fabric which
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we would like to forget and not have epics. i wanted to do, like many other people, i grew up in the east. i knew nothing about the japanese internment. and as i found out traveling the country with this book, most people east of the sierras and the cascades don't either. but what happened was that an unlikely group of american villains led by franklin d. roosevelt, roger baldwin, walter lippman, edward r. murrow fanned, along with the los angeles times and san francisco chronicle, fanned all the flames of fear after the japanese attacked pearl harbor on december 7, 1941. within weeks the governor -- the attorney general of california had begun drawing up a plan along with the army to basically lock up all the
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japanese-americans, none of whom were ever charged with a crime or with anything except having different colored skin. they were taken to ten camps. well, they were first taken to relocation centers. the biggest one around here 18,000 were put in stalls and fields at santa anita, living in stables. same thing was happening in fresno, san francisco. they were held for three or four months in relocation centers in almost unbelievable conditions particularly as with regard to health until ten camps were built around the country in places where people had never lived before and have never lived since. mostly high deserts and swamps. and then in sealed cranes they were taken, the japanese-americans -- all japanese-americans, one drop of
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blood was the standard set by the justice department -- and they went so far as to scour the orphanages of the west coast and take any japanese or japanese-american orphans out. they, any adopted -- if caucasians had adopted japanese children, those were picked up by the fbi and put into the camps. the story goes on. the story really -- the parallel is that this is a great country, but it, when people have come as today because we needed the labor, they were criminated against -- discriminated against by us until they became us. because we are them. but i'll stop here.
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i'll talk later about what the japanese-americans did. most decorated soldiers in world war ii, about how the college students -- many of them graduates of this school, of ucla, berkeley, stanford -- organized the camps into small american towns. and in the end, earl warren's theory was since there had never been an attack -- he was trying to run for governor. he did and he won. there had never been any japanese-american sabotage on american soil. that was proof positive they were planning one big, coordinated attack planned in tokyo. the drawings more that first plan were -- for that first plan were done by a newspaper cartoonist by the name of theodore geisel. we later knew him as dr. seuss. and they were held there for up
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to four or five years. earl warren becomes chief justice -- becomes governor, becomes chief justice of the united states. and if there is redemption, which he desperately wanted -- i'll talk about that if people are interested -- there's no doubt in my mind that what he did in 1942 was the reason for what he did in 1954 in brown v. board of education. those events, too, are epic in length. >> fascinating. all right. we'll leave you for a moment and go back to -- [inaudible] so let's go to the sort of most recent past. i see that tragedy knows no borders. >> i say one more thing? >> yes. >> i'm so sorry. the other thing to take away is that the supreme court decisions
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which never ruled this as unconstitutional and were never heard until after the 1944 elections so that as one justice has said what happened in 1942 is like a loaded gun on the constitution. and i wrote this book because i think we're perfectly capable of doing the same thing again to muslims, to border crossers, to anyone we suddenly become afraid of. sorry. >> no, that's fantastic. i mean, it gets to the idea that what makes epic history is the fact that it's resonant, and it extends so far. so, dan, dan ephron, past jerusalem chief for "newsweek", daily beast, has written a wonderful book called "killing a king: the assassination of yitzhak rabin and the remaking of israel." it looks at the assassination of a prime minister by a law
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student and extremist. you brilliantly piece together the story of the assassination, but you used it more as a prism for israel today. here's the book. and you talk a little bit about the implications of that assassination and how you actually constructed? >> so i covered israel in the mid '90s. i was set to cover this peace rally where rabin was assassinated. it was a peace rally that was called by government in a way to gauge the support that their policies towards the palestinians had. whether there was a lot of support or not a lot of support. i went out to cover that rally, and this was supposed to be a very short story, you know? several thousand people show up, that means that rabin's situation is good, or the contrary, very few people show up, and rabin's situation is not so good. and it turned out to be a very big rally, and at the end of
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that rally, rabin was assassinated. he was killed by a young man, a 25-year-old jewish extremist who was a law student, quite a smart and impressive young man. i think that was one of the things that surprised me in writing this book. so that was in the mid '90s. i left israel and eventually was sent back by "newsweek" to be the bureau chief in 2010, and sometime after that decided to write the book. in part because it felt very relevant. it felt that that moment in 1995 was a very significant be moment, maybe the most significant in israel's recent history post, let's say post-1967. and it felt that way in part because as the prospects for peace between israelis and palestinians dwindled, declined, that moment in 1995 where maybe it could have happened, maybe with rabin and with arafat, that
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the fact that this 25-year-old law student had managed to do really the impossible, to get past israeli security. think of everything you know about israeli security. it's very tough. he managed to get through the line of bodyguards and to assassinate rabin. that was the starting point. what happened in that moment. and the book starts two years earlier. it starts with that handshake. you probably remember the iconic image of clinton reaching out his long arms to almost nudge rabin and arafat together on the stage at the white house. the signing of toes low deal -- the oslo deal. and it charts the course, the book charts the course of the two years from that moment through the assassination in alternating chapters. one on rabin and what he was trying to do, his quest to achieve peace with the
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palestinians, but really overall peace between israel and its neighbors and to sort of normalize israel's condition in the region. that was his quest. and then the quest of this young man, this extremist, yigal amir, to stop rabin. he watches that ceremony on television at his home and says to himself right away two years before the assassination, he says if this continues, if we are unable to subvert this process in some way through protests or demonstrations, then i'm willing to give my life in order to get close enough to kill rabin. the assassination happens in november. it was 20 years ago, 20 years and a few months. the book came out around the anniversary of the assassination. and then within six months power shifts in israel from the
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pragmatists, rabin and his left-leaning labour party, from the pragmatists to the idealogues. netanyahu becomes prime minister six months after the assassination for the first time. and really the story -- that is the story of the last 20 years. netanyahu has been prime minister, i think, for ten of those twenty years, and so it's the story about the assassination, but the broader issue is this change that's swept over israel in that period. >> that -- let's go back to that idea of how the past echoes. and we can go back to your idea that how the internment actually is reflected in what's going on in america today. >> well, i assume everybody knows what's going on in america today. but i had, the book i wrote before this was about the berlin air lift. and i wrote it because of abu
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ghraib and my own view of what america is at its best. and i thought that a way to tell that story was to talk about the daring young men -- that was the book's title -- who glue the berlin air lift -- flew the berlin air lift less than two years after they had given up four years of their lives for world war ii. then as the worm turned and i realized -- i didn't, i really anticipated that if, indeed, the world saw samuel hunting's view of a clash of -- huntington's view of a clash of civilizations going back to the crusades, that sooner or later america was going to, many americans were going to turn on muslims. and i wanted to do my bit to try to prevent that. because as with jonathan's book, history is a continuum.
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the thing is we only remember in general what we want to remember and try to forget about the place, the times where we did not behave nobly. >> and i thought it was interesting, your observation of earl warren perhaps trying to justify himself through the brown with decision. and i was able to tell a similar story with john quincy adams who john quincy adams, you're probably familiar with him, the son of john adams. he was the secretary of state and, thus, since there was no justice department in charge of all the u.s. attorneys across the united states. he did his utmost to quash this suit for freedom for these captives from the antelope. in part, the nation had just been through the missouri controversy. he was hoping to be elected president in 1824. he was. and the last thing he wanted was
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political conflict over slavery. he knew that it would tear the country apart and perhaps undercut his attempts to become president. finish years later some of you may remember this from a movie made by a guy named steven spiel burg -- [laughter] john quincy adams represented the captain is in the amistad -- captives in the amistad case, 1841. and he -- very different from the presentation in the movie where anthony hopkins kind of wanders around the supreme court courtroom saying to them remember what justice is or something along those lines. john quincy adams argued for seven hours over two days. he was 73 years old. argued for seven hours over two days and a third of his argument was trying to distinguish the amistad case from this antelope case which was poison. and then he paid to have his argument published afterwards x. in his wonderful memoirs, i
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truly recommend them highly, they're some of the greatest political memoirs that you can delve into -- >> the greatest american. >> maybe. maybe. he talks about should i commit the rest of my life to fighting slavery, or am i too old? and he decides he's too old. but i think he was seeking redemption. i think that's a similar element between these -- >> the -- california is very diligent in recording its officials. and there is a project at berkeley paid for by the state in which exit interviews are done to major california politicians through history. earl warren's lasted for six days, by then was chief justice of the united states. but the questions were about california.
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and the woman doing the interviewing for six days avoided one subject, and then on the last day -- what turned out to be the last day -- said, governor, i'd like to, mr. chief justice, i would like to ask you about the events of 1942. earl warren broke into tears, stood up, walked out and never came back. >> god. oh. >> well, we were talking about the extent to which it reflects on the situation today. >> right. yeah, and also i guess one question is this is amazing research that you've all done. can you sort of talk about how you found your story, how the great sources you must have found, some of yours were living, many of your withs were dead, some of yours were -- >> on the edge.
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>> aren't we all really? [laughter] but want to talk about that research? >> sure. so, and we, jonathan and i were talking about this a little bit before the panel, how do you go about researching a book from the first half of the 19th century where no one is around? i spent my entire career working as a journalist, and the first thick i think of is, okay, i have a story, who are the people i can go out and talk to? in my case, so this story is 20 years old. a lot of people are still around. the protagonist and the antagonist were not available to me. in other words, rabin is dead and amir is in prison. the israelis don't allow prison interviews. but virtually everyone else is around, and i think one of the nice things about reporting in israel is that people like to talk. it's not uncommon for officials to give you their cell phone numbers or their home numbers.
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everyone speaks english or most people speak english. by the way, this is true on the palestinian side as well. people want to tell you their stories. i reported in israel, at some point the next posting was to report in the pentagon. and you could not imagine two more different experiences. [laughter] you walk around the hallways of that huge building for months before you can, you know, exchange greetings with people in some way that feels significant, that feels like you're building a rapport. it's not like that in israel. so just about everyone i a poached -- approached for, you know, for the rabin story was willing to talk. rabin's aides, rabin's family, amir's family. his brother was a co-conspirator, he spent 17 years in prison, and he came out of prison around the time that i started working on the book.
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and was ready to have me come over to the house. this is the house where they grew up. he and his brother with, where they plotted the assassination in the bedroom on the second floor of the house. at some point my wife is a journalist as well, she works for "this american life," so i took her along, and we recorded some of the interviews. he took us out to the shed where he had machined the bullets that they intended to use to kill rabin. so, or you know, all of that i think in some ways -- and then there was just a lot of documentation, a lot of documents that were accessible; diaries and letters and things like that. but for me, you know with, a key thing here is to talk to people. and i suppose, you know, i would be interesting in knowing how you do that without talking to people and what are some of the disadvantages but also advantages -- >> yeah, that's a great question. >> i talk to the dead. [laughter] i know that sounds bizarre, but it's the truth.
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and, you know, what survives from the early 19th century is, essentially, chaotic. you don't, you don't really know what will survive. and that then skews sometimes our perceptions of events. but the more you dig into it, the more you talk with these people through their letters, through their diaries, through correspondence, through government documents, a host of different things, the more you come to know and understand the interactions between them. for me the hallelujah moment came, i was, i'd been toying with the idea of this since the late 1990s, of doing this book. and i had gone up to the branch of the national archive which is in morrow, georgia, south of atlanta in 2011. i'd already been to the national archive in d.c. and gone through the supreme court files.
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i'd also gone through the papers of francis scott key. he was the leading advocate for freedom for the -- he didn't just write bad national anthems. gosh, we have a terrible national anthem. [laughter] but he also was a very active and powerful attorney in georgetown and one of the leading appellate attorneys in washington d.c. so i'd done that, but other people have done that. and at the national archive branch they started bringing out boxes in which papers from this case were scattered. ultimately, 117 boxes of materials. and as i started going through, i realized -- and i would use a bad exmr.tive if i weren't being more careful, holy -- no one has looked at this. and that is a gold withen moment, a golden moment. all of the testimony of people in the district court was there, all of the appeals, all of the
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pleadings of the attorneys, an incredible treasure-trove of information that literally transformed what i was able to do with the book. so i talked to the dead x out of that -- and out of that tried to tell their story. and in particular, tried to tell their story in the context of something along your lines. how do we seek justice? and what is justice? it's not a natural thing that happens. a lion eats the bunny rabbit, right? it's something humans have to make happen. and in many ways, these are stories about either the failures of trying to make justice happen or perhaps even a misguided attempt to make justice happen. >> the research, like for you, the eureka moments, are the real joy in doing -- >> they are. >> -- what we do.
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for me what led up to the sourcing of the book, i -- there are a surprising number of survivors alive of the 120,000. i think i met half of them traveling on the book. and, of course, everyone told me a story, and i thought, oh, god, i wish i knew that then. but the story of the japanese-american internment was not spoken of for more than 0 -- 30 years in this cup. in my experience, men who have been in combat don't talk about it. and particularly don't talk about it to their families, the things they saw, the things they did, the things they didn't do. that was true of the incarcerated japanese. they did not talk about it. they were ashamed of it. they had marched voluntarily into the camps to prove they were as american as everyone else and then found themselves for four years behind barbed
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wire. and they didn't talk to the their children about that or their grandchildren. .. then some of the incarcerated, most of them were written for young adults or children to be used in schools but at the same time the japanese as it became conversational at least among them began to do massive oral

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