2nd Annual Random House Blogger Fest – with Special Guest, Author, Andrew Kaufman!

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2nd Annual Random House Blogger Fest –

with Special Guest, Author, Andrew Kaufman!

02.11.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I was yet again honoured to be invited to join other book lovers in the blogging community to celebrate a year of reading books published by the renowned publisher, Random House of Canada, at their home office in Toronto this past weekend.

It also gave me an opportunity to reconnect with those I met at last year’s event who have now not only become recognizable faces on and offline, but have also become friends who offer a great network of shared passion, advice, and continual inspiration and encouragement about books, reading, writing reviews, attending events, and managing the hectic lifestyle of a book blogger.

I was especially happy to meet up with Lindsay of Turning the Pages at Starbucks before the event to catch-up over coffee and exchange some (believe it or not) nail polish goodies, which happen to be our second, shared passion alongside our love for books.

Gifts from Lindsay: candles and a set of Maybelline Color Show nail polishes.
Gifts from Lindsay: candles and a set of Maybelline Color Show nail polishes. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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In consideration of Friday’s snow squall that forced me to shovel my driveway at least four times within 24 hours, that was sarcastically named, “Stormaggedon 2013,” I received a lovely candle called Snowed In from Bath & Body Works that matched a lovely set of Maybelline Color Show nail polishes that Lindsay referred to as “Zara colours!” And she was certainly right. For you nail fashionistas, the colours from left to right are: #240 – Twilight Rays, #725 – Downtown Brown, #720 – Pink Cosmo, and #710 – Metal Icon.

And as an added touch and extremely thoughtful gift, I also received a bottle of Jaded Green Hearts nail polish  by Jaded Nail Co. where the proceeds go to help the families of those whose children were recently murdered in the Sally Hock Elementary School shooting. The matching green Chrysanthemum candle reminds me that even in such a horrific and senseless act; the compassion, love, and support found in friendship and the community at large can still exist and  act as a “light” of comfort during such a terrible tragedy.

So, thanks to my friend, Lindsay, fellow Random House book blogger and nail polish addict, who brought me a little more joy in the goodies she gave me and the presence of her warm and enthusiastic company. (You are awesome, “BFFFB” – Best Friends Forever from Brampton!)

Me and Lindsay at RH Blogger Fest 2013.
Me and Lindsay at RH Blogger Fest 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Of course, the RH Blogger Fest wasn’t all fun and games, though it was hard to tell. As usual, our hosts provided us with a kind spread of fruits, munchies, and desserts, as well as coffee and tea.

cupcakes
(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved,

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My scrumptious plate of goodies. Yum, yum!
My plate of goodies. Yum, yum! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Aside from their warm hospitality, we were privileged to meet Andrew Kaufman in person, author of Random House of Canada’s new release, Born Weird.

born weird bk pile
(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Waving at Andrew Kaufman and fellow book bloggers, Kailey and Nicole.
Waving at Andrew Kaufman and fellow book bloggers, Kailey and Nicole. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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And lucky me, I was even more privileged to be seated right next to him during the event!

a kaufman chair
(Yes, proof that Andrew Kaufman, though not in this photo, was seated next to me during the RH Blogger Fest. If you don’t believe me, ask Mr. Kaufman!) (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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He introduced the premise of his novel with a bashful enthusiasm and intimacy as one would who spent three years writing it, and as one might, as a parent who affectionately shares stories about his or her lovable, yet incorrigible toddler. I know. I have one.

But his book does a lot more than baby talk. It, like its author, Mr. Kaufman, is creative and imaginative, as well as entertaining. Who better to write magic realism than a man who can create a story about a family of siblings with specific and quirky gifts as given to them by an abrasive grandmother they all affectionately and begrudgingly refer to as the Shark?

As a character, she had enough “bite” in her to appropriate gifts to each, such as: strength to Kent whose small frame never stopped him from winning a physical fight; direction to Lucy who is never lost; faith to Abba who never loses hope; safety to Richard whose fear of commitment is perpetuated by his need to avoid risk or danger; and perpetual forgiveness to Angie, whose sass and sensitivity have more than once put her in a dilemma of sibling abuse on account that they never need face her revenge nor retribution.

Mix in a little quest, absent parents, a beloved, red Maserati, a model city made out of cardboard boxes, and a mouthful of easy and natural dialogue, plus coded messages, bad haircuts, and an exactly timed prophetic death, and what do you get? The Weird Family. Literally.

Well, at least literally in the unfortunate misspelling of their name, which was originally Wyird, until an immigration guard from Halifax accidentally changed the y in the last name to an e. Weird? Yes, very.

But the dialogue with Mr. Kaufman at the Random House Blogger Fest was anything but. We were privileged to discover his favourite character in the book is Kent, the man “blursed” (as in “blessed” and “cursed”) with the gift of physical strength and a guaranteed aptitude for winning fights, arguments, and in the latter part of the book — highway speed and the award for the Sibling-Most-Likely-to-Burn-Rubber-and-Potentially-Kill-His-Siblings-in-a-Car-Crash. Lucky for the characters in the book, there is no such award—I just made it up.

Andrew Kaufman discussing his book, "Born Weird." (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Andrew Kaufman discussing his book, “Born Weird.” (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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I even braved a question by forcing my right hand to go up in the air and asked Mr. Kaufman after he described in detail the premise of his upcoming book, (which, according to him is compiled of nine novellas) — which format he prefers to write in: the short story or the novel?

Andrew Kaufman's enraptured audience and blogger friends.
Andrew Kaufman’s enraptured audience and blogger friends. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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I was quickly reprimanded for using the term, novella, since Mr. Kaufman’s belief is that the use of the term can misinform and misinterpret the true value of the written story — because as Mr. Kaufman passionately shared with us that day, the true value of a well-written story is found in “…its girth and not [its] length.”

At which point, I could not, in my own form of poor wit and quick tongue (plus crass sense of humour), help myself, but chide this published, well-respected author that it was indeed “…alright, we’re in a room full of women…” who clearly understand.

Giggle all around. Giselle from Book Nerd Canada and Kailey. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Giggles all around. Giselle from Book Nerd Canada and Kailey. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Ha. Ha. People laughed, people grimaced, and I realized too late, that this was no way to make an impression on the blogging community nor the publishing world—and that by no means should I speak out loud at book events again—or intimate, family dinner parties. Nay, I say! Here’s my foot jammed in my mouth! My apologies, Mr. Kaufman! I, like your characters in Born Weird, am not only a Wyird at heart, but seem to also be “blursed” with the specific and quirky gift of irresponsible gab — and of course, usually at the exact, inappropriate moment.

And lesson learned, it was indeed confirmed that Mr. Kaufman enjoys writing and finds satisfaction and value in the currency of 20K words.

Speaking with Andrew Kaufman.
Speaking with Andrew Kaufman. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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(Short story writers would also agree that it’s quite difficult to write a 5000-word short story than it is to belch out a 650-page , descriptive testimony to the life-and-times of a talkative protagonist whose narrative is in verbose first-person, or whose character is trapped in an intricate web of 17 subplots, and a harem of emotional, pensive, and philosophical secondary characters who are as equally verbose—and quite descriptive about architecture, feelings, and the weather. I know. I, too, am a short story writer.)

After thoroughly embarrassing myself amongst my peers, blushing to a deep hue of flushed that seemed to match the icing of the cupcake buffet and uncomplimentary to my natural skin tone, I lined up with a copy of Born Weird in my hand to grab myself a chance to speak with Mr. Kaufman again, take a photograph as proof to my friends and family that I actually met him in person, and force him to sign my copy of his book—because, dammit, it’s not the length of the line that’s important, it’s the girth of enthusiasm of those in it!

Andrew Kaufman signing my copy of his book, "Born Weird."
Andrew Kaufman signing my copy of his book, “Born Weird.” (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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"Zara was BORN WEIRD (and it's okay!)" - Andrew Kaufman. My signed copy!
“Zara was BORN WEIRD (and it’s okay!)” – Andrew Kaufman. My signed copy!           (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Chatting with Andrew Kaufman.
Chatting with Andrew Kaufman. (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Proof!
The proof! (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Oh, yes… I forgot to also mention that Mr. Kaufman is a wonderful patriot of the city of Toronto and a believer of setting his novels in a city, which he loves and knows well. Luckily for us, he’s currently a Torontonian, which means Torontonian readers get an appreciate view of themselves in the familiarity of their city as described in Mr. Kaufman’s book(s). (Yes, westerners, we’re made so much more than the C.N. Tower!)

But, it is also his belief that writers write well of things that they know best. “If [he] moves to London, then [the settings of his book] will take place there.” And why not? While magical realism is Andrew Kaufman’s preferred genre and what he believes to be the best reflection of what is true about people and relationships, he’s wise enough to know that good storytelling isn’t only bound by a fantastic imagination. You write what you know. And Andrew Kaufman certainly knows his city, his readers—and now, a few bloggers—thanks to Random House of Canada for hosting this annual event.

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The rest is not so much history as it was a celebration of good writing, good food, and good company. Not to mention great gift bags filled with what book bloggers love most—books!

RH blogger gift bags.
RH blogger gift bags. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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While some buzzed together in conversation, on say, the passion, drama, and honour it is to be a book blogger in community and for the Random House Blogging Team—there were those of us, who were wise enough to quickly flock to the gift bags like locusts—sorry, strike that. Not locusts. More like curious and eager ants at a Saturday picnic — myself included.

Peeking...
Peeking… (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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We can’t help ourselves. We love books. We love authors. We love Random House of Canada!

Here’s what this curious and eager, little ant was lucky enough to snag:

"A Fort of Nine Towers" by Qais Akbar Omar and "Secret" by L. Marie Adeline.
“A Fort of Nine Towers” by Qais Akbar Omar and “Secret” by L. Marie Adeline. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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"Born Weird" by Andrew Kaufman.
“Born Weird” by Andrew Kaufman. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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A black "13" Kelley Armstrong T-shirt and a "Crave" tumbler, Random House of Canada's online food and lifestyle site.
A black “13” Kelley Armstrong T-shirt and a “Crave” tumbler, Random House of Canada’s online food and lifestyle site. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Bookish postcards and RH luggage tag.
Bookish postcards and RH “Retreat” luggage tag. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Thank you, Random House of Canada!
Thank you, Random House of Canada! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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And while it’s no…

S.E.C.R.E.T. (by L. Marie Adeline).
S.E.C.R.E.T. (by L. Marie Adeline). (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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…that Random House of Canada publishes excellent works of literature (including erotica as per above—not me, but in reference to the book cover!), RHC also knows how to throw a great book event!

"Bloggesses"
Happy “Bloggesses” (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. Taken by Giselle San Miguel. All rights reserved.

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A special thanks to the Random House of Canada marketing team who worked hard this past weekend to make this annual event happen, to Andrew Kaufman for graciously signing his books and smoozin’ with fanatic book bloogers like myself, and to my fellow blogger friends for putting me in such great company.

It was a memorable weekend and I can’t wait until next February!

To read my review on Andrew Kaufman’s book, Born Weird, here, or find out about more great upcoming titles by Random House of Canada, be sure to check back soon.

(I might even have a giveaway of Andrew Kaufman’s book! <—- HINT, HINT.)

Until then, happy reading, fellow bibliotaphes. And remember: it’s okay to be “Born Weird!”

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What “weird” trait(s) do you have that you consider endearing or, like the characters in the “Born Weird” book, might consider a “blursing?” (“Blessing + Curse”)

Have you read “Born Weird” by Andrew Kaufman? If so, who was your favourite character in the book?

(I personally enjoyed the maternal figures in the book for the surprising wisdom found in their mother and her creative haircuts, and “the Shark” for her crass and audacity in “blursing” the Weird family children with gifts in the first place.)

Happy reading!

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zara name tag2

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