How would you describe your job?
As the events coordinator, I schedule all of the visiting and local authors (novelists, journalists, scientists, poets, politicians, celebrities, et al.) for events and readings.
Where are you originally from?
The Philadelphia area.
What did you do before you came to Powell’s?
I’ve held a variety of jobs, including investigating money laundering, landscaping, waitering, and delivering flowers, amongst many others.
What is the best part of your job?
Connecting audiences of all ages to a wealth of disparate ideas, perspectives, and thinkers. Our events calendar is regularly an embarrassment of riches!
What is the most interesting part of your job?
The thrill of getting to meet, chat with, and pick the brains of a veritable “who’s who” of modern culture is endlessly fascinating to me. Having a chance to engage the individual beneath the author persona is always so revealing. Despite the solitary nature of writing, many authors have an unassuming warmth that makes them seem less like unreachable literary titans, and more like the imperfect, striving people we all are.
Share a favorite author quote from an event.
Innumerable visiting authors have offered variations on a theme (whether debut author or seasoned, bestselling veteran): “I knew I finally ‘made it’ when I had my first reading at Powell’s.” That we’re able to touch so many different lives (of both author and audience alike), entwining them beyond the printed page, is forever humbling, rewarding, and proof positive that what we do each and every day matters deeply.
Share a memorable experience you've had on the job.
Though I’m hardly the first to say it, George Saunders is a gem of a human being. We hosted him in 2007 for an event in support of The Braindead Megaphone
. Without having seen so much as a single word of my writing (nor I having mentioned any writerly ambitions), he was actively encouraging me to enroll in his MFA program at Syracuse (instead of talking about himself, his books, his tour, or his own accomplishments). I was touched by his generosity and encouragement, and now, nearly a decade later, I think back fondly on the encounter quite often.
In 2013, we welcomed him back for another event, in support of Tenth of December
— hailed by the New York Times Magazine
(in January of that year!) as “the best book you’ll read this year.” I wondered whether his newfound literary fame would affect his personality and graciousness. It didn’t, not in the least; upon arriving he was possessed of the same humility and amiability he exuded in spades some six years previous — a living embodiment of the words contained within his now-celebrated convocation speech at Syracuse (later published as Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness
): “To the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.”
What makes for a good book in your eyes?
Fiction: beautiful prose, skilled storytelling, and emotional/psychological/perceptual acuity. Nonfiction: veracity, enthusiasm, and authorial curiosity.
What was the last book you loved?
One of Us Is Sleeping
by Josefine Klougart, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken and published by the estimable Open Letter Books: a gorgeously written, dolorous story of love lost and the inevitable uncertainty that ensues thereafter — from a very gifted young writer.
Recommend an author you think everyone should read.
The late, great José Saramago
, Portugal’s only Nobel laureate for literature, whose wisdom and wit were matched by his resplendent, singular command of language.
Walk us through your favorite route when browsing books at Powell’s.
It all begins and ends in the Blue Room, possessed as it is of its own gravitational pull.
Why do you think bookstores remain so popular?
Because they continue to endure as steadfast conduits of culture, community, and the very best of civilization.
Do you have any odd reading habits or book rituals?
I’ve been using the same bookmark, an expired MTA MetroCard, for over a decade. That transit pass is so well-read, it’s quite nearly sentient by now.
When you’re not reading, what do you like to do in your free time?
Hiking, biking, gardening, writing, and anything that involves sunshine — each with a book in arm’s reach.
What’s your favorite book of all time?
No truly voracious reader could ever alight on a single favorite. That said, Roberto Bolaño’s 2666
remains one of the “great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown.” A framed poster of 2666
’s cover art (a detail of Gustave Moreau’s Jupiter and Semele
) adorns my bedroom wall, so the book is never far from my thoughts and dreams — or nightmares.