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LAist chats with Kevin Smokler

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Kevin Smokler is a book man. He writes about contemporary literature all over the place and talks about it on NPR. He consults and lectures across the country about what we read and how and last year, when the NEA announced that reading was in decline, he got a little sad and then he got a little mad. He had run a very popular site about books and had created virtual book tours that were wildly successful. He read a bunch of sites that were very popular that talked lit and he knew young authors like David Sedaris, Nick Hornby, and Zadie Smith that could pack houses with young people that wanted to talk about their words. From there, his first book, Bookmark Now, was born. It is a collection of essays about writing and reading in our "unreaderly times." We got a chance to IM with Kevin during his own Virtual Book Tour about the written word in a multimedia world.

LAist: Morning Kevin! How's it going?

Kevin Smokler: Insane mostly. But a good kind of insane. Hard to complain when all sorts of good things are happening.

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LAist: I bet. What is it like being the subject of a virtual book tour instead of managing one?

Kevin Smokler: Like looking at yourself underwater. Ordinarily I suggest the content based on the interests of the bloggers. This time around I had to follow their lead much more or else it looks like I'm orchestrating a publicity junket which the VBT has never been about.

LAist: heh heh heh. What has VBT been about in the past if not publicity as the primary goal?

Kevin Smokler: For me it was always about exposing the NY publishing world to the world of blogging and vice versa. I guess book publicity is an indirect goal there but a junket to me smacks of fawning and bought praise. Everyone on the tour is free to speak their mind about the book in whatever way they see fit. When an author complains about a negative review, I remind them what they signed up for.

LAist: You talk a bit in the introduction of Bookmark Now about the desire of media consumers for that "inside look" into the process of creating art. Is this kind of interaction between writers and their audience the same
kind of thing...a kind of "Author's Commentary" track for a book?

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Kevin Smokler: Yes, exactly. When the VBT works best, it's the "director's commentary" track of a book.

LAist: So, what would you want people to know about the process of editing this book?

Kevin Smokler: I've been asked a bunch about how I chose the authors, which essay I liked best, Why I chose an anthology as a first book instead of one written solely by me and were there any essays that didn't make the cut.