Sunday, July 31, 2011

Author Juliet Eilperin's Book Tour Review

University Book Store


The problem with journalist writing a book is that they go on book promotions and that can be painful. Once on stage reporters treat these junkets as if they were at a press conference and on the wrong side of the podium. Journalist are used to being in the safety of the press core asking the questions not answering them. At the podium, they often squirm and produce canned guarded boring responses. I understand. It’s the reporter’s nature to swim around with their kind, waiting for a sign of distress before they attack. Kind of like, well… a shark.

Not so tonight. As a speaker on the subject Ms.Juliet Eilperin's is fantastic and right before Shark Week beings she is in Seattle pumping up her new book "Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks"

It was a remarkable evening. Concise and direct, her speech flows without hesitation or remarkably without refereeing to notes. It’s a shame that due to the time restrictions at University Books she did not use her power point presentation for visual emphasis.

The best part of Ms. Eilperin's speech tonight may have occurred before the Author Event began. I arrive early, sit in the front row and chat with the Book store employees. To my shock, Ms. Eilperin's arrives early as well and introduces herself to the staff with a brilliant smile that would send a dentist into the poor house. I’m now ease dropping.

She is a gracious lady, unpretentious and without entourage perfect manners and speaks to the book store staff with respect. An audience member approaches her sounding like an academic or a researcher. She humbles herself to him by admitting her concern to get things correct. The man compliments her work, saying that she did a fine job at pulling together a vast subject like sharks and Ms. Eilperin seems appreciative. It’s such a sweet exchange I almost need an insulin shot.

As I sit in the front, she makes eye contact and I mention the excellent preview of her book in theSeattle Times by authorDavid B. Williams and again the woman’s face lights up.

“I just saw that today. I don’t know that person, do you?” Actually I don’t but with my note pad and tape recorder out, I guess I look like a media member. I mention write about author tours on this little blog.
“Oh she says. I will look forward to reading what you said about this.”
Maybe she was being polite but by now I found the woman so gracious I think I would paint her house if she asked.
Ms. Eilperin is not a Shark fanatic but admits that her work for the Washington Post led her to this book. The book is a tribute the environmental challenges that sharks fight for survival.

The subject of her talk is the current threat of sharks by man, specifically the Chinese cultural prestige to eat Shark Fin Soup. The author sites estimates of 35million -70 million sharks a years being killed for their fins only. The book, “Demon Fish” is not just political since it covers a wide variety of shark information but her talk tonight focuses on the shark fin trade

Once discouraged by a Communist system as a delicacy, Shark Fin Soup has gone into greater demand by the prosperous Chinese economy, and with China’s prospering, the taste for that prestige is growing. As the author points out Shark Fin Soup is a staple of Chinese wedding receptions and business is booming.

Things seem to be changing according to the author. Several countries are banning Shark fishing and some countries realize that the tourism from sharks may make them more valuable live than dead. It is akin to the fight by African locals to preserve the Elephant as a tourist draw, instead of killing them for their ivory tusks.

One young Chinese-American girl in the audience defends her culture (respectful not hostile) by saying that it is hard for young Chinese environmentalist to go against the grandparents and parent’s desire for Shark Fin Soup to be served. This was a perfectly reasoned statement and one that could invite all kinds of controversy depending on how it is answered or if the author is caught up in her own fanaticism. But Ms. Eilperin is skilled in her response and focuses on the environmental impact of the custom and not a damning of the Chinese people.

This served as one of the better audience commentaries of the evening because it was during the Q & A I wanted to stand up kiss Juliet Eilperin right on her big beautiful smile.

The hijackers were lurking in the audience. These kinds of people don’t ask questions. They look for affirmation of their personal opinions by asking leading questions and disregarding the speaker if the hijacker opinion is not validated. They try (and God do they try) to take over the speakers talk by making statements instead of questions, interrupting the author’s answer and acting like this public forum is taking place in the hijacker’s living room. Too often this happens and I hate it.

When these questions occurred, Juliet Eilperin would simply nod her head in agreement and motioning her hands saying “Uh-huh, uh-huh.” It was like watching a jump roper preparing to enter double-dutch. As the audience member blabbed on and on, Ms. Eilperin revved up her momentum, until that blessed moment when the audience member forced to take half a breath, and BAM, she breaks the hijacker’s speech by jumping in with some amazing fact and then continues on to the next question without appearing to offend anyone. It was brilliant.

I wish I could take that, bottle it up, and spray it around the room before every author reading. It would save a lot of unfortunate author readings.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Juliet sounds like a great author. I look forward to reading her book and I hope something is done over people killing sharks.