We met Emily Pullen at BEA in New York City in May 2009. She was friendly, encouraging, intelligent, self-effacing, and easy to talk to, and we've managed to stay in touch since then. She's contributed a piece to our blog on how the e-book trends may parallel the history of photography, and writes for places such as The Millions and Shelf Awareness, as well as the Skylight Books blog, so it's been fairly easy to track her thoughts on books and publishing over time.
We're really excited that Emily has agreed to work with us at Two Dollar Radio. Like the rest of us, she'll be wearing several hats but will be focusing on bookstore and library outreach, editing, print vs. e, and a couple significant company ventures we've yet to announce (more info coming soon).
She took some time to answer a few questions about herself after returning from her high school reunion.
Ed: How was your 10-year reunion?
EP: Unexpectedly, I realized that the year one graduated from high school is a pretty arbitrary marker of commonality these days. Most of the people I was closest to while I was in high school either were not in my class, didn’t attend my school, or were older than me. It’s interesting to see the vastly different things that people are doing, but after a couple of hours, I was done. So many people are married with kids and houses (and none of us are 30 yet). And that’s pretty far from where I am (or really want to be) at this point…
Ed: What are some good books you’ve read recently?
EP: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Room by Emma Donoghue
The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
Nox by Anne Carson
AM/PM by Amelia Gray
Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse
Ed: I remember seeing somewhere you talking up Asterios Polyp…
EP: I’ve been reading graphic novels for about 3 years now, and I realized that what I love in prose, I also love in graphic novels and other mediums. Asterios Polyp conveys meaning and story and mood in so many different ways, and my favorite fiction does that as well. My favorite nonfiction books do that. My favorite art books do that. There is a sort of resonance, a feeling of concentric ripples influencing each other. Another graphic novel that does that is Jeff Lemire’s The Complete Essex County.
Ed: You work at Skylight Books. Can you tell us a fun bookstore story?
EP: My moment of crowning glory so far was the Infinite Summer + David Foster Wallace tribute that I organized last September. 100 people. Food. Games. Speeches. Celebrities. This feeling of solidarity, of having both accomplished something and gone through something together – both Infinite Jest and the loss of DFW. We played badminton in the bookstore (tennis might have been destructive). Actor John Krasinski read a monologue from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. People who finished got to sign our poster. I don’t know, it just felt like we had become, for a few hours, exactly what a bookstore should be: a community hub where diverse people with something in common share books, food and conversation. It was amazing.
Ed: You’re involved in the Emerging Leaders Council of the American Booksellers Association. All anyone reads about in the media are doom and gloom reports on book publishing. What’s a positive thing going on that you’ve seen from your vantage point as a bookseller?
EP: There’s nothing better than adversity to help create a feeling of solidarity among booksellers. Though I’ve been a booklover all my life, I’ve only been involved in the industry since 2004. So much change is happening right now, culturally. It is an utterly fascinating time to be alive. I think that the bookstores (and small publishers) who are most suited to survive are the ones that develop partnerships between seasoned booksellers who have been refining their craft for a long time and younger booksellers who can adapt and incorporate new technologies more nimbly. I never cease to be amazed at how many smart, passionate, and committed people are involved in books. Now, if only someone could actualize Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner and pass them out to booksellers…
Also, there’s a Bookrageous calendar coming out soon – book people from all parts of the business doing ridiculous things for the love of books. Of course I’m in it. No, I can’t tell you what I’m doing. (Ed: You can order it here.)
Ed: Could you give us a generic professional bio?
EP: I grew up in Iowa and attended Grinnell College. I completed a double major in English and Sociology, and graduated With Honors in both departments in 2004. Then, I went to Boston, hoping to get my foot in the door of the publishing industry. I landed in bookstores instead, first at Wordsworth Books in Harvard, and then at the newly opened Porter Square Books. Life brought me to Los Angeles and Skylight Books in 2006, where I’ve been ever since. I attended the ABA Winter Institute in Louisville in 2008, and amazing opportunities have come since. I joined the Emerging Leaders Council and was asked to be on the ABA’s Bookseller Advisory Committee. I thought about attending graduate school, but at this point, I feel I can learn more being smack dab in the middle of it. I love being able to talk about books with publishers, authors, customers, and booksellers at any time of day or night. Ah, that’s the life. Now, if only I still had time to read…