A recent business trip took me to New York City for Book Expo America, the largest and most well-known book industry convention. Although my work schedule was packed, I was lucky enough to have some time to meet two very wonderful ladies.
On the first day of the show, I headed over to The Overlook Press booth at the Javits Convention Center to meet Farran Smith Nehme, better known as the Siren of the acclaimed classic film blog The Self-Styled Siren. I've been wanting to meet her for a long time and was pinching myself that the moment had finally arrived. Farran wrote a novel called Missing Reels which The Overlook Press is publishing in November of this year.
Here's a summary of the book from the publisher:
New York in the late 1980s. Ceinwen Reilly has just moved from Yazoo City, Mississippi, and she’s never going back, minimum wage job (vintage store salesgirl) and shabby apartment (Avenue C walkup) be damned. Who cares about earthly matters when Ceinwen can spend her days and her nights at fading movie houses—and most of the time that’s left trying to look like Jean Harlow?
One day, Ceinwen discovers that her downstairs neighbor may have—just possibly—starred in a forgotten silent film that hasn’t been seen for ages. So naturally, it’s time for a quest. She will track down the missing reels, she will impress her neighbor, and she will become a part of movie history: the archivist as ingénue.
As she embarks on her grand mission, Ceinwen meets a somewhat bumbling, very charming, 100 percent English math professor named Matthew, who is as rational as she is dreamy. Together, they will or will not discover the reels, will or will not fall in love, and will or will not encounter the obsessives that make up the New York silent film nut underworld.
A novel as winning and energetic as the grand Hollywood films that inspired it, Missing Reels is an irresistible, alchemical mix of Nora Ephron and David Nicholls that will charm and delight
Farran was just as friendly as I thought she would be. I got to chat with her quickly at her signing and again when she stopped by my work's booth too. I really look forward to reading her novel and will treasure my signed and personalized copy.
On the last day of the show, I headed over to Hal Leonard' booth to meet Sheana Ochoa
who was signing copies of her book Stella! Mother of Modern Acting. I was very excited to meet Sheana. She's a tireless promoter and has a true passion for theater and for all things Stella Adler. Her enthusiasm is infectious and I always adore meeting intelligent and passionate people like herself.
Here's a summary of the book from the publisher:
Arthur Miller decided to become a playwright after seeing her perform with the Group Theater. Marlon Brando attributed his acting to her genius as a teacher. Theater critic Robert Brustein calls her the greatest acting teacher in America. At the turn of the 20th century by which time acting had hardly evolved since classical Greece Stella Adler became a child star of the Yiddish stage in New York, where she was being groomed to refine acting craft and eventually help pioneer its modern gold standard: method acting. Stella's emphasis on experiencing a role through the actions in the given circumstances of the work directs actors toward a deep sociological understanding of the imagined characters: their social class, geographic upbringing, biography, which enlarges the actor's creative choices.
Always "onstage," Stella's flamboyant personality disguised a deep sense of not belonging. Her unrealized dream of becoming a movie star chafed against an unflagging commitment to the transformative power of art. From her Depression-era plays with the Group Theatre to freedom fighting during WWII, Stella used her notoriety as a tool for change. For this book, Sheana Ochoa worked alongside Irene Gilbert, Stella's friend of 30 years, who provided Ochoa with a trove of Stella's personal and pedagogical materials, and Ochoa interviewed Stella's entire living family, including her daughter Ellen; her colleagues and friends, from Arthur Miller to Karl Malden; and her students from Robert De Niro to Mark Ruffalo. Unearthing countless unpublished letters and interviews, private audio recordings, Stella's extensive FBI file, class videos and private audio recordings, Ochoa's biography introduces one of the most under recognized, yet most influential luminaries of the 20th century.
Sheana signed the book for me with a lovely personalized inscription. It was a finished hardcover too which was an extra treat! I had an egalley from the publisher but was struggling to make it work for my Nook device. So I was extra happy to get the book into my hands and I immediately started reading it on my way home. It's a wonderful book and my review of it will be up shortly.
Thank you so much to Farran Smith Nehme and Sheana Ochoa for taking the time to chat with me and pose for photos.