When Random House throws an Open House at its headquarters in Manhattan, readers get to meet their favorite authors in an up-close-and-personal atmosphere. Now the mega-publisher is moving the party upstate for a daylong event to be held in Basilica Hudson, the reclaimed and renovated 19th-century factory where the arts are celebrated in grand style. “Off the Page” is slated to bring booklovers together with notable authors for talks and panel discussions, wine-tastings, a sneak peek at new titles coming out by fall and lots of mingling.
Throughout the day, guests will hear from established authors, editors and TV personalities, including food critic and bestselling author Ruth Reichl (Tender at the Bone and Delicious!), Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project and Happier at Home), Woodstock native Clark Strand (How to Believe in God and Waking the Buddha), Lauren Redniss (Radioactive and Century Girl). Interactive book-inspired workshops about flower-arranging and book club-hosting will pique further inquiry into entertainment. A wine-tasting, hosted by New York Cork Report and Hudson Valley Wine Country, will feature selections from Hudson-Chatham and Tousey wineries. All perqs aside, the event is geared toward connecting the local reading community with its authors.
At 10 a.m., legendary food critic and best-selling author Ruth Reichl starts with a keynote conversation with Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine’s executive editor Dana Bowen on rediscovering simple pleasures. Reichl’s newest book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life, details her not-so-simple shock at being left jobless when Gourmet Magazine suddenly shut its doors after nearly seven decades. As editor-in-chief, she felt the weight of responsibility for all the people who had worked under her for ten years – and for the end of an institution in culinary publications as well. At first the feelings of grief and failure overwhelmed her. “Condé Nast never publicized why they closed the magazine down. It’s a privately owned company, so they could just do it and move on – even though readership was up at the time,” she says.
After finishing an in-progress book tour for the company, Reichl comes home and does what best soothes her soul: she cooks. Her upstate household becomes, for the following four seasons, a test kitchen in which she tries out old favorite recipes and gets creative with new ideas and locally produced ingredients. Beginning in the fall – a time of endings apropos of a passionate career, suddenly over – she immerses in the meditative endeavor. From shirred eggs with potato purée and the “cake that cures everything” through winter’s bounty rendered in stews and breads and soups, spring’s surprises (salmon with rhubarb glaze!) and summer’s comforting standards (okay, purslane tacos aren’t exactly standard), Reichl recovers.
The book, her eighth in a succession of memoirs, food lore and a novel, is chock-full of Mikkel Vang’s gorgeous photography: “He came upstate and took photos along the roadside even before we started shooting for the book.” He caught Reichl from behind, rummaging through veggies at an outdoor market, strolling through the woods, whizzing around her kitchen, gazing wistfully upriver – almost as if she wasn’t yet ready to face the camera. From above, we see her deft hands rolling dough and pinching dumplings. Reichl’s thoughts and feelings about the next phase of her life are interspersed amid recipes and methods. The food that she prepares looks good enough to lick off the pages. The book is a stunning tome.
From 11:30 a.m. through 4 p.m., mix-and-match sessions of 30 to 45 minutes each will ensue. Lauren Redniss, award-winning contributor to The New York Times op/ed page and author of two captivating biographies, all deftly illustrated with intricate line drawings, will weave history with scientific research to introduce her upcoming title, Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present and Future. “In the book, I look at the awesome challenges we face in an age of global climate change,” she writes, “but this is also about the way weather affects us in the most intimate ways – the feeling of breeze on our cheeks, the smell of fresh earth after it rains, how quiet things get after it snows.”
Clark Strand, spiritual writer, former Zen Buddhist monk and author of the recently released Waking up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age, will be on hand to talk about the “hour of the God”: that mystical time of wakefulness that so often occurs in the middle of the night, when our prolactin levels promote the opportunity for the very nurturance of our souls – if only we knew how to tap into this quiet hour. If only we knew how to honor the darkness and reacquaint ourselves with it. What that might take, Strand suggests, is the discovery of “a new path that is really an old path.” He proposes nothing less than the reenchantment of the whole world and all natural life on the planet by turning off the lights. And as an interim measure, he’ll discuss ways to experience a “cultivated darkness,” whether through meditation, yoga or prayer.
Random House editors Jessica Sindler and Nina Shield will join director of publicity Theresa Zoro to unpack the latest literary trend: the decluttering movement, inspired by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Stuffocation: Why We’ve Had Enough of Stuff and Need Experience More than Ever. Fodor’s travel editors Salwa Jabado and Caroline Trefler will recommend their standout destinations for 2015 and answer pressing getaway questions. The team behind Random House Reader’s Circle joins The Book Reporter’s Carol Fitzgerald and Kelley Drahushuk to share their best tips for running a successful book club. Caterer-to-the-stars and author of the forthcoming book, The Cocktail Party, Mary Giuliani will talk with Darling Magazine’s Kara Dykert about how to create one-of-a-kind parties.
And from 4 to 5 p.m., Gretchen Rubin will hold forth on human happiness. Perhaps the most influential contemporary writer on the subject, Rubin will be joined by Darling Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Sarah Dubbeldam, for a conversation about exploring what’s possible and what it takes to be truly happy. Rubin’s bestsellers have sparked interest in the power of habit-changing strategies designed to help improve your life. In her latest book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, she details her personal adventures as she test-drives ideas from contemporary science, mixed with ancient wisdom, in the practice of building good habits.
“Off the Page” guests get a complimentary totebag full of books and goodies, along with a free digital copy of Darling Magazine’s issue No. 12. An Etsy pop-up shop and food trucks will also be on-site at Basilica Hudson that day. For something a little more substantial, box lunches will be available for purchase. After a 5 p.m. Hudson Valley Wine Tasting, there will be an al fresco dinner hosted by Random House and Darling Magazine. Dinner includes a locally sourced three-course meal, organic specialty cocktails courtesy of Art in the Age Craft Spirits and wine courtesy of the Union Wine Co.
“It’s a full day of discovery and learning,” says Zoro. “Hudson’s beauty and book-loving community instantly made it the perfect location for this first off-site event…with a wonderful bookstore, a theater, art galleries, food, wine, crafts, it’s everything we were looking for in a town.” The venue’s proximity to the Amtrak station is a plus, too, allowing readers from across the Hudson Valley, the Capital Region and New York City to attend. The publishing company loves the Hudson Valley so much, in fact, that it’s offering Almanac Weekly readers a ten-percent discount off the ticket price. Use code ALMANAC when purchasing your ticket at www.randomhousebooks.com/event/off-the-page/?ref=92D585734374&utm_source=HVmedia&utm_medium=Partnership&utm_content=HVmediautm_campaign=OffThePage.
Random House’s “Off the Page,” Saturday, July 11, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., $100 entry/$15 lunch/$60 dinner, Basilica Hudson, 110 South Front Street, Hudson; (518) 822-1050, [email protected], www.randomhousebooks.com/event/off-the-page.