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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Roger Smith Hotel

Rodger Smith Hotel

I will always think of the Roger Smith Hotel with fondness. Nestled on 47th and Lex with its flags calling attention to its gentle state of decline. The hotel clerk: effortlessly speaking Portuguese, counting out cash, answering phones and air kissing guests as they took their leave for the airport. "Receipt?  No? Good, can't seem to find it anyway! Check you credit card statement, let me know, ok?"

It was charming, and oh so different from any world I had ever inhabited hereto for. I had been invited to participate on a panel for the first ever "Cookbook Conference" that was taking place at the Hotel. 

I had flown from Chicago to New Jersey, to see a friend, and then took the train on to New York City. I had caught the train in Hazlet, New Jersey and was disembarking at Penn Station, New York City.

Watching like a hawk, Penn Station finally appeared on the lighted sign as the next stop. Imagine this: a middle age women, "rollie" suitcase in hand, sitting perched on the edge of her seat watching all of the signs very carefully. Blue eyes peering out of rimless glasses, without which she would be legally blind, brown/grey curly hair ruffled up with frequent tussling by nervous hands attempting to look as though she was an old hand with the NJ Transit System. 

 After exiting the train, quickly finding out that I was not in NYC or Kansas, I dragged my roller bag to the clerk window to inquire just where I was. He repeated for me, several times, "YOU are in New Jersey". His accent was like nothing I had ever heard previously in my life, (so at least my hearing was not the problem) I needed to go back up the stairs and stand on the platform and wait for the next train. 

Eventually, I did get to Penn Station, NYC and from there, via cab, (as I no longer trusted my ability to navigate public transit) to the Roger Smith Hotel and the lovely Portuguese woman at the front desk. I was shown to my room, which would be my NYC base for the next two weeks, and felt immediately at home. It was a little worn around the edges, in a genteel sort of way, which was more than vaguely familiar. It was on the sixth floor and faced the street with a view I was enchanted by. 

I spent the first part of the conference meeting some of the other presenters. We met in small groups and talked about "apps" versus books and Social media platforms on which authors must spend their time versus actually writing and testing recipes. There were all different kinds of editors; index editors, content editors, acquiring editors, and proof editors and recipe testing editors. There were authors like: Judith Jones, Jane Lear, Amanda Hesser, Dorie Greenspan, and Molly O'Neil. Plus, a whole bunch of up and coming authors too. We all talked about the future of cookbooks, history of cook books, cooking apps, and any other aspect of the cook book world. All fascinating. The second part of the conference was panel discussions. That was where I came in, that was also where my nerves kicked in. 

*I was presenting on the opportunities for authors and the sale of their books in a new way that had previously been untapped. I had been working on this plan and implementing it for the last four years with continued success and increased sales for everyone all around. I was joining four others, Jennifer Reeves (Tipsy Baker Blog Fame, the owner of Omnivore Books in California, a buyer for COOP (Harvard's bookstore) and the author of a cookie decorating cook book*. (I am ashamed to say her name escapes me, though I liked her very much).

We all shared what had worked for us and what had not. We also had a really appreciative audience. My heart is still warmed to this day by all of the kind words, genuine interest, and people laughing at our jokes. Which is very gratifying to a presenter, I can assure you. 

I will always think of the Roger Smith Hotel as my New York City home. I also hope Thomas Wolff is incorrect about "You Can't Go Home Again" as I fully intend to go back "home" sometime soon.

Should you care to find out more:  For information on the Roger Smith Hotel:

*Here is the link to my paper, should you care to read it:

* Her name is Julia Usher:
Jennifer Reeves:
Omnivore Books:

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