Book Twitter Comes to Life

“Asking a writer how they did during the pandemic is a little bit like asking a cat,” Seth Meyers told a group of 600 literary luminaries Tuesday night. “’It was weird! I just sat around, never went out.’”

The scene was Book Twitter incarnate: Poets & Writers, the nonprofit literary organization, held a gala with what Mr. Meyers called “a verse of poets and a coffee stain of writers” at Pier Sixty in Chelsea.

Despite the organization’s name, most in attendance were neither poets nor writers, but publishers, editors, agents and nonprofit folks eager to socialize. “I got dressed up and my son said, ‘You look weird!’” said Zibby Owens, the publisher of Zibby Books. “He’s seven.”

Small talk covered the usual topics: post-quarantine states of the union (“You’re still married, that’s a good thing,” one non-profit staffer joked), the quirks of returning to the office (“All my snacks expired two years ago,” said Jenny Jackson, an editor at Knopf) and cats (“I left Pumpkin at home,” said Maxine Paetro, a writer).

Table hosts included Marlon James, Leslie Jamison, Major Jackson, Jennifer Egan and Cathy Park Hong. The author Cleyvis Natera, whose debut novel, “Neruda on the Park,” publishes in May, was overwhelmed by the star power. “There are so many people I have admired religiously,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to say hi to everybody!’ But it’s just nice to hang back and take it in.”

Ms. Natera was a guest of Tayari Jones, the award-winning author of “An American Marriage,” whom she met through a PEN America fellowship. “This gala has always been for writers’ writers,” Ms. Jones said.

Some were eager to discuss Hollywood, though no one talked about what happened at the Oscars. Delia Owens raved about the film adaptation of her book by Ella, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which she screened the previous night, and Jofie Ferrari-Adler, the publisher of Avid Reader Press, joked about his portrayal of Ella in an upcoming TV adaptation of “Three Women.”

The night honored Sonia Sanchez, Viet Thanh Nguyen, James Patterson and Sally Kim, though only two of them attended. The family of Ms. Sanchez, 87, “prevailed upon her to stay home, rather than party maskless with 600 friends,” Mr. Meyers said.

And Mr. Patterson tested positive for Covid and accepted his award through a pre-recorded video. He was introduced by Dolly Parton, his co-author on “Run, Rose, Run.” “I think you’re winning, what, the Writers for Writers Award?” Ms. Parton said via video. “How perfect is that? Every writer loves you.”

The gala had the air of a college reunion, with old friends eager to catch up. Between courses of pickled squash salad and roast chicken, guests leapt from their seats to mingle. They continued chatting after dinner, lingering around the dessert stations five hours after the doors opened.

But when it was time to say goodbye around 10:30 pm, there were orchids and free books to collect. “Oh gosh, tote bags,” a bespectacled partygoer muttered lustily, making a beeline for the first of many gift tables this season.

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