Scene @ Cosmo‘s Fun & Fearless Fiction Party

By Neal Comment

From left: Jodi Picoult, Jane Smiley, Sara Gruen, the barest glimpse of Candace Bushnell, Carlos Watson, a tiny glimpse of Cecilia Ahern, Amy Sedaris, and Jane Green

Last night’s reception for Cosmopolitan‘s first “Fun & Fearless Fiction” awards created an environment where “chick lit” and “literary” authors stood comfortably side by side, where Jane Smiley‘s daughter was thrilled to be introduced to Jane Green and everybody was as eager to meet Alice Sebold as Amy Sedaris. Since HuffPo had seen fit yesterday morning to reprint Erica Jong‘s slam at the chick lit ghetto, which sharply criticizes women writer who accept market-driven categorization “as the price of being published,” I asked some of the most commercially successful writers what they thought about their placement on bookstore shelves. “I think anything that gets people reading is a good thing,” said Jodi Picoult. “When I reach for a book, I reach for a good story, and I don’t care if it’s a National Book Award winner or chick lit.” Green emphasized that this was all very much an issue of marketing. “I’m proud to have been part of the chick lit movement from the very beginning,” she said, “but I understand the frustration over the derviatvie writing that followed. Chick lit has been around for about a dozen years, and people have been saying that it’s dying for 11 of them. But if there wasn’t a market for the better writers, they wouldn’t have the longevity they do.” (For more photos from the evening, visit my Flickr set.)

bridget-kinsella.jpgAs the party wound down, I spotted West Coast PW correspondent Bridget Kinsella across the room, and we wound up walking down the block to celebrate the publication of her first book, Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outside, over cocktails at the Carnegie Club. Because I’d only just gotten my review copy and hadn’t had a chance to crack it open, I didn’t realize that the book is largely a memoir. But as she told me about the relationship with the Pelican Bay inmate that grounds the book’s narrative, along with the stories of other women she met visiting their loved ones at the prison, I could tell it had the potential to be one of this summer’s big nonfiction titles. She’ll be back in town in mid-June for a Leonard Lopate interview and an appearance at the UWS Barnes & Noble; you should go.