The first question friends asked when I announced that my book was to be published was whether I’d be going on a book tour. I asked my publicist the same question. Her carefully practiced response was that Random House was very excited to orchestrate an extensive local tour, but they didn’t plan to send me anywhere outside driving distance (and they wouldn’t be paying for my gas). So much for the glamorous writing life.
The Good: Random House did arrange dozens of events and I read at Indie bookstores all over the West Coast. Friends and family came out and cheered me on and put me up, invitations rolled in from book festivals, writing conferences and charity organizations. Since January, I’ve chalked up nearly fifty events, with audiences ranging from 3 to 300, including stops in L.A., San Diego, Seattle, Bellingham, Missoula, Minneapolis, Boulder, Napa, Mendocino, Sacramento, and Burning Man. I’ve done 20 local book groups, and my book was picked by the San Francisco Chronicle for their members only Book Club, moderated by the paper’s Book Editor. I spoke at my kids’ school, my high school, and a school for disadvantaged youths in Newark, New Jersey. I’ve done virtual events and podcasts and radio spots and newspaper interviews. I overcame my fear of public speaking and learned that I love to talk to people about writing and literature. I lost ten pounds from the stress of it all. I made lots of new writer friends. I managed to get through it without a single case of bed bugs, all but one event was well attended, and my kids still more or less remember who I am. I learned that people still care about language and stories and authors and books.
I gained back the ten pounds from the stress of it all. I got behind on writing and life. I worried about what to wear and spent too much money on new clothes. I missed home. At book festivals and conferences, I often had that adolescent feeling of being the newcomer, the only one who wasn’t reuniting with old friends. At a festival in Missoula, I had an interior room at the Holiday Inn with a window that looked out not at big Montana sky, but at the Book Fair at which my book was for sale. It became a perverse pass-time to watch potential readers picking the book up, reading the jacket copy, then putting the book down and moving on.
I was invited to do an event at a beer garden in Sebastopol. Random House put me up in a hotel. The hosting bookstore sent three booksellers who set up an elaborate display, including a huge stack of books, a custom poster, and a microphone and lectern in an alcove of the beer garden. A new writer friend and her sister arrived and bought books, and one other person sat down. We waited ten minutes, but nobody else came. Patrons of the beer garden looked at me curiously as I began to speak, figured out I was an author, and went back to their pints. The silver lining: there was beer, and afterward, the writer, Sere Halverson, stayed on and commiserated. We’ve remained friends, and we’re planning a joint event next year when Sere’s wonderful new novel, All the Winters After, is released. Rest assured, it won’t be in a beer garden.