Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena
After the pseudo- heckling incident the previous night, you might feel a little wimpy when you roll into Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena the next afternoon. You might be even more simpering when Connie Kalter, the events planner, peeks out at the reading area and sees that you don’t have a rabid, standing room-only-full house. No. You don’t have much of an audience at all. But Connie, fortunately, is a GENIUS, and will have you meditate on a picture of Jon Hamm (guy from Mad Men) “Because you can only be happy after looking at all that Hamm-someness”, and she will suggest that you sit down with the small group of readers rather than stand behind a podium. You’ll join them in your usual nervous way, Irish skin mottled into unattractive splotchy pallor, and begin to read an excerpt. When you finish, Connie will start a chat– “chat” because somehow, there together, a dialogue will occur. Most memorably, there might be a woman who’ll tell you all about her father’s service during Korean War, how he had always refused to talk about his war years, and she’ll say that reading your stories helped her understand the untold parts of his story a little bit. So Connie– gracious, wise, kind Connie— will save you from a mortifying day (so be sure to send her a thank you card).
Elliot Bay Book Company, Seattle
If you happen to have Casey O’Neill as your events planner, please tell him I say hello. Authors love Casey, we have had conversations about how wonderful he is on Facebook. I think Elliott Bay ought to sell t-shirts with his likeness. Like Connie at Vroman’s, Casey is incredible; he will have that miniscule audience sitting in a circle around you and then he will start a conversation so insightful and brilliant that every moment of being in Elliot Bay will feel like the most tremendous success.
The Book Stall with the Winnetka-Northfield Public Library, Winnetka, Illinois
Your wonderful publicist will have surely told you to always be camera ready. However, there might be a blizzard. Not just any blizzard. You will hear all the newscasters across America bandying around words like Snowcapocalspe, Snowmagedeon, Blizzaster. Yup, that blizzard. Which of course might lead you to think, “No one will care what I wear, it’s Snowmagedeon!” and you might foolishly don a comfortable pair of pants, a grey blouse layered over a tank top and t-shirt, hat, gloves, scarf, and cowgirl boots. You usually get to a reading and beg to use the bathroom, claiming to have a case of nerves, but actually go to the mirror, check your teeth for spinach, hair for whatever random thing might have blown into it, mascara to insure it hasn’t pooled into your cheekbones. But here, at the lovely Bookstall, you are being honored as the Winnetka One Book Two Villages 2011 Pick, which is pretty darn wonderful, and you are busy grinning like mad and thanking the librarians who chose your book (Thank you, Juli Janovicz!) when wonderful Roberta Rubin hands you a hot cocoa and tells you it is time to roll, no room for that bathroom check. Again you’ll tell yourself, “Hey, it’s a blizzard, who cares how I look?”
WRONG. ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR PUBLICIST. Of course this will be the time, THE ONLY TIME during the whole dang tour, someone will videotape you and put you on YOU TUBE. In that video, either the blizzard or a malevolent poltergeist has diabolically rearranged your hair so that a piece of it is oddly perpendicular to your head. And the grey blouse that you thought looked OK in the hotel mirror? No. It does not look good. It looks so bad that it never could have possibly looked good. Those warm layers make you look like some kind of Michelin man squeezing himself into a child sized shirt of aluminum foil. You will watch that video and wonder how all of those nice people were able to talk to you with a straight face, have a normal conversation without staring at your odd head of hair or busting buttons. People are very very VERY nice in Winnetka, Illinois.
Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi
This is another of those kinds of book stores that feels like your dream home, nooks filled with stacks of books and lots of framed authors smiling down from the walls, with an incredibly friendly staff just like you hope for from the South. But Mother Nature will crash the party again– this time with a hurricane warning. By now you are finding Mother Nature’s dogged devotion to following your book tour around the country hilarious.
There might be another uninvited guest at your reading.
You will be in the middle of your reading, everyone quiet and wondering where your character Natalya has gone and what will happen to her children, when your cell phone starts ringing and madly vibrating on the table in front of you.
You see a name pop up, LOWELL GOLDMAN. Lowell is one of your husband’s closest friends, a former Army Special Forces pilot. But strangest of all, right at this moment Lowell’s mother and father-in-law are to sitting in the front row of Lemuria’s listening to you.
The conversation goes like this:
“Sha-vunny-bunny! Your book is like a REAL book. I mean, I am at a shop in Nashville and your book is sitting here on the shelf, with other books by real authors!!! This is unbelievable!”
“Uhhh, thanks Lowell. Right now I’m in the middle of a reading at a bookstore. Can I call you back? Oh, and Jackson, Mississippi says hello.”
His mother-in-law shouts out hello too.
Lowell yells, “Oh %$#@! Tell Donna I say hi!” and hangs up.
(Lowell—you are always telling me I need to write about you but you never do anything that is PG enough for me to put in print. This is as close as it gets.)
Borders/AWP, Washington DC
Since your last reading is in DC, and AWP (annual writer’s conference that is really just one big excuse for writers to act like they are cool) just happens to be in DC too, you roll into town at the height of the party. You might meet some fabulous writers at the conference who offer to go to your Borders reading, and since Penguin/Putnam is the best publisher in the world, they send you an Escalade so you could jam it full of as many foxy ladies as possible, including your two cousins who road-tripped to hear you (thank you, Caroline and Angela!).
And since Mother Nature has decided to show you some mercy on the night of your last official book tour reading, she stays away, alleluia! One of your old neighbors from Fort Hood brings her DC/Fort Mead crew of Army wives (including a spouse who you once guilted into adopting one of the Texas stray cats you collected, but she doesn’t bear you any ill will), some beautiful friends from your undergraduate days show up, and you even see some Army camouflage uniforms in the audience. It’s a cool, clear night, you are surrounded by friends, and you couldn’t finish your official tour in a better place.
And AWP—Well, I had a blast, how could I not have a blast? I did not get a picture of my hero, author Benjamin Percy, but got to meet him and he is as brilliant in person as he is on the page. But here are some photo highlights…
That’s Tanya Egan Gibson (HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING), Barbara Mead, Therese Fowler (EXPOSURE), me, my AWP roomie Rebecca Rasmussen (THE BIRD SISTERS) , Heidi Durrow (THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY), Caroline Leavitt (PICTURES OF YOU), Eleanor Brown (THE WEIRD SISTERS), Sarah Pekkanen (SKIPPING A BEAT).
And there we go. That’s the official book tour. (My trip to Austin came later, when YKWTMAG was chosen, along with The Things They Carried, as the 2011 Austin Mayor’s Book Club Picks– it was amazing! I met Tim O’Brien! In my slow slooooow way I will write about it one of these days).
Thanks to everyone who has had the patience to read about this tour in my piecemeal posting fashion, I am really trying to work on writing more often (and shorter) about current life (aka Jordan). You all are the best.