It’s a rather silly, antiquated notion: the author “tour.” I hear that 20 years ago, writers drew big crowds. Even today, there are a couple who still do. But for most of us—midlist authors, beloved by readers numbering in the hundreds rather than the millions—events are iffy. We’re encouraged to pack them with our own friends and relatives, larding the crowd from people who’ve known us since birth.
My attitude about readings is that they’re simply a celebration—of my novel, certainly, but also of booksellers, avid readers and that dying breed of cozy little shops with soft chairs where you can curl up and get lost in a book.
The first event for The Forever Marriage took place June 14 (publication day) at Common Good Books, in St. Paul, MN. This is Garrison Keillor’s bookstore; it has a neat G. Keillor, proprietor inscription on the awning over the front door. Inside, it’s crammed with books and comfy sofas. The staff is made up of people who worship the written word. There’s a pair of brilliant red tennis shoes that look to be a size 17, near the door, on display.
Here is a photo from my reading at Common Good Books:
The following Monday, I appeared at 318 Cafe in Excelsior, MN. Now this may not sound like a big venue, but it’s one of the best. What made it 100 times better was the extraordinary show of support I got from my former colleagues at Olson.
Advertisers have a reputation. They’re known to be hard drinkers, skirt chasers, adrenaline junkies. Some of that’s true. But they’re also—in my experience—some of the best, most goodhearted people in the world. And whoa! They know how to have a good time.
Before my reading, Olson CEO Kevin DiLorenzo threw what he called a “little happy hour” at his house. I was envisioning a bottle of wine and a bowl of mixed nuts. But no. There was a gorgeous spread, a full bar (we’re advertisers!!) and about 15 Olsonites who drove across town at rush hour to attend. This is me with Kevin (right) and Dennis Ryan, the chief creative officer at Olson. Mind you, these are the two top guys in a company of 400 people—one of the fastest-growing in Minnesota, a company I left (temporarily) to promote my book—and here’s us 20 minutes before my reading:
The event itself was glorious: a packed house and everyone was relaxed—eating and drinking—which always pokes up the festive mood and sharpens the questions a writer will be asked….
The best surprise of the evening came in the form of two young men who wandered in for a beer and got “caught” in my reading. They’re environmental advocates and 318 is their hang-out; they’d intended to spend the evening working. So each one had a laptop. We spied them when we walked in and I was pretty sure they hadn’t come to hear about a novel called THE FOREVER MARRIAGE.
But when they realized what was going on, amazingly, they stayed! They Googled me and the book while I was presenting. Then they cheerfully participated in the Q & A. Oscar, the one on the right, asked if I was worried that my book would encourage women to kill their husbands. A rousing discussion followed. Are they not unbelievably cute?
The following night, my mother hosted a reading for me and invited all her friends. They came in droves, many bringing their daughters! I was truly touched.
One of the greatest things about doing something (like writing a book) that draws attention is you reunite with wonderful people you haven’t seen for a long, long time. This is Paula, the woman who babysat me when I was three and she was a teenager. We haven’t seen each other in more than 40 years.
On Thursday, Kit Naylor—founder of the Algonquin Hotdish (a writer’s group in the Twin Cities) and one of my closest friends—threw a launch party for THE FOREVER MARRIAGE. Common Good Books came to sell copies of both of my novels. Legendary people from Minnesota and all parts east attended. Here’s a photo of the crowd while I was reading. That small, dignified lady in the beautiful green and teal blouse sitting on the right end of the couch? She’s Jane Brody, columnist from the New York Times. And if you enlarge the photo, you can just barely see Kit by the front door, watching over me. As she does…
I’ve been lucky to be influenced by many talented and extraordinary people. But none is more dear to me than Faith Sullivan, author of The Cape Ann, The Empress of One, and many other splendid novels. She was at Kit’s party, too. And it doesn’t get any better than this.