About a week ago, as I stood up to walk out of my office, I got a phone call from a woman telling me she was calling from the Bound to be Read bookstore. I didn’t remember the name of the store, though I had been there once to leave a copy of The Illusion of Being Here for the store owner. At that time I had been going around to book stores to leave copies, but in the end, nothing seemed to come of those visits. Now, however, here was a call telling me they were organizing an event on a Sunday afternoon for local authors to come in and present their books. Was I interested in taking part?
Hell yeah, of course I was interested. A book store was asking me, ASKING me to come in and talk about my book? Really? After the call, it occurred to me that I had also visited bookstores in Charleston, South Carolina, and I wondered whether it might be one of them calling. If so, I couldn’t go, as it would be too far away. I felt relieved when I found that it was an Atlanta bookstore.
It never occurred to me that a call like this could happen, so when I came home to see how many copies of the book I had on hand, I was down to five. Gosh, what if a lot of people wanted to buy the book? What if I had to turn away anxious fans? What if a movie producer happened to come into this little book store just at that time and, and, and… I rushed onto the Ingram Spark website (the people who print the book) to order more copies, and because I now had so little time, I paid extra for fast printing and shipping. Thus it’s ironic that (1) the books were delivered to my office by Friday, in time for Sunday’s reading, but I didn’t realize they had arrived, so I didn’t pick them up, and (2) no one bought a book anyway.
But the laws of chance said that even someone such as I would not do everything wrong. I had been to other events to hear writers talk and seen large posters of the cover of the book the writer was talking about, and I wondered whether I could get a poster like that. I called FedEx, because I thought I had seen one time that they would make posters. I emailed them a digital copy of the book cover, and in a few days the poster was ready to pick up. It was slightly pricey at $48, but it does look great, two feet tall, a perfect rendition of the cover. When I went to the book store on Sunday, I was the only person with a poster.
The store Bound to be Read is in the south of the city, an area of town called East Atlanta. The building is a shotgun style of architecture, maybe 15 feet wide, and a straight shot back from the front door. If you had a good arm, you could probably stand at the front door and throw a book all the way to the back, but you wouldn’t want to, because as a proper independent bookstore, they also have a long-haired orange cat, and you might hit the cat.
Both sides of the store are lined with shelves of books, with other shelves in the middle, including smallish metal shelves at the back. Those smaller shelves were moved to the side to clear space for the reading, a small table was set up and covered with a red table cloth, and eleven folding chairs were set out.
I arrived somewhat early, possibly the second of the writers to get there. I recognized another writer, a man who I had seen multiple times at poetry readings at Java Monkey in Decatur. He said he remembered my name when I greeted him, but he didn’t recognize me, which he said was due to my remarkably stylish hat. He didn’t say “remarkably stylish”, but I’m sure he meant to. He just said “hat”.
I also talked a bit with two of the store employees, including the woman who called me, and I learned that they hope to do more local author events in the future, as there are many writers in Atlanta. We began at 2:30, and most of those eleven chairs were filled, so I started wondering if we were going to need security to handle the crowd. There were eight writers taking part, and I’m pretty sure that all the seats were filled with the invited writers and our road crews. My crew had the day off, so I was there alone.
I was the second writer to speak, and we had more or less 15 minutes to convey the heartbreaking wonder of our books. I’m very comfortable talking in front of people, after spending oh so many years as a college professor, and actually I think I’m fairly good at speaking to a group, as I’ve learned to speak loudly enough and enunciate clearly, and I tend to use humor. I had my marvelous poster on a stand up on the red-cloth table, and at the suggestion of a friend from work, I wore a tie (my lucky tie, that I bought in Italy).
For several days before this event, I had been wondering, “What will I do? What am I supposed to say?” What I decided was to read a page from the novel of the first time Luke meets the witch in Moscow, and then another page of Paul and Luke in a boat near Charleston, stopping to look at a boat with red sails. I thought these selections would illustrate the two basic settings of the book. When I finished reading the first part, in Moscow, the people listening applauded. In fact, they stood, they cheered, they threw roses and cried… OK, they just clapped a little, and I wasn’t sure how to understand that. Did it mean they actually liked it? Or did it mean that, like me, they were new and not sure what to do, and applauding seemed polite?
There was a real variety in the types of books represented: poetry (I think that was poetry), inspirational, novels (literary, fantasy), a children’s book, an Alzheimer’s memoir. I stayed until 4:30, though the event went long and one writer was still presenting when I left. (I wanted to go home before I went back out again for my drumming class that evening.)
We were all new, all learning how to do this, and one writer very honestly expressed how it feels when she said, “It’s an overwhelming industry.” It really is, truly. But once in a while something good might happen, like a completely unexpected phone call.