A few weeks ago, I debuted as an author. Just me, no one else. I’d read in public many times, but I had always read alongside other fellow writers, never on my own. This was the first time I would give a talk and read from The Forgetting Flower, solo. People were coming, if any came at all, to see me and no one else. I was the sole entertainment for about an hour. And it scared the sh*t out of me.
Don’t Panic, Yes, Panic
To stave off the panic beforehand, I focused on being as prepared as possible. I emailed the Third Place Books contact and made sure all was ready and that they would order the books in time, I politely asked for a promo poster when every author’s in June and July was made except mine. I registered the talk with all of the local newspapers and blogs, and lastly, I figured out what I would talk about.
That last task was more difficult than I expected. The store had asked me to give a short talk and do a reading. I figured I could do that but how to make it not boring? How to break the ice? I wrestled with my brain in an effort to figure out a joke to start off the speech. While eating lunch with my husband, I’d say, “How about this,” and then lay a joke on him. Silence. Or he’d say, “I don’t know. If you want.” I’d frown. Nothing impressed him. So, I kept working on it.
A couple of days before the reading, I nailed down what I wanted to talk about. Three things the book covered: plants, Paris, and Poland. I had a little story to share about each, so I wrote out what I wanted to say word for word. I told myself I could read from it or just use it as a guide. Then I decided I’d read a few pages from The Forgetting Flower, enough to hopefully get people interested in the book. I was done.
My Other Angst
During the days leading up to the reading, I worried no one would show. Yes, I had close friends in Seattle but more were scattered across the U.S. and Europe. They weren’t able to make a global trek for my one evening. At the last minute my sister, thrilled at my publishing my novel, asked if I’d feel better if she came from Chicago. I said yes. So she did. Just like that. And I thought, okay, that makes an audience of seven people.
On the night before the reading, in a fit of desperation, I lay in bed and told my husband my last idea for a joke. He laughed. Thank God.
And a Party?
I have trouble managing my calendar sometimes. I doublebook myself and forget about appointments. Sometimes I literally don’t know where one of my three kids is at any given moment. So, in my pre-reading launch haze, I thought it would be a good idea to throw a party at my house, which was two minutes by car from the bookstore. Really? Well, guess what? That adds a layer of tidying and cleaning and window washing and cat box scooping and lawn mowing that I hadn’t thought about! How dense am I?
Well, thanks to my family and friends, I got all of that part done. And by the time the reading came around, I knew some of my neighbors were coming so I knew I’d have more in the audience than seven people. But I didn’t know how many would actually show. I mean, people get busy, right? Well, a lot showed. They and my outer circle of friends and fellow writers and even some folks I didn’t know! I was delighted to see the bookstore add chairs. The total was 40 plus people. Whew.
All Eyes on Me
It’s strange for everyone from your sister who’s known you since you were kids to your newest fellow author friends to be waiting for your words. So before launching into my stories, I gave them my most honest feelings about the whole thing. I told everyone that I had tried to get on top of this event by writing out an agenda. I showed them the paper. But I told them that for some reason the first item I’d put at the very top was: “hide in bathroom and wait until everyone leaves.”
It got a laugh. I felt relieved. Then I realized that I hadn’t brought my glasses to the podium and couldn’t see a spec of what I’d written, unless of course I crammed the paper at my face. So I launched into the story of plants and fragrance, then searched for the highlighted, bolded sentences. Those bolded sentences saved me. I got through the talk, I read the first pages. I even got through the book signing. And before I knew it, I was at home drinking a cocktail and laughing with friends. Turns out I could handle being a temporary book “star” after all.