Wheatfield Near Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Photograph by Robert Clements

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year

Signing at Longfellow Books, Portland, Maine. Photo by Berry Manter.
This day doesn't exist for the next three years, so it's important to take advantage of that fact and celebrate its appearance. It's a gray day in Maine. It's about to snow. But because it's tardy and after-the-fact, it won't last long, despite predictions of several inches of fluff and nonsense. It's as if winter overslept and woke up with a jolt, gasping, "Crap. I forgot to snow. Gotta get cracking."

So does anything I say or do today really count as my history, if this day doesn't exist three out of four times? Or is my entire history only valid during Leap Year?

Enough. The book is out, and I'm learning about readings, signings, and general marketing. I am grateful for so many things in my life, so many skills that I developed as I bumbled along without a clue. Seriously, I've never through, well, I'll do this, which will lead to this, and this, and finally, here I am, at my goal. Which was? To write a novel and to have it published. Although, frankly, that was a dream. So, what does one do when one has their dream come true, and how does that dream manifest itself in the reality of traveling to bookstores and libraries, and to book groups, and in talking with reporters?

The last bit about reporters, I'll tackle first. In a way, I'm in my element when talking to reporters, because I was one for several years. I was a terrible reporter because I'm naturally shy. Sometimes, neurotically shy. I'm also a Yankee, which means that I don't stick my nose into anyone's business. Asking questions makes me feel as if I'm Mrs. Krebs's cousin, peeking into her neighbor's windows to see if I can catch anyone wandering around in their underwear or doing something that could be construed as gossip-worthy. Anyway, I did learn how to answer questions, and how to edit myself, and to figure out what people are really asking, and so on. I enjoy interviews, actually, which surprises me. And it isn't as if what I'm doing is controversial and I have to defend myself. I'm a little middle-aged lady from Maine who wrote a book that appears to be doing well.

My sister and I at the book launch of the book, at the University of Southern Maine Bookstore.
Thanks to Barbara Kelly and staff. From the Maine Sunday Telegram. Photo by Judith Alessi O'Brien.  

Bookstores - oh how I love them. Independent bookstores that have survived the onslaught of box stores and seem to be thriving, in most cases. University of Southern Maine Bookstore, Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine, Gibson's Books in Concord, New Hampshire, Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick, Maine - and several more that I will be reading and signing at this summer, when I'll be back to cover the areas in Maine that are largely silent, except for the hardy residents that tough it out during this time of year. I acted for several years, so I have some experience in being in front of small and larger groups. I'm developing a reading persona. This persona speaks louder than normal (and singing helped me develop my diaphragm so that I can project), remembers to look at as many people as I can while reading, to bring out a little of each character, and to respect the pauses. This persona understands that smaller crowds have come out to hear the reading and are JUST as important as a larger group. A friend told me a story about Stephen King. When Carrie first came out, she put together an event for him. Seven people showed up, all family. Who shows up for a reading and how many is pretty much random. And each event at each store is carefully planned and wildly appreciated by the author. The potential is there to reach one person who needed to be reached in that minute, in that hour. You never know.

Book groups. I adore book groups. One, people have purchased and read the book and it can be discussed freely and openly, because there are no 'spoilers' that might give away too much during a reading. Discussions about why this or what that can take place without fear of taking up too much time. And there's usually wine and food. Which are good things Although, a fellow author and dear friend recently said that one should refrain from drinking on the job. It depends on how many friends are in the group in question, I think. One glass of wine generally puts me over the edge (I'm a cheap date) so that's actually really valid...The last time I was in Deadwood, South Dakota - well, what happens in Deadwood stays in Deadwood, I guess. Only the Bobster knows for sure what happened, and he maintains discretion in matters like this, which is one reason I adore Bob more than book groups.

The Patten Free Library in Bath, Maine. The statue in the pond is called Spirit of the Sea, by William Zorach. 
Libraries. I worked in a wonderful library - The Patten Free Library in Bath, Maine - for seven years. It changed my life. I was hired through a CETA program to be an assistant for a Reading is Fundamental program. Hired by a fiery, feisty, fierce little woman named Barbara King, who saw through my pathological shyness and general insecurity and believed in me enough to take me on. I will be grateful to her, all my life. I walked into a sanctuary almost every day and was embraced by books idling on the children's shelves and in the adult stacks. One day, I must have whispered, I will write a book that will be shelved in these stacks. People will take it out, hopefully enjoy it, and perhaps it will hold as much meaning for them as my special books did and still do for me. Tonight, I am going back to that library. Tonight, which only happens once every four years, I will read words I have written, inspired by a life I lived back in that small city and by the mix of characters I both loved and dealt with on a daily basis. Tonight, I will come home and I can only hope that they will take me in.