#1- I live in San Jose. Population, a million people give or take. Local news is not interested in a writer like me because I have no name (yet?) so coverage in the local paper (except for the online calendar which I don’t think anyone reads) is nada.#2 – I live in San Jose but I grew up in Concord which is about an hour away. But the thing is, I’m not in touch with anyone I grew up with so it was really a moot point. I don’t have a large circle of friends to draw from. My critique group is online and spread out coast-to-coast. I work with a bunch of mostly male engineers who indulge me my writing for children but, you know… So mostly thinking about the guest list was depressing. I felt like a social failure.
#3 – I may work in San Jose but I’m not active in anything. When I my kids were young and I lived out in Oakley we had baseball and soccer and gymnastics and 4H and horse shows and karate and PTO and so many events with so many people that the guest list would have been HUGE. I have only done 2 school visits since moving back to California so I didn’t even have those contacts to draw upon. (I hadn’t been doing visits because until fall of 2005 – the PB in print was spiritual and not appropriate for most schools.) The fact that I wasn’t active in my town was brought home to me when working on a recent grant application and community contributions counting for a large percentage of the “grade.” After reading that, I doubt I’ll finish the application.
So if you are an extreme INFP like me, perhaps you can understand my difficulty with the idea of the event. I wanted to do it. I wanted to be excited about it. But it really seemed like an uphill battle. Then I got a case of the gotta wannas. The gotta wannas are what you get when you want something badly enough to work your rear off to make it work even when the odds seem stacked against you. Publishing is a gotta wanna. This event turned out to be another. Thing is, I started off wanting it to be a hit for everyone else who wanted it to be a hit for me. I didn’t want to let down Nicole, my editor and publisher and a real rock to me or the energetic marketing team of Laura and Hayley who continually work like crazy to make me feel like a superstar or my husband EG who puts up with so much so I can write or my in-laws who are the best support system I could ever hope to have or Karen, my former agent who drove all the way up San Luis Obispo to be there or my current agent Jodi who finds time for me in the midst of the 1001 other things she has to do for people who are way more well known than I can ever imagine being and so on and so on and so on.
Leading up to the party I had a lot of time to think about two very important things. What to wear and what to read. The week before the event (I am good at leaving things to the last minute) I raced into Nordstroms and informed the salesgirl that I wasn’t leaving until I had one great outfit. It took close to 3 hours but we managed to find one. Another hour in the shoe department (alas, no red boots in sight ala thatgirlygirl but I did find some fabulous red shoes with the requisite pointy toe.) Deciding what to read took longer and right up until the moment I opened the book and started to read I was still changing my mind about that. It was helpful to have gone to Patty McCormick’s reading a few weeks before and see how she skipped through the book but still gave a nice representation of the story. I had many Post-it notes on pages of one book and then worried about losing the book before the reading. Things I also worried about: wondering where I would keep my purse while I was speaking, whether to pull all my hair away from my face (my mother’s voice in my head) or let it just hang down in front like usual, when to refreshen my lipstick so it would last the longest, when to go to the bathroom for the last time before things started, if I would mispronounce the word marmoset in the last poem I planned to read and what the chances were that I would either tip over on my 1″ heel or spill water down the front of my new and expensive clothes. Actually the chances were high on both of those things but luckily, neither happened.
The day of the event I went to work like any other day. My publicist called mid-day to go over a few things and said, “You’re at work?” My former agent called me from the road and said, “You’re at work?” I had lunch in the cafeteria with my friend MM and he said, “Aren’t you excited? I’m excited. Come on, get excited.” About then I started to worry that I WOULDN’T get excited and that I would mess the whole thing up. But about 2pm the adrenalin kicked in and I was like “OMIGOSH” it’s almost time for the party!
I went home early to be sure that I had plenty of time to get ready but of course I had several mini panic moments that almost made me late, the last of which was punching holes in the straps of my new shoes so they didn’t slip off my feet while I was walking. I could trip just fine without any help, thank you very much. I got to the store in plenty of time and lo and behold there was a parking place right in front of the store. This was a good thing except for the fact that it required parallel parking. Here’s hoping that none of the guests were in those cars I blocked while making a 10 point turn parallel parking exhibition.
The gracious Sandy (store events coordinator) was there to greet me with the words, “Oh you’re so early” which immediately made me feel like I had done something wrong until I remembered that I had told my former agent I’d be there early so we could chat. I went to the bathroom and pulled my hair back with combs, took them out then put them back in again. Put on more lip gloss and went out to wait for the food to arrive while they set up the tables and chairs.
Right about HERE is where the picture of the poster advertising my party and the book in the glass case outside of Books Inc would go had I remembered to take a picture. Use your imagination. Got it? It was better than that. And HERE is where the picture of the huge display of Hugging the Rock would go had I remembered to take a picture of it. They also had a few copies of Oliver’s Must-do List and Can I Pray With My Eyes Open? on display as well. Sigh. Next time perhaps I will remember.
Karen, (former agent) was the first to arrive with her dog Zoe. Zoe had a stroke a few weeks ago but pulled out of it and the store let her come in and stay for the event. (Books Inc, at least in Mountain View, is a very dog friendly store) In case it seems weird for my former agent to be there you should know that Karen was the person who first showed Hugging the Rock to Nicole at Tricycle. There’s another whole long story about what happened after that and how Karen stopped agenting and I got the wonderful Jodi as my new agent but I won’t go into all that here.
All at once it seemed like people showing up right and left.
Food arrived and had to be arranged. Husband arrived and my first question to him was did I need more lip gloss. He said no. I asked if my lips were sparkly shiny and he said yes. But even so I went back to the bathroom and put on more lip gloss. (I know what you’re thinking. Stop laughing please.) He took the camera and promised to shoot lots of pictures. I don’t think we had time to chat again until we were both home.
I lost track of who came in when but each time the door opened and I saw a familiar face it was like being at a wedding and realizing that everyone was there to see you (or me, as the case might be.) People from my work showed up. Hugs ensued. People my husband worked with walked in. More hugs. People I used to work with but who had been laid off arrived and everyone was catching up with everyone else. Some old friends from SCBWI were there and some new faces for me, new writers just starting out joined in the fun. Walter the Giant and Jack from my acting class and I am sure I am forgetting people and I apologize. My in-laws arrived bringing friends with them. Nicole, my publisher and her husband and her father and step mom were there. Summer, another Tricycle editor and Laura and Hayley in marketing and publicity arrived and even Dr. Melody, the surgeon who set my broken finger, managed to stay for most of the event before being called to the ER. Around 60 people were there all told. People I work with made a lot of comments about how fabulous I looked which leads me to believe I should consider dressing a bit better for my day job.
People were nibbling on food and mingling and I was trying to make sure that some people met one another but it was tough. Then suddenly it seemed like everyone was seated and it was time to get started.
Sandy did a wonderful job of introducing me. She went to my website and learned all about me and shared quite a bit during the intro. She read the book (yes, sometimes people introduce you that haven’t read your book.) She managed to get several plugs for people to go check out my website. And then she handed me the microphone.
I was ready. I had the book. I had the pages marked. But wait, I still had my glasses on.
This meant I could see the people in the audience great but I wasn’t sure if I could read. If I had had more experience with microphones (this was my first time with one) I might have had the presence of mind to stop and put it on the stand and adjust it low but instead, I just took it from Sandy and started to talk, thanking people for coming and then going right into the first poem. Luckily I guess I had read that one enough that I could manage it slightly blurry but as soon as I came to the end I took off my glasses. This of course meant that I could read just fine but the people in the audience were a bit blurry. This might have been a good thing after all. I could see the outline of the Tricycle Press people standing in the back of the room. (Did I mention that there were so many people there that it was standing room only?)
Laura (marketing manager) kept gesturing to me to practically eat the microphone. The only hiccup in everything was that the mic had a short and it kept cutting in and out. Since I had no idea what to do I just kept moving the microphone around but didn’t pause in my speaking. Later I had many people tell me that I handle the mic problems like a pro but really I think I was on auto pilot and wanted to finish the speaking part. I’m grateful for whatever instincts carried me through. I did not cry during the reading but I was afraid I might at either THE ROCK or MADISON. The last poem I read was THE TRUTH ABOUT FATHERS and I did not mispronounce marmoset. Whew! When I was done there was much clapping from the audience and much relief from me that I survived. Tricycle gave away a couple of copies of the book in a drawing and I sat down to sign them. When I looked up there was this tremendous line of people with more books for me to sign. I was, to say the least, a bit blown away.
The bookstore sold a lot of books and was very happy. My publisher and the rest of the Tricycle family kept telling me how proud they were of me. People came to give me more hugs, a few gifts, some flowers, and say goodbye. Then it was time for the part of the night I had been looking forward to most of all. Giving gifts to a few special people. I knew I could do flowers or chocolate but I really wanted something that would have staying power. The Tricycle Press crew is a new family for me and they have set the bar for my ideal publisher/editor/writer relationship.
So I had something special made for them. Rocks. Carved rocks. . There’s some writing on the back of each one too. It was great fun to hand them out and see their reaction. Michael at Let’s Rock did a fabulous job on them. They are even more spectacular in person.
I kept all my emotions under control until late in the evening when I was trying to tell the Tricycle team how much they meant to me and Laura said to me, “You get back what you give.” and I about lost it. In the several days post launch as I have been reliving it I find I am growing more, not less, emotional about it all. I think I finally have to let go of the image of the person I thought I was, the person I didn’t like so I couldn’t imagine anyone else liking either. I have to let go of the guilt of not being some imagined “perfect person” and realize that people like and accept me as I am right now. And if they all think I am a person of value then maybe I better start to believe in it too.