Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Heart Harvard Book Store, and Grub Street

Last week was my official public book launch party in Boston/Cambridge, co-sponsored by Harvard Book Store and Grub Street, and it was one of the best nights of my life! The chance to share Annie Begins (now available at HBS) with friends, family, classmates, former colleagues, writer friends like Steve Almond, Chris Castellani, Jane Roper, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Lynne Griffin, Amy MacKinnon , Rishi ReddiDarci Klein, Wendy Polins, Sharon Bially, Sophie Powell and other Grubbies and friends of the bookstore was incredibly fun and absolutely a highlight so far in this experience. I learned a few things that could help other debut authors at their first readings:

1) If you are self-published (or perhaps even if traditionally published, if reading somewhere other than a bookstore), it is up to you to ensure you have enough books to sell at your readings. I did not, and my non-writer friends celebrated "you sold out! you sold out!" and my writer friends critiqued "you sold out (you idiot)!"  Of course the "you idiot" was silent, but I got the point:).
2) Don't forget your special signing pens in NYC that your brother in law and dear friends gave you as gifts, and do think in advance how you want to sign your books. I really think mine all ended up sounding like a slightly schmaltzy yearbook entry -- the literary equivalent of "you're such a wicked awesome kid!". My benchmark for book signing is Steve Almond, who writes things like "Your job is to love hard every day" or quotes Song of Songs. I even went so far as to print the lyrics of Anna Begins for inspiration, but forgot everything in the moment.
3) Be aware of who is in the audience when you decide to take a risk and read the one steamy scene in your novel. I was disappointed when my father, who is recovering from surgery, told me he couldn't make it to the reading. So, when I learned at the last minute that he was able to be there after all, it was too late to change my selection. And there he sat, in the front row, with his flip video camera that I gave him for Christmas, recording every word I said. Yep, every word.
4) Be ready for questions. In retrospect, I feel lucky that I'd done a lot of work with my publicist, Jocelyn Kelley, and with my writing buddies Alethea Black and Celine Keating, writing up my point of view on a whole host of topics related to Annie and self-publishing for various purposes. And writing this blog and teaching a session at Grub's Muse & the Marketplace conference helped me to organize my thoughts. All of this made it quite easy and enjoyable to answer questions about the writing process, the book, and self-publishing.

To everyone who came out last week, thank you! Special thanks to Harvard Book Store and Grub Street, and to Eve Bridburg for her lovely introduction. I am looking forward to the NYC equivalents, starting on July 6 at 6 pm at the Cornelia Street Cafe.

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