Tour City is a strange, simultaneously liberating and alienating place, full of smiling chamber maids who don’t speak English, concierges who are walking wikipedias (or know absolutely nothing), and bell hops who make Olive’s day.
We always assume we’re going to get so much done when we’re going to go on tour because, let’s face it, you don’t have to do dishes, or laundry, or pay bills, or or or. In theory, you’re only working a couple hours a day. Each time, we go on tour, we vow to work out every day, finish writing our novel, and catch up on all of our emails. But the reality is, the days go by lickety split, and everything is slightly exhausting, and you don’t get enough sleep even if you get enough sleep, and instead of working out rigorously, you always, inevitably, end up eating the molten chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and a scoop of ice cream instead. Plus, there’s the relentless pressure of having to not only put on a great show, but make sure there’s an audience that shows up. Occasionally we fantasize about what it must be like to be Sue Grafton, Neil Gaiman or Margaret Atwood. Where all you have to do is show up and the general public flocks. The frustrating part for us is that we just know there are tens of thousands of writers who desperately need our help wherever we go. From goth teenagers to octogenarian grandmas, soccer moms to newly minted college grads, CEOs to cab drivers, we just know that every city is full of Citizen Authors with dreams of writing successful books. But even in this day of Twitter and Facebook, it’s just hard to connect with and let writers know what we’re up to and how we can help them. And so far this tour has felt a little bit like the classic movie, Spinal Tap. Remember when the band shows up at record stores where the only person in attendance is the incredibly apologetic record company rep? But we keep reminding each other to embrace the joy and feel the love. And in this respect, it’s been an absolute boon to have Olive with us. She doesn’t care whether anyone shows up, she’s just excited about going to a strange new place called Cleveland.
Today, Arielle took Olive down for breakfast and we met Darryl the Bellman. He took us up to one of the three largest ballrooms in the world. Then took us to the special piano room which housed two grand pianos. He sat down and played Scott Joplin rags while Olive danced. As we walked out, an old lady in a classic hotel uniform watched us. Turns out it was Miss Ida who has been working at the hotel since 1951. As we left the hotel today, Darryl handed Olive a yogurt and a spoon that was a gift from Miss Ida. This was all just a reminder of what is truly important in life, to see 50-year-old Darryl and 3-year-old Olive, these two kindred spirits, make such a joyful connection. Despite the difficulties and the challenges, we also keep reminding each other that you never know how and when the tipping point will be reached–when that big piece or some world famous blogger will mention your book in just the right context to send it shooting through the roof.
And then there’s Dayton…Books and Company has been a stalwart for us. We’ve been twice before and both times our events were packed. This is a store that knows how to put on an event, knows how to draw a crowd. Good to know you can always depend on Dayton.
We were lucky enough to share a Pitchapalooza stage in Pittsburgh with one of the savviest writers we’ve ever met: Nancy Martin. She’s written 50 books. 50 BOOKS! When she told us that we felt small & stupid. She’s the winner of the 2009 Lifetime Achievement award for mystery writing from Romantic Times magazine. Her tag line says it all: Just keep reading & nobody gets hurt. She also helped found a writer’s workshop/conference called Pennwriters.
Here ‘s her advice for new writers: First of all, the best way to start writing is…to start writing. You can talk about your ideas until the cows come home, read how-to books until you′re cross-eyed and whine that you can″t find the time to fulfill your dream because of your job, your family or other outside pressures. Thing is, only you can make a career in writing happen…
This is her very cool website: http://www.nancymartinmysteries.com/
We’re bringing PITCHAPALOOZA to the Los Angeles area, two seperate events in two great bookstores:
November 13th 2 to 4PM at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Boulevard Los Angeles, CA
November 15th 7 to 9 at Vroman’s 695 East Colorado Boulevard Pasadena, CA
Selma Hyjek wrote about this lovely article about our trip to lovely Smith.
November 15, Vroman’s, Pasadena, 7pm
The Essential Guide Rocks America Tour Pitchapalooza #5: Death @ the Bookstore – The Murder of Joseph-Beth in Pitsburgh
It’s hard to tell sometimes whether the universe has it in for you, or life is a series of random events. At our first event at Borders outside Washington DC, the manager of the store didn’t know there was an event there that night, and had only 3 copies of our books on hand. Then, two days before leaving for Pittsburgh, we found out that we’d be the last event at the Joseph-Beth bookstore there, as they were closing their doors later in the week.
When we walked into Joseph-Beth, it looked like the fall of Saigon, people grabbing gigantically discounted books hand over fist. The book distributor who supplies the books for the store had moved in palettes of boxes, just waiting to ship out inventory. So we did our event in front of the gallows, with the hangmen waiting to slip the noose around the neck of yet another bookstore . It certainly seemed like a sign from above. Or maybe from below. With all the rumors going around that the book business is going down the toilet, it seemed cruel and ironic that we were dropped down right in the middle of a bookstore execution.
That being said, a bunch of brave writers showed up with dreams in their hearts and stardust in their eyes, ready to jumpstart their publishing career, and have their dreams of becoming successfully published writers come true. And we had two fantastic panelists, Vince Rause, a client of Arielle’s who has written, among other things, the New York Times bestseller, Miracle in the Andes, a truly inspirational book about the rugby team that crashed in the Andes. Our other panelist was the mystery writer, Nancy Martin, who revealed that she has written over 50 books. Suddenly we felt so insigrnificant.
As always, we heard some great pitches. The winner, Candace Bangs, gave an airtight pitch for her YA novel full of tragedy, drama, and paranormal activity. It’s funny how once the event starts, the focus becomes so intense that everything else is blocked out. So while we were listening to and deconstructing all the pitches, the madness raging all around us faded into the background.
Yes, the book business may be going through troubled times, but it seems like human beings will always tell and listen to stories.
Plus we got a great tour afterwards from Vince amd had some crazy good tacos. Pittsburgh rocks hard.
The Essential Guide Rocks America Pitchapalooza #4: Pat Conroy & Scarlet O’Hara On the Road to Pittsburgh
7:30AM came ridiculously early this Saturday morning. Knowing we had to make it from DC to Pittsburgh in our rental car by 1:30 PM, there was no time to lose. As Olive (our three-year-old daughter who is on tour with us) watched Dora the Explorer, we threw clothes into suitcases, computer cords into bags, and food into bellies. The edge of manic franticness finally dissipated as we drove onto the highway and were serenaded by the spectacular explosion of autumnal colors and the soothing sounds of Scott Simon’s voice.
While we basked in the ochres, oranges and burgundies, we listened to a fantastic interview with Pat Conroy, talking about his new memoir, My Reading Life. We were particularly excited when we heard him speak of how his mother read poetry to him when he was a wee lad because one of the projects we’re working on is a collection of poetry for kids to say out loud. His interview confirmed for us the power of the spoken word.
Conroy also told a beautiful story about his mother reading Gone with the Wind to him and how she would relate the characters in the story to the people in their own family’s lives. Naturally, his mother cast herself as Scarlett O’Hara. We loved hearing him talk about how, at an early age, the relationship between art and life was formed through the beautiful soothing voice of his mother reading bedtime stories to the young future bestselling author. It made us reflect on how valuable it is for young Olive to hear the stories we read to her and made us feel connected to that great tradition of passing stories from generation to generation that has been with human beings since we lived in caves.
One of the joys of going on tour is getting to hang out with old friends and to make new ones. Arielle first met Jessica Goldstein when she was fourteen. And they’ve been friends ever since. But because Jessica lives in Washington DC, they don’t get to see each other nearly as much as they’d like.
When we were booked into the DC area for the first stop on our tour, Jessica asked if we would like her to throw a book party for us. As you can probably guess by this gesture, Jessica is one of the more generous people on this earth. Naturally, we were excited to meet her friends and to have a night just to hang out and talk to all kinds of interesting people.
Jessica, and her husband Peter, are both producers at NPR. So they are surrounded by a plethora of interesting folks and many of their friends are voices that we hear over the airwaves every day. Arielle also happens to be an NPR fanatic—while David feels soothed with the sound of sports in the background, Arielle is most at ease with the hum of NPR.
For those of you who don’t follow the book business closely, NPR is kind of like the Vatican, the Yankee Stadium, the Disneyland to published authors. Get on NPR and watch your Amazon numbers skyrocket! So when Jessica told us she was going to fill her house with NPR friends and colleagues, we were literally jumping for joy. We’d get to meet some of our favorite radio journalists and we’d get to tell these folks about our new book ourselves. The alternative was to have our publisher send the book in and have it sit next to the one billion other books winging their way to the NPR offices as we write.
Jessica asked us if we would prepare a little something to say during the party. We knew this was a great idea, but we suddenly found ourselves star struck. What would we say? How could we avoid sounding stupid? Taking a page out of the boy scout’s book, we decided we must be prepared. We huddled in a corner while Jessica zoomed around prepping for the party.
The guests arrived. We greeted, conversed, had a really fun time…and then it was our turn to do our thing. David has performed in front of thousands of people in his life and Arielle has done her fair share of performing. And we both agree, it can be much more nerve-wracking to perform in front of a small crowd in a living room. But we managed to tell a semi-coherent story about how our book, our love, and our child, came to be. And how Jessica, our lovely host, was in part responsible for the book’s birth. You see, seven years ago, when we first came up with our Putting Your Passion into Print Workshop, Jessica got us booked onto NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Our publisher got wind of this appearance and asked us to write a proposal on the subject. That proposal turned into our new book.
So this blog post is really to say a big thank you to our old and wonderful friend for her past, present and future generosity and kindness. We love you, Jess!
Come join us for PITCHAPALOOZA in the Big Apple, November 11th at 7PM. We’ll be at the Barnes & Noble situated at 150 E. 86th Street, New York, NY.