The Essential Guide Tour Pitchapalooza #9: An NPR Homey, Finding Happiness @ Books & Co & the Dayton Airport Blues
Exhaustion sat on us like a sumo wrestler as we slouched into Dayton and collapsed in the No Name Hotel. It was one o’clock, and we had a two o’clock interview. There was no one to look after Olive, so we decided that David would do the interview. They wanted us to go to the studio, and we were grumbling about why we couldn’t do it over the phone. But fate had other things in store for us. David power-napped for 27 minutes, rolled out of bed looking like death warmed over–thankfully it was radio. We thought it was just some rinky-dink interview. Turns out it was actually the local NPR affiliate.
When David showed up no one was there. Only tumbleweeds and the ghosts of arts programs passed. But eventually someone showed up. They had no idea who David was or what he was doing there. They looked at him suspiciously. Frankly, he looked quite suspicious. David finally dug out the name of the contact person from his Droid: Shaun Yu. Shaun plopped David in front of the microphone, hit a couple buttons, and away they went. It was a fantastic discussion, about books, publishing, social media, e-books, American culture, and the obsession with being heard in a society where most everyone feels ignored.
Sometimes you meet people in life who speak the same language as you, as if you’d been having a conversation for years, and were picking it up right in the middle, even though you’ve never talked to the person in your whole life. That’s how it was for David and Shaun. Afterwards they discovered that they were Portland homies. David graduated from Reed College, and Shaun from the rival across the river, Lewis and Clark. It was such a pleasure to connect with someone who is so simpatico. We can’t wait to listen to the finished version of the interview.
Then it was on to Books and Co, where we were greeted by one of our ATF (All-Time Favorites) in the book business, Sharon Kelly Roth. This was our third event at Books and Co, and we’ve always been treated like royalty there. Which is surprisingly rare in the book business. Surprising because a relatively large number of bookstores treat writers with disrespect and disdain. Like they don’t understand that they wouldn’t be in business without people who write books (look closely to see us with Newt Gingrich). But Sharon welcomed us with open arms, as she has always done, and even supplied a babysitter—her daughter-in-law, Deborah–for Olive.
We’ve had a great spate of luck with our panelists on this tour. And the run continued in Dayton. We welcomed back a panelist from a previous trip here, Sharon Short. Besides being the writer of many books, including, Death by Deep Dish Pie, she is also the director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. Our other panelist was Martha Moody, author of Something Mine. Both ladies were extremely sharp, while still being kind and gentle. They had spot-on advice for writers about everything from plot and character, to comp titles these authors-to-be needed to know about, to building suspense and telling a story.
Yet again, we heard some amazing pitches. And it was difficult to make a decision about who was the winner. On our list of favorites was a married couple who met each other while looking after their dying spouses. Both had been previously married for over 25 years. They married in hospice where their grief support group was held. They were pitching a book about how to turn grief and gratitude. They had an evangelical feel to them (not in the religious sense!), and they seemed truly committed to helping other people who suffered as they did. But the winner gave a truly stunning pitch for his young adult novel, spinning words mile-a-minute with dizzying alacrity. If his book is anything like his pitch, he has a bestseller on his hands.
Afterwards, Olive insisted on having her own Pitchapalooza, and told us all about the book she’s writing, which is about her best friend Carla. She was unanimously declared the winner.
Right now we are stuck in the Dayton Airport with the Ohio blues again, waiting for “technical difficulties” to be fixed. And they have absolutely no idea when they’re going to get us out. Or in fact, if they will ever get us out. Olive is watching Clifford the Big Red Dog. We are suffering a severe case of road burn, that most modern of afflictions, characterized by extreme ennui, exhaustion and torpor. The current level of threat has been assessed as Orange. Whatever that means. The students are rioting in Britain. A guy in a wheelchair averted an armed robbery yesterday. George Bush is a best-selling author. If that’s not a sign of the apocalypse, I don’t know what is. We are really looking forward to sleeping in our own bed tonight.
Thanks to Morgan St. James and LA Examiner
Come pitch your book to us in Seattle at Third Place Books (17171 Bothell Way NE Seattle, WA) on November 17th from 7 to 8 PM. Hope to see all you aspiring writers there!
Hello City of Roses! The Book Doctors are bringing Pitchapalooza to you! We’ll be at Powell’s Books at 1005 West Burnside Portland, OR. Come see there on November 16 from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM.
Thanks most excellent Stacey Dastis for lovely write-up
When you’re on tour, you hope, dream and pray that you will get the attention of the media. But, as they say, be careful what you wish for. Because the media may want you to be bright, chipper and cheery in the wee hours of the morning. After doing an event at night, when our adrenaline glands have been pumping overtime for many hours, it’s virtually impossible to go right to sleep. On top of that, we are people who require not 7 or 9 hours of sleep, but more like 9 or 10. So on Tuesday morning, when the alarm rang, in what seemed like the middle of the night, we had to shake the cobwebs out of our heads and wash the marbles out of our mouths. Luckily, our interviewer, Cat Michaels of WBAZ-FM on Long Island was a true professional. Turns out it we were on adult contemporary radio. We’re still not sure exactly what that means, though we are both adults and try our best to be contemporary. She gave us a great plug for our upcoming Pitchapalooza in NYC on Thursday night. All in all, we gave a thoroughly reasonable account of ourselves, although at one point, David’s tongue did become tied in about 14 knots. In the end, as we hung up the phone, and stared at each other with bags under our eyes and serious cases of bedhead, we were very thankful that this was radio.
Occasionally, the universe hands you a lollipop for your hard work after you’ve been eating meal after meal of humble pie. On Monday night, when we walked into Loganberry books in the Shaker Heights neighborhood of Cleveland, we got our lollipop. One of the great pleasures of going on tour is discovering new bookstores. And the second you walk into Loganberry, you realize you’ve stepped into a literary oasis.
We imagined Loganberry to be a tiny bookstore because every time we called prior to our arrival, Harriet Logan, the owner of the store, always answered the phone herself. But we walked into a mecca of books, with room after room of rare first editions, startling book oddities, and even a real vintage rack of Golden Books. And then there was Otis the cat. It was like we died and woke up in book heaven.
Harriet could not have been more warm and gracious. She took us to a room in the back that was set up living room style with purple chairs and cozy couches. Olive was whisked off by our old friend Margaret and Andrew to have Apple Pie with “whup” cream. Margaret was our intern one summer while she was a student at Reed College. Now she is a professor at Oberlin! Clearly, we taught her everything she ever needed to know!!!
To our surprise and delight, a very charming and ruggedly handsome fellow showed up with a giant state-of-the-art camera bearing the logo of ABC. Turns out he was there to film our Pitchapalooza for the eleven o’clock news.
Our guest panelist for the night was, Anne Trubek, a professor at Oberlin and author of A Skeptic’s Guide To Writer’s Houses, was wise and witty. Our pitchees formed a semicircle with Otis-the-cat taking up the right end. As the lights went up and the camera started rolling, you could feel the tension and excitement mounting in the room. And, as always, we heard some top notch pitches. In fact, we choose two winners. Erick Trickey gave a truly stunning pitch about a much misunderstood American Legend. You’ll have to wait for the book to be published to find out who it is! And Katheryn Norris captured us with her tale of what happens when American teenage excess meets India. Afterwards, we roamed the shelves finding ourselves each a gem to come home with. We could’ve stayed there for days. In the end, we think Olive did best of all, not only did she befriend Otis-the-cat, but she came home with a vintage edition of Alice in Wonderland!
One last thought, Loganberry is the opposite of retail chains taking over America. Its individual flare was noticeable from all the way down the block. We’ve never seen a bookstore like it before and we’re sure we won’t find another. This is what’s so exciting about the independent bookselling community. It represents, in many ways, what’s best about our country. Have a dream, build it, and let them come.
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.