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.
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/
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.
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.