Fun, because it celebrates the end of a long, sometimes harrowing process. Writing the book. Rewriting the book until I’m sick of it. Selling the book. Rewriting the book to please my editor. And finally, long after that lovely moment when I type: THE END, those stacks and stacks of pages come back to me as a real, honest-to-goodness book with a jacket, and my picture and lovely quotes on the back.
I don’t know how it is for other writers, but for me, the day the book arrives is special. There’s that thump on the porch as the heavy box lands inside the door. The sound of a knife slitting the sealing tape. The rustle of protective paper, and finally, the new baby is revealed, rescued from the box, waved about, and taken upstairs to join the rest of the family. My new baby, Redemption, means that I now have twelve little book children.
So if all of this is so good—why should having an event to celebrate be scary? Because as any writer can tell you, book events are the most uncertain things on the planet. I can have all the advertising in the world, great reviews, and more than a dozen faithful readers who assure me that they’ll be there, and then I drive three hours to the venue and end up talking the one staff member assigned to babysit the visiting writer. Or it can go the other way. I can drive to a small town I’ve never heard of, find a riveted audience of sixty readers, and sell every book I brought.
After a while, I think I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen good weather drag my your audience away by the lure of the great outdoors and bad weather suck my audience away because no one wants to venture out in the cold. I’ve spoken to drunks, the mentally challenged, to high school students there only because they’ll get extra credit. I’ve spoken to writers really eager to pick my brain about your process, and to readers who just love my books. I’m braced for whatever may happen.
But a launch is special. It’s the book’s debut. It’s the moment when I carry on my back the weight of my belief in the power of the story I’ve told. It’s when I feel most heavily my responsibility to prove to the publisher that they made the right decision is choosing my book from the many they could have published, and when I feel the need to prove to my local bookstore that they made the right choice in giving me one of their coveted Sunday afternoon author slots. I can’t just show up and see what happens. A lot is riding on this.
So I send e-mails to the organizations I belong to. I send e-mails to my students, my fellow teachers. To my neighbors and my friends. I become a veritable chatty Cathy on facebook. And I worry. What if this is one of those snowy days? What if it is a beautiful day? What if no one shows up?
Ten minutes to show time. I’m at the bookstore. There is a small stack of books waiting for me. A small row of chairs set up. A few people are sitting in the chairs. My heart sinks. And then, like a floodgate has opened, my friends, my neighbors, my sister writers, and my long-time readers start to arrive. The store sets up more chairs. And more chairs. And more chairs. Until they run out of chairs, and still people keep coming. At 3:00, I take a deep breath, hope my aging memory won’t fail me, and stand up.
“Thank you,” I say, absolutely overwhelmed, even though I done hundreds of book talks over the years, wondering if this will be all I can manage. “Thank you for coming out to show your support on this beautiful day.” And I begin to tell them about Joe Burgess, and Reggie the Can Man, about fathers and sons and the threads of family, and friendship, and greed and evil that are woven through my new book.
Redemption is launched.