We had a private book party for A Teacher Named Faith on July 17, 2015. It was a chance to introduce the book to the world the way you would introduce a child to the world – friends, family, and coworkers first.
You know, folks who would say your baby is cute before laying eyes on it.
A private party seemed redundant when my publisher first proposed it. The book’s official release is July 31st . We planned a public reading at Battle Creek Books for that day. Surely, my friends and family would attend that event. It was only when the night was over that I appreciated the brilliance behind a private party.
“Family” means your sisters come and press your dress and pin your hair, because you are too nervous to iron pleats or handle hairspray. “Friends” mean your First Reader of ten years offers to host the party at her gorgeous home and refuses to let you help.
I arrived before the first guests, my daughters carrying three boxes of books and a cash box with a thin envelope of five-dollar bills. No sooner had our side table bookshop opened, than my godmother opened her wallet.
“I want four.”
Selling the books was strange. Normally, receiving payment for my writing is impersonal. I file the work with a publication, they publish it, I invoice them, and a check comes some time later. Handing the book over and receiving payment was immediate, intimate, and, to be fair, a little intimidating. Again, better to blush in front of my godmother than a stranger.
People wanted their books signed, many of whom I send Christmas cards to every year. It was weird to mark these clean books with handwriting nuns had deemed indecipherable in grade school. Ever sign your full name for your brother? It’s goofy. Strangers might be better in that respect.
There were delightful surprises, like one of my fellow columnist from the paper brought her violin and played for anyone in the room. Those soft, lovely strings calmed my nerves and added elegance to the whole affair. I watched the producer of one of my plays sit back with a glass of wine and dive into chapter one. He was quiet and studious, which, for some reason, also calmed my nerves.
The whole crowd was very forgiving of my rather nervous reading. Later, my editor and I would debate as to whether I was so nervous because subconsciously I knew this group would be tolerant of it.
After more smiling and nodding and hugging and thanking than I did at my own wedding, it was over.
It was a nice turnout. We sold nearly two cases of books, which were now on their journey into the world of readers. A humble beginning, but it was just the beginning.
One of my sisters stayed after the last goodbyes were said. I was glad to have her company, a softer ending to an unreal night. I slipped off my shoes, raked the pins out of my hair, and offered her a beer. Together we sat in my cluttered living room. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remembered what I was thinking.
It’s the same thing I’m thinking now…
Are they reading the book? Do they like it?