Friday, August 19, 2011
(Originally posted on Writer's Vineyard 8/17/11)
Ever since I learned to read I've been a voracious reader. I grew up in Davis, California, and used to beg my dad to take me to our local bookstore, The Avid Reader. My favorites were anything by Roald Dahl, Garfield, and Choose Your Own Adventure. And when I decided I wanted to be a writer, in the sixth grade, I started imagining what it would be like to do my own book signing at The Avid Reader. At that time, nothing could have better said, You've Made It, than to sign books at my own hometown bookstore.
Years and hundreds of rejections later, that dream started to fade. I was obsessed with finding an agent or a publisher, never mind book signings, and I was close to giving up on the whole enterprise altogether. Then things finally started to fall into place: I got an agent, which then led to a publisher. I spent the next several months doing revisions, marketing, and general celebrating. When the first book came out, it was time to think seriously about book signings. But I've lived in Phoenix, Arizona for the last 17 years, and The Avid Reader was nowhere near my radar.
I try to get out to California at least once a year to visit my parents and sisters who still live there, and when I was planning my summer trip this year, I mentioned to my stepmom how neat it would be to do a book signing at The Avid Reader. Well, to say she took the ball and went running with it would be a vast understatement. She did it all: she contacted the bookstore, the local newspaper, and my sister's restaurant to arrange a post-signing party. And man, did she lay out the red carpet. I doubt Dean Koontz has ever received this kind of reception. She scheduled a massage, a facial, hair and makeup, and would have taken me shopping to get a new outfit if I needed one. When she found out we could bring wine and cheese, she bought NINE bottles of wine, three boxes of cookies and about five different exotic cheeses. She called everyone and stopped people in the street. In all of my wild imaginings, I never came up with anything this good. It was truly amazing.
Somewhere in the middle of all my pampering the day of the signing, we stopped by the bookstore so I could meet everyone and make sure everything was set. And that's when I found out I was doing not just a signing, but a reading. I'm a pretty shy person, and I hate talking about my books. I squirm just telling people what it's called and the basic premise, because trying to explain a contemporary fantasy to someone who doesn't know fantasy always sounds trite and ridiculous. So doing a reading would be like one of my worst nightmares. My stepmom Susan reminded me we were bringing nine bottles of wine, and I relaxed a little. Surely one little glass would be harmless and would help me stay calm.
As soon as we got set up that evening I was a wreck, so I wasted no time in downing a glass of wine. After that, everything was sort of a blur, and it's difficult to remember, like getting married or giving birth. I know at some point I had another glass, and when I introduced myself and the books I was shaking like crazy. I opened the book to begin reading where I put my bookmark, but in my fumbling I lost my place and started reading about two pages too early. It worked out fine; there were a couple of lines in those two pages that got laughs, and as soon as that happened I started to calm down. During the Q&A afterward, I was actually enjoying myself. While I'd been reading, more and more people arrived, so looking it up it was a delightful shock to see so many faces in the audience. And all in all, between what the bookstore sold and what I sold from my own stock, I sold a total of 31 books. Not bad!
After the signing we all walked down to my sister Cary's restaurant, Our House. I had yet another glass of wine, and this one was fairly large, but I felt incredible. Oh, did I mention I hadn't eaten since noon? I was walking on air, talking to family I hadn't seen in forever, and sold some of the books I'd brought with me. And I was still feeling great a couple of hours later right before I was puking up what seemed like gallons of red wine into my dad and stepmom's beautiful, lush front yard. Well, at least I waited until most of my audience was gone.
I came home from my trip feeling much more confident. Doing another reading doesn't frighten me now in the least, and after some great feedback from people who are reading my books, I'm much more eager to get them out there.
One thing's for certain, however: I will watch my wine from now on.
Ashley J. Barnard
Dark Fantasy with a Contemporary Twist