When I was invited to participate in the Powell's blog, I immediately and enthusiastically accepted because I love Powell's. (Last time I was there, I bought so many books I had to pay extra at the airline ticket counter because my luggage was pregnant with used hardbacks and, according to the FAA, about 20 pounds too heavy.) Problem is, now that I'm due to start my blog entry, I realize I have no idea what a blog entry, you know, is.
So, because I'm on this book tour for Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer, and because I've been announcing this blog entry at various readings, I'm going to give you an overview of three things that happen on book tours.
• People give you things:
1. Book they've written or loved.
2. Clippings of your reviews from the local newspaper, regardless of whether the reviews are in any way "positive" or "kind." Sometimes the reviews are "laminated."
3. Rocks. (For no known reason, two people have given me rocks at readings.)
4. Drawings. Most of which seem to have been rendered during your reading out of sheer boredom.
5. Business cards/coupons.
6. Skateboards! I've been skateboarding for almost twenty years, and sometimes that fact gets circulated in the press and then (smart and generous and fantastic and attractive and amazingly happy) people bring skateboard-related paraphernalia to the signings and present it to me. This is flattering and much appreciated and I pretty much unconditionally love anyone who does it. Keep up the good work!
7. Updates on people you know or went to school with or are related to or don't remember at all. For example: "Remember [former classmate's name censored]? He's a professional card player now. Internet poker, mostly. He's got a pretty sweet set up in his parents' basement!"
8. An earful. One time I paraphrased F. Scott Fitzgerald's idea that every writer only has one story to tell, one theme to explore ? an idea that makes a lot sense in a literary-DNA sort of way and an idea that I find far more liberating than limiting ? and this woman went a little bonkers and loudly proclaimed that she had "hundreds, if not thousands" of themes and stories and voices in her head, which proclamation seems in retrospect maybe a little too accurate.
9. Poems or stories or essays they've written about you or your work or anything else. If I like and appreciate and am moved by anything more than skateboards, it's the work folks give to me at my readings. I keep and read all of it.
• You meet people you never thought you'd meet:
1. Politicians who like to read. They mostly come from one party. You can guess which.
2. Minor and major(ish) celebrities, many of whom have always wanted to write a book and wonder if you'd mind maybe helping.
3. The smart and generous and fantastic and attractive and amazingly happy book store staff. Saints, every one of them.
4. Friends of friends who often say things like "I didn't expect to enjoy myself, but I kind of did!"
5. Book collectors and rare book dealers. The former are lovely and benevolent. The latter can be a tiny bit unctuous. Both only want you to sign your name on the title page of your book. Both sort of adorably freak out if you threaten to write anything more than your name in their books. It's very unlikely that either have read your work.
6. Radio/television hosts who have certainly never read your book, but who are generally nice. (One of the best radio interviews I've ever had was on a local drive-time show on a heavy metal station where the deejays were not a little Howard Stern-ish, but also genuinely funny and smart and kind. In between various scatological routines and AC/DC songs, we had off-air conversations about sculpture. Later that night, after they'd broadcasted live from some WWE event or something, they came to my reading. That the crowd was more excited about the deejays than me wasn't even that upsetting.)
7. Relatives, many of whom you've intentionally avoided for years and who now want to write a book and demand that you help.
8. Students who've attended your reading because their teachers (often your friends) are offering "extra credit."
• You get asked questions after readings:
1. "Why can't I get published? No offense, but I'm as good a writer as you are."
2. "I read this interview you did with [famous author's name censored], do you know how to get in touch with him? I'm his ex-girlfriend."
3. "Who's your agent? I'm looking for an agent right about now."
4. "Why should I buy your book?" This question actually gets asked a lot and always from the back of the audience, never in the signing line.
5. "Do you know that you split your infinitives?"
6. "Why, in today's world, does fiction matter?"
7. "How tall are you? You're a good writer. I thought you'd be taller."
8. "I'm not going to buy your book today, but when does the paperback come out?"
9. "I'm not going to buy your book today, but the reading was interesting. Do you give blurbs?"
10. "What's your email address? I'd like to send you my novel and get your thoughts on it."
11. "Wait, so you're not Bret Easton Ellis?"