Tuesday, August 31, 2010

St. Louis, Not Cleveland, and Cincinnati

Once again, I find myself behind on blogging...and feeling the need to report on book tour before September (really? tomorrow is September? How did that happen?)

I've been so fortunate, with lovely crowds at my events both near and far.

On Thursday, August 19 I was part of the author series at the amazing St. Louis County Library. If you live anywhere near St. Louis, check them out. They bring in a diverse, interesting group of authors and have several events per month! Books were sold by great indie store Pudd'nHead Books.

The reception beforehand featured some of the yummiest desserts I've ever eaten—including something called sugar cake, which was divine.

The event was in an auditorium that filled up with fun, smart people with excellent questions. It's a joy
to be on tour with a new book getting to answer all new questions.

In the audience were Carla and Annette Beck—two friends from high school (in last photo). Ah, high school drama club memories...

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. I was on my way to Cleveland's Joseph-Beth Booksellers on Tuesday, August 24, when not one but two flat tires prevented me from getting there. That's right, I said two flat tires. At the same time. Along with two other cars near me who also pulled over with flats. Hmm. Something damaging was clearly in the road, but none of us saw or heard anything. Where is CSI when you need them? I had to call the store and apologize profusely. They were gracious and understanding, and the event has been RESCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY OCTOBER 19TH.
Someone teased me that I had horrible travel luck, but really, with all the traveling I've been doing lately, I feel like I have excellent luck. These days, especially, a flat tire (even two) is much easier to remedy than a missed flight!


The travel gods smiled upon me and I made it to and from Cincinnati's Joseph-Beth Booksellers with all tires intact. I absolutely adore this store and all its booksellers.

Wonderful writer friend Katy Yocom drove all the way from Louisville to join me for dinner and attend the reading. Lots of writer friends, former students, and book clubs I'd visited were also in attendance.

A sight that makes writers really happy? Seeing the event coordinator adding more chairs minutes before the event! Woo hoo!

One book club there was the Wine, Women & Words Book Club (middle photo) who once drove from Cincinnati to meet me for a book club at El Meson restaurant. They were such an interesting, great group of women, and if you read my acknowledgments you'll see that Jayne Patton of this group is the one who told me the "inexpensive Christmas tree" story that made its way into Blessings. Don't worry—she gave me full permission to use it, saying someone ought to get something useful out of it. (Just so you know, her story involves even more mishaps and expense with that "cheap" tree).

Annette, one of Joseph-Beth's event coordinators, gave me an incredible gift. When someone in the audience asked me about the Blessings of the Animals ceremony on St. Francis Day at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, Annette scurried away and came back with a remarkable, stunning children's book called The Day the Animals Came: A Story of St. Francis Day, by Frances Ward Weller, illustrated by Loren Long. Many of the book's illustrations look just like photos taken when I attended the ceremony. The story is beautiful and I highly recommend it!

A full crowd, a successful event, and some delicious tiramisu? Who could ask for anything more?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oconomowoc and Lake Effect

Look! Here's photographic evidence that I didn't wear the exact same shirt on my entire book tour! Here I am with wonderful Lisa from Books & Co. and my Most Amazing Mary Gielow, media escort. The sign behind us? Words to live by.

Had a lovely time at the Books & Co. in Oconomowoc (I still really love saying it...). Tucked into a cozy corner of the store, I had a great conversation with an audience that had nearly all read The Kindness of Strangers and were eager to delve into Blessings. Quite a few writers were in attendance so the questions were fun and specific about aspects of craft. For example, can any of you think of books that centered on just one main character with a very slim or nonexistent supporting cast? We talked about the movie Castaway but came up with very few book titles. (This conversation came from the discussion that you must have conflict to have drama, but conflict does not have to come from other characters.)

I was thrilled that more than one person in attendance was there because they heard me do an interview with Stephanie Lecci on Milwaukee Public Radio's fabulous show Lake Effect. Several people joined my Facebook fan page yesterday, too, because of that radio interview. That made me do a little happy dance (yes, alone, in a hotel room...you entertain yourself how you can on book tour....) You can hear the interview here for yourself.

Next stop: St. Louis Public Library, with Pudd'nHead Books!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Next Chapter Bookshop

Greetings from Milwaukee! This is rare for a book tour, but I actually get to stay in the same hotel (and a wonderful one at that—Milwaukee's lovely Pfister) for three nights.

There were truffles on my bed when I arrived Monday night. Truffles. :-)

Last night I had the pleasure of a great event at Next Chapter Bookshop in Mequon. What a great turnout, what great questions, and what a great store! They had the Humane Society there giving out information. My very favorite audience member (of MANY special audience members) was a puppy named Bert. Bert has a brother Ernie, who was not able to attend.

The Next Chapter event was especially special because after years of correspondence, I at long last got to meet one of my favorite authors, Lesley Kagen. Years ago, we were always missing each other by one or two days, our paths almost crossing at various stores on book tour, and it was that amazing Jill Miner at Saturn Booksellers who recommended Lesley's novel, Whistling in the Dark to me. We've emailed, we've blurbed each other's books, and now we've finally had dinner together and got to meet face-to-face. It felt like we'd known each other forever!

I was very honored that Lesley introduced me at Next Chapter Bookshop.

(In the first photo, from L-R, Anne, Lesley Kagen, Morgan, me, Connie, Mary Gielow).

Also in attendance in the audience were two former students of mine from when I taught at Centerville High School in Ohio. Thanks to Megan and Susan who walked me down memory lane (um...yeah...remember the group who pretended to be digging up a grave in David's Cemetery for their parody of Frankenstein and the police got called? Stuff like that...).

Also wonderful wonderful FB friend Lindsy O'Brien, a writer, a publisher, and bookseller extreme made the trip from Duluth (!) to see the reading! I was so touched. That was like being handed a present. Wow.

I had a great day with media escort extraordinaire, Mary Gielow, who not only took me to a delicious lunch on the river, but took me to Milwaukee's many bookstores to sign stock and meet cool booksellers.

Tonight, on to Books & Co. in Oconomowoc. And I've gotta say, I love saying Oconomowoc. Really. Try it. Now say it six times fast.

Be careful. It's addictive... Oconomowoc. Oconomowoc. Oconomowoc.

Oh, and you know what? I'm wearing a different shirt tonight. Now, watch, I probably won't take any pictures, which means every single one of my tour pictures will have me in the same purple shirt...ah well. What are you going to do? Oconomowoc.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Third Stop at Saturn

Last Thursday, I enjoyed my third visit to Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, Michigan. This is one of my favorite book stores on the planet! Shortly before my return to Saturn, I wrote about them for the blog Too Fond of Books. Read it here to understand just why and how much I love them!

I had the great pleasure of having lunch with wonderful owner Jill Miner and one of her daughters, Kelsey (after a GPS-mistaken trip to drop off some scrap metal that landed us in some serious Deliverance country. It's a bit unnerving for the GPS to announce "arriving at destination" when the only sign of civilization on the dirt two-track road is some underwear hanging on a clothesline in the distance...that scene is gonna end up in a book someday, I just know it!).

I absolutely adore the wonderful booksellers at Saturn and it was fun catching up with them before the reading and signing. As usual, they had done a stellar job promoting the event and it was standing room only—every available chair was taken and some people stood on the stairs to hear the reading! I recognized several audience members from my previous trips to the store, and that made it feel like a reunion with old friends.

Jill and the booksellers had the great idea of collecting donations for the Otsego County Animal Shelter, and by the start of the reading the decorated box was overflowing! They had quite a haul of bleach, brushes, food, leashes, etc. to take to the Shelter. I was thrilled!

I'm not sure which I loved more: the warm audience response, the fact that the store has sold well over 100 copies of Blessings, or how much I laughed at dinner afterward! Dinner conversation included: fainting goats, zombies, zombie goats, sharktepuss, just how amazing the cheesy mashed potatoes were, punchcards, and foutons...

So, big heartfelt thanks to Jill, Jody, Karin, Taylor, Maggie, Karrie, Darcie, Emily, and Carley (forgive me if I forget anyone!). Thanks to Kelsey for leading me to the Traverse City Airport after I got coffee-ed up in Saturn's great Coffee Cabin the morning after my event.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Michigan Highlights #1

Greetings from Michigan! I'm way behind in keeping you posted on the book tour, but I'll try to do better.

Here are the highlights from stops at Schuler Books & Music in both Grand Rapids and Lansing:

-My cab driver from the hotel to the book store actually went inside the store and bought a book for me to sign! That's a first. I was mightily flattered.

-A friend from high school, Jim Curry, came to the reading! So the book travel ends up feeling like a reunion.

-Speaking of reunions...relatives also joined me at the store: Johnine & Orel Callahan and Jim & Lindsay Dean. Yes, that's right. You didn't know I was related to Jimmy Dean, did you? And you know what I love about my cousin Jim Dean? He actually showed up wearing a James Dean T-shirt! Thanks for making the trip, you guys!

-Former Dayton Ballet dancer, rock climber extraordinaire, and all around sexy beast and great guy, Cory Goei, came to the reading and then took me on a grand tour of his hometown (including the Giant Vagina. Anyone in Grand Rapids will know exactly what and where that is. I thought it was kind of pretty, to be honest...).

-Fellow writer Kristina Riggle came to the reading! Not only do we share rhyming names, share the same publisher, and share protagonists named Cami, we were dressed alike! I think she must be my soul sister. You should definitely check out her books, especially her brand new book coming out this week, The Life You've Imagined. (That's her in the final photo).

-Fellow writer Lorna Jane Cook attended the reading, too! I had the honor of giving a heartfelt glowing blurb for her upcoming book Outside Wonderland. Once I know when her publication date is, I'll be recommending it to everyone!


-My event was part of a series called Girls' Night Out. Free wine. The only combination better than books & wine is books & chocolate! Throw in some intelligent, fun women and you can't do better! (check out the photos of some early audience members toasting with their wine glasses).

-The only man in attendance sang the "Ohio Song" to me. That's a first...

-A person browsing the bookstore at the back of the event did a double-take when he heard me say, "This will be my third trip to Saturn," as I described my other upcoming tour sites. He looked so startled, then so skeptical, that I interrupted the talk to assure him, "Saturn Booksellers. It's a bookstore." He nodded and moved on...

-The event coordinator, the wonderful Whitney Spotts is a fellow zombie lover! That was a huge bonding moment for us. We shared our love of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, possible child-friendly movies for her upcoming Halloween zombie party, and our "secret" plans for surviving the zombie apocalypse!

Stay tuned for a full report about my third trip to Saturn!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My doggy "amen" section

Please see my previous post "Blessed Indeed" about my debut signing for The Blessings of the Animals, because this one is a continuation.

In the front row at my crowded signing (I'm still floating on that crowd, feeling so so grateful!), was a big, beautiful dog named Micron. The dog is temporarily the charge of Donna Sword who is training him for CCI—Canine Companions for Independence, a wonderful, worthy organization. (Donna was one of the honorable mentions in my July "Animal Blessings" essay contest).

Micron was very well-behaved. He was was vocal one or two times during the signing, but what was hysterical was his timing! He barked once at the perfect time, just when I was discussing how our animal companions truly are blessings in our lives. This prompted another friend to later send me a message about how perfect the night was: "You even had your own little doggy 'amen' section."

Donna wrote a lovely blog about Micron at the Books & Co. event. I hope you'll read it and enjoy!

Blessed Indeed!

I'm still floating from my debut reading and signing for THE BLESSINGS OF THE ANIMALS on Friday night. Wow. There's nothing like a hometown crowd! A book release wouldn't be a book release without a stop at Dayton's wonderful Books & Co. (this time at The Greene). A decade ago, the "old" Books & Co. (which was the only Dayton Books & Co. at the time) hosted my very first ever book signing...and they've been the first stop on book tour for the subsequent three books. I thank them all so much—especially wonderful Director of Public Relations Sharon Kelly Roth—for all their support and encouragement on this crazy journey!

Friday night was surreal. The store was packed! Standing room only! I was so thrilled that I actually took photos from the podium of the crowd, so I could remember what it looked like. The photos here are in order: Looking out straight from the podium (there's my sister and nephew in the very front row, thanks to my friend Rajeev who gave up his seat to them), then looking to my left (people lined up against both balcony railings), to my right, then finally further to my right where some writer friends sat on the floor (can you spot Kristina McBride, author of the fabulous YA novel, THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES?) and some former students stood in the stacks! Oh, and there's my mom and dad in the back row!

Everywhere I looked were people from every single aspect of my life: former students, former bosses, relatives, friends from near and far, neighbors, book clubs I've visited, writing buddies, actor friends, dancer friends, former teachers, high school classmates, people I've never met (hooray!) and on and on. It felt like "This is Your Life"!

We actually ran out of books! How cool is that? I signed books for an hour and a half...and couldn't have been happier to do it. I thank every single person who attended. As corny as it sounds, I felt very blessed indeed.