Friday, April 4, 2014

Back on the Ground




Wow. When we last left off, it was early October and I was on the cusp of hitting the road for my first-ever capital B, capital T Book Tour.

All that optimism. All those nerves. What a poignant place it turned out to be. I don't really know how to bridge the gap between then and now. So much happened that even months later I'm still putting myself back together again.


Probably the biggest surprise was how much my sense of "enough" got distorted. Having waited a lifetime for this opportunity, I scolded myself for not savoring each moment enough, not remembering enough, not being grateful and humble enough.

Each day I'd get emails from my publisher asking about the event, the number of books sold, the number of people who came, all of which prompted a whole other self-doubt about whether or not I was attracting enough people, selling enough books, making enough money for my publisher and for the bookstores that were hosting me. From here, it's a slippery slope toward re-evaluating one's entire self-worth.


I didn't give enough respect to the power of sleep deprivation and the compounded exhaustion of daily airport security checkpoints, take-offs and landings, cabs and shuttles, and empty hotel rooms, of entering a new bookstore each day, introducing myself, and hoping beyond hope that anyone would come.

I struggled with the dichotomy between what the tour looked like to the outside world and what it felt like inside, and with the feeling that even at the hardest moments, well, who was I to complain? I was lucky. Very, very lucky. Even at 4am, wheeling my carry-on down an empty hotel corridor toward the elevators.

I learned to be prepared for things to fall apart the minute I thought they were together. I learned to scan for the word "problem" in email headers. Like when, in Minneapolis, the bookstore had mistakenly cancelled its order and had no books. None. 

On the very last day of my tour, frayed at the edges and having almost missed my flight home, I made the mistake of glancing at my phone one last time to see how my book was doing on Amazon. (Yes, we do this.) That's when I discovered that someone had just given it one star. How Freudian, I thought.

BUT, and this is a very big but, alongside those low points were people. Kind knitters, readers, angels in human form, who appeared at each stop and made it all better.


Never have I realized how important friendship is, whether it was the friend who called in sick to play with me, or the one who drove out to the airport before having coffee, to meet my early flight.

At each stop, more appeared. There was Felicia, whose whole family contributed to the Yarn Whisperer good-luck tour map shown above. Lorilee, who brought me cake and almonds on my first night. Jan, whose oatmeal cookies served as that night's dinner and breakfast the following morning. Shelley, who let me scrawl "boobs are good!" on her arm in red ink. Stephanie, who understood why I needed to walk around the block one more time before going into the bookstore. And Eunny, who knew exactly where to take me when I told her I needed "a bowl of something hot."

The people are what I remember, which is as it should be. They are what humbled me the most, what kept it real. I remember their faces, their kindness, and I carry those memories with me as I contemplate throwing my hat in the ring, yet again, for another round.

I've been thinking about all of this since I saw Molly's tour announcement for her much-awaited Delancey. I could feel a clench in my chest. I wanted to yell at the screen, "Look out! Behind you! He has a chainsaw!" I wanted to sit her down with a cup of tea and give her comforting words. Be early for everything, I'd tell her. Tip often and well, drink plenty of water, get to bed early, and always, always pee first.

And for those of you with author friends? If your friend comes to town for an event, no matter how crowded you think it'll be and how little your presence there might matter, please know that it does matter. I beg of you, for the sake of all authors past, present, and future, GO. Get a babysitter, rent a car, quit your job if you must, but please, go.

I promise, there'll be cashmere and chocolate waiting for you in heaven if you do.


6 comments:

Kim said...

So so important! I try to go to Toronto whenever one of my friends has a book launch or reading. It's not easy to drop everything and make the drive, but I think it's important to support each other.

(One of my regrets this past year is that when you were in my country doing a book tour stop, I was in yours doing something else yarnish. Next time Clara!)

Liz said...

The absolute highlight of my Rhinebeck trip this year was chatting with you for a few moments as you signed my book. I wanted a table between us that had tea and cookies instead of piles of books, but I was happy to have your book, show it off to everyone ("Look! She signed my book!"), admire your fountain pen, and immerse myself in the stories of a thoughtful soul. Thank you for this.

Stephen said...

So lovely... thanks for taking time out of your life to share the book on the road, not to mention sharing your life in the written word. Always a joy to see what you have to say.

Sort of related... following the link to Molly's blog, I had never listened to her Spilled Milk podcast. Why aren't we doing that?

Anonymous said...

Your just so real, like all the rest of us. Thank you for sharing that, it is so appreciated.

Adrienne Martini said...

Amen.

MCC said...

Your book set some important things straight in my head last fall, when I badly needed that. It was a delight to read. I'm glad to see you blogging once again, because I was afraid you'd given it up. Welcome back!