Monday, January 08, 2007

The Weather Outside is Frightful

(NOTE: The wrappings have been recycled, Mr. Detroit is in rehab recovering from a fruitcake addiction, and the tree has lost the last of its needles in the carpet. Time to get back to work. Going into the spring season means workshops and conferences. Writers like invitations to both for the free food, even lodging on occasion. A writer not having to eat his own cooking is a happy writer. Bon Appétit!)

Readings at bookstores can be fun for the reader and bookseller, and worry the writer used to banging at the keyboard in private. The writer soon finds out they should have followed the advice of their publisher and read every page aloud before sending in the final manuscript. Sentences looking good on the page sound terrible spoken from a podium. Before the event, the writer should read the excerpt into a tape recorder and make adjustments to fix any screw-ups. This also means the writer must listen to their own voice. No one outside of Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson have the vocal quality necessary for repeated listening.

The audience shuffles in. Five or fifty, the people in the chairs are an audience. Give me five loudmouths who will spread the word about the book any day over fifty shy folks who stay off the Internet and telephone. Fifty loudmouths are even better, but I try not to push my luck. (One hundred loudmouths will mean early retirement on royalties to a country with sunshine all year round.) The audience is curious and expectant, ready to catch whatever the writer decides to toss. Give them more than you have by asking and answering questions. Don’t know the answer? Tell the truth. Embarrassment is a temporary condition.

Minutes into the reading, the writer is aware of the dreaded fourth wall. This nineteenth-century theatrical term means the separation of audience from performer by the proscenium arch. Comedian Lenny Bruce referred to the complacent audience as “an oil painting.” (He’s dead, by the way.) A successful reading engages the audience and the writer is responsible to make sure this happens. A favorite bit of trickery is having a ringer in the seats who shouts out questions, some even rational depending on the ringer. Still the audience may be stiff by choice. The writer is consoled in the knowledge there are other readings in other bookstores.

Doing the book tour is part of a writer’s job, unless you are Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood. She is currently touting the LongPen after too many years of having to sign books for the unwashed readers who have paid for her home. The device is a remote-controlled pen and the writer scribbles on an electronic pad while talking through a video linkup. Metal arms work the pen until a dedication and signature fill the title page. Wow. No more shaking hands, airplane trips, and hotel rooms. Atwood does her signings from the comfort of her kitchen. Bloomsbury and Virago publishers have invested in the device, demonstrated with more than a few technical glitches at the London Book Fair. As a reader, I hope this fails. As a writer, ditto.

I will be talking live and in person about THE DOG WALKED THE STREET: AN OUTSPOKEN GUIDE FOR WRITERS WHO WANT TO PUBLISH at Black Oak Books in Berkeley, Sunday, January 21 at 7:30 pm. To heck with Atwood, I’m bringing a Lamy steel-nib fountain pen to scratch words on pages. Here’s the information:

Sunday, January 21 at 7:30 pm
1491 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 486-0698

Shouts out to the kind and gentle folk who bought THE DOG for holiday gift-giving. Anyone who tossed Martha Alderson’s BLOCKBUSTER PLOTS PURE & SIMPLE and Buck Peterson’s CLASSIC CHRISTMAS SONGS PERFORMED BY BUCK’S DUCKS AND THE BIG BABE LAKE BRASS AND BONG ENSEMBLE into the stockings hung by the chimney with care also get special thanks.

Remember these other cool dates:

Sunday, February 4 at 2:00 pm
51 Tamal Vista Boulevard
Corte Madera, CA 94925
(415) 927-0960

March 9–11, 2007, 2 pm Friday to 2 pm Sunday
Henry Miller Library
Highway One
Big Sur, CA 93920
(831) 667-2574

NEXT: Kibble in Your Bowl


Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

MAN! The Big Sur workshop interferes w/ SXSW. WTF?

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

old world refinements paired excellently with universal appeal! her perception!!!

loved experiencing your 'AUTHOR Discussion Group' at Black Oak Books in Berkeley, 21Jan 2007.

may i ask your cousel on topic of 'How does one go about obtaining a noted person to add their quote to a prospective author's book? ex: Julia-Butterfly Hill has JOAN BAEZ adding a note on the book.

nanci w~

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mahalo E aloha!

7:42 PM  

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