"I never minded reading to three people. I had plenty of experience. The key is that all of you must sit very close together." - Ann Patchett, from "My Life in Sales" in the Atlantic
I'm on book tour with The Four Ms. Bradwells. That's the good news and the bad. It means I have a new literary birth to celebrate. It means my publisher is optimistic enough to send me out to Ann Arbor, Washington D.C., andCincinnati, and booksellers are optimistic enough to set up chairs and advertise. More often than not, they wear pearls, and they don't often have "the neck" any more than I do, which is oddly comforting. Booksellers are like the best of writers, except more generous.
But even in the best of circumstances, you fly into a city, an escort picks you up from the airport and takes you to a studio for a short gig on the News at Noon, a longer one on local radio. You check into a hotel and wash your face, then head out again for a reading. Maybe you have dinner with a book club beforehand, or a drink with fellow writers afterward. You climb into bed alone. The next day, you rinse and repeat.
If there is time to write built anywhere in the schedule, I haven't found it, and so the ache to get back to the as-yet-unwritten page grows too.
And yet the book tour is a reminder of the generosity of readers, booksellers, and even other writers.
Sometimes an author you admire surprises you with his or her face in the seats, as Lalita Tademy has done at every kick-off reading I have ever done, as Peter Ho Davies did in Ann Arbor, Eleanor Brown in D.C., Therese Fowler in Raleigh.
Sometimes a spirited crowd shows you something you didn't know about your book, like that the neck on your book cover is the quickest way to improve your own neck in a photo -- especially if you have a bookseller like Sharon Roth Kelly of Books and Company in Dayton to help you line it up.
Sometimes the generosity of people you have never met before bowls you over, like that of all the people who came out to read from The Peach Keeper for Sarah Addison Allen.
And the warmth that comes from those who attend, the hopefulness in faces presenting books to be signed, is truly an amazing thing.
It's a moment to pause and be reminded that readers and writers are co-conspirators, the writer putting her truth on the page and the reader bringing hers along as well, the mixing of the two creating the miracle that is literature.
Follow Meg Waite Clayton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MegWClayton