It’s official! Body on the Wall, my first collection of poetry, has been released to the world!
Here’s what the day (and the days leading up to it) looked like:
It all started when Aaron Rosewater of Levin & Co. Bookstore in Healdsburg invited me to have a launch party/signing at his store — and it just happened that Thursday, May 15 was a good day for him — the official release date of my book. A couple of weeks before, I made a nice flyer with InDesign and brought it to Healdsburg Printing to have glossy color copies made (30 copies, to be precise — and Joe Vetter, the owner and also a friend, didn’t charge me for the copies, as a good luck gift). With the help of Sheri McGinnis, my driver and general right-hand helper, we posted flyers all over Healdsburg wherever we could think of — coffee shops, cafes, grocery stores, bookstores. And Sheri posted a couple more for me in Cloverdale.
I contacted Jo-Anne Rosen of the Sonoma County Literary Update to get on the event calendar — what a great resource that is! And she added Body on the Wall to the Sonoma County in Print page. Then I made an absolute pest of myself on social media, talking about the upcoming launch on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, everywhere — trying to keep things fresh by adding in new information as different tidbits came in. Fun stuff like a guest blog post and then a review on The Write Spot blog, a post as part of The My Writing Process Blog Tour, and then the wonderful interview with The California Journal of Women Writers which appeared just one day before the launch on May 14.
Somehow, though, with other deadlines and life in general, the actual launch date snuck up on me, and I found myself calling Sheri the night before. Earlier, we had chatted about plans for food for the reception, but hadn’t reached any final decisions. “Can you pick me up tomorrow about 10 a.m., and we’ll go to the store?” She said, “So what you’re saying is, we’re just winging it?” I said, “Yep, you got it.” Sabrina, my wife, had managed to get the night off work (she works the graveyard shift), so she could be in charge of getting me to the launch — but she had worked the previous night, so the day of, she was attempting to get at least six or so hours of sleep before the alarm went off and we had to start heading out the door.
Have I said thank god for Sheri yet? Thank god for Sheri. We went to the grocery store, and she helped me in my near comatose state make decisions on drinks, crackers, cheese, vegetable tray, etc. We made sure we had the little napkins and plates. I brought the big ice chest from home, as well as the Japanese vase I wanted to use on my table, and all of it, groceries, ice chest, vase, disappeared into the yawning trunk of Sheri’s car, and she simply said, “I’ll take care of it. I’ll see you at four o’clock.”
So all I had to do was pack my “I am now an author” things. I had bookmarks which I had designed and had printed up; new business cards with my new website address and email address, from my friend Jennifer Garden of Bluestocking Letterpress; a sign-up sheet for an email list on a clipboard; three of my favorite pens, to sign books with; one of the flyers mounted on cardboard to stand on the table; a small Buddha figure to hold it upright; a black and gold scarf from Vietnam to drape across the table; and, of course, my books. How many should I bring? Aaron had asked me how many people would be coming. I had no idea. Five? Fifty? Who knew? The books are slim, and easy to pack, so I stowed everything I needed for set-up in one box with 25 books, then packed a separate box with 50 books to leave in the car — just in case I was swarmed by a mob of eager fans.
The alarm went off in the bedroom, Sabrina groggily got up for her coffee. We fed the dogs, took care of the last minute things, showered and changed, and then we were off to the big event.
Parking right in front of the bookstore! A good sign. As I enter, and see the two bare tables waiting for me, one for food, one for me, “the author,” each nestled into a separate nook surrounded by books — I notice a beautiful bouquet of yellow, white and purple flowers, with a card and my name. I opened the envelope to find this message: “Remember us little people when you are a big famous author. Aunt Donna, Terry & Becky” It has been sent from Sabrina’s San Diego family, who have all been wonderful supporters of the book and my literary career. I was touched beyond words.
Then Sheri arrives. She has my Japanese vase, with perfect delicate white blossoms in it, and more flowers from her garden for the refreshment table. Somehow, the paper plates and napkins have disappeared, so Sabrina makes an emergency run to the dollar store, while Sheri puts everything else into place. Within minutes, she has a beautifully laid-out spread, and reigns supreme as hostess in that corner for the next two hours. I have time to get myself all set up, and moments later, two friends from the Healdsburg Literary Guild are the first to arrive.
That magical moment — the first book, someone asking me to sign it for them. Sitting there in my author chair, looking up into the face of a reader, someone who wants to own my words, bring them home. As the time passes, more people trickle in — fellow poets, members of Redwood Writers, my best friend and her teen-age daughter (who come bearing purple tulips, in honor of one of my poems), a good friend that I haven’t seen in months. If there ever is a long line of people wanting to buy my books, I’ll have to figure out a new system, because now, I want to write such a personal message in each one, it takes me forever. I may have to invent some pithy little signature line, a catchy phrase. I’m still working on all of this. It’s so damn new. I must admit, as absolutely wonderful as it was to see the faces of those I knew, one of the highlights of the two hours for me was when an unknown woman walked up to the table, picked up a book, thumbed through it, slowed, read several poems…then stepped into line. She said, “Well, I don’t know you, but I just read some of these poems, and they are beautiful. You use words like an artist using a brush.” She asked me to sign the book inscribed to her daughter, who is a lover of words — because, as she said, “I’m going to give it to her — after I read it first!” The fact that I found a new reader, just in that chance moment, was pure delight.
Did I need to break into the box of 50 books out in the car? No. At the end of the signing, I had sold a total of 13 books — 10 signed for readers, and three to the
bookstore, to be placed on the shelf for sale. Did it still feel like a success? Yes, absolutely. I did it. I birthed a book. This was simply day one, out of many to come. I have many events, readings, venues ahead. Over the few days prior to the launch, I received email messages from numerous friends who said they wanted to come but would be unable to for various reasons: a sick relative, a business trip, conflict with work hours, doctor appointments, you name it. But I know that each person that cared enough to write me a note still wants a copy of my book; those are readers just waiting for the next opportunity.
I am humbled and honored by these friends, these readers, this journey. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Thank you, everyone.