Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My book club night with "Last Baby Boomer"

Being the author of a book a room full of strangers like is like being the father of a beloved honor student on parent-teacher conference night when everyone from the principal to the custodian assures you your kid’s special and has a bright future.
I now know this.
It happened to me Saturday.
A Pittsburgh-area woman heard me on John McIntire’s radio show and said my book’s premise instantly caught her fancy.
She belongs to a monthly book club and it was her turn to select for a group of 18 avid readers.
Understand, picking just the right book is not unlike a friend asking you to fix them up on the perfect blind date. The two will spend a lot of time together and if the date is rude, boring or has bad manners it’ll reflect poorly on you.
And with Denise there was one other factor: “I didn’t want to go with a bestseller.”
She couldn’t have as of right now gotten more opposite of bestseller than “The Last Baby Boomer.”
She sent me a Facebook friend request and told me of her selection. She wanted to know if I’d attend a Bridgeville party where my book would be discussed. There would be food, wine and lively conversation.
I know I didn’t ask, “So how much is this going to cost me?” but I remember wondering how much this was going to cost me.
In fact, it was free.
Note: if you want to make a fast $100 do the same as Denise did and ask how much I’ll pay for the privilege.
Hell, I’ll even come and clean your gutters.
It was such a great night.
I wonder if people truly realize just how warping 15 years of rejection can be to a psyche.
Remember, no agent or publisher ever said the book sucked. They mostly just said they didn’t know how they could sell it. It wasn’t science fiction. It wasn’t pop. It wasn’t historical romance, creative memoir or allegorical fantasy.
I never once strove to write one of those.
I just wanted to write something entertaining.
Saturday convinced me I succeeded.
It was a great turnout and the dynamic was for me very relaxed.
I’m used to being in a situation like that where I’m concerned about selling books. In this case, I’d sold 18 books before I’d ever set foot in the room.
And they’d read the heck out of the thing. I’ve been in college classrooms where paying students were far less engaged.
Sure, I was the presiding professor in each of those educational disappointments, but let’s not get hung up on details.
And I had this additional advantage: I was the first author in 10 years who’d ever deigned to visit their humble little group.
So that put me one up on Grisham, Rowling and Gaiman, not to mention Twain, Steinbeck and Shakespeare who at least had good excuses.
After introductions, I talked for 20 minutes about how the book came to be. And the whole time I’m thinking, okay, I’ve made a nice impression. How can I get out of here before I blow it by picking an unseemly fight with a critic?
It never happened. After a convivial turkey dinner, we sat in Russ’s living room and each reader had their say.
It was like an out-of-body experience. My book had made so many of them happy. 
I remember several times when they were pointedly discussing minor plot developments or character reactions and thinking, “Man, one of these days I’m going to have to sit down and really read this book. It sounds great!”
A bunch of them told me it was exactly that.
The best parts were when several of them said how undercurrent themes of hope and joy left them feeling elated.
A night that began with me wondering about when to make a timely exit ended with me not wanting to leave at all.
I’m grateful to Denise, Russ and all my new friends for such a wonderful evening.
So now I’m eschewing all other promotional endeavors in favor of getting invited to other lively book groups.
One caveat: I was kidding about cleaning your gutters.
Ladders can be dangerous.
Besides, after Saturday I no longer need to ascend any steps to feel elevated.

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