July 20, 2011

Bright Lights, Big City

It has been an absolutely wonderful first week for a book. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you've already been bombarded with a daily link. I'm not going to retread all that here. Suffice it to say that I've had some glowing reviews and some thoughtful interviews, not to mention generous hometown coverage leading up to this Saturday's Politics & Prose reading (3 PM: come on out!). I am a very lucky woman.

Yesterday morning I hopped on an Amtrak Acela train for New York City, where I would give my first public reading from Don't Kill the Birthday Girl. Even though I've been fortunate to give readings in New York before, this felt different. For one thing, I was on Crown's dime: as someone accustomed to long Bolt Bus rides and crashing on a friend's couch, this was truly a whole new ball game. Arriving at the hotel where they had reserved a room for me only affirmed my excitement...

The Warwick is one of those fabulous old-school hotels, in one direction a few blocks from The Ziegfeld theater (which was staging the premiere of Crazy, Stupid, Love the same night, starring Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone--I wish I'd had time to gawk), a few blocks from Radio City Music Hall the other direction, and adjacent to the iconic "LOVE" sculpture. The lobby features beautiful chandeliers and a tall wall of built-in shelving and books--always a comfort to an author. And though chicly arranged (sans slipcover, arranged by color of binding), they were in fact real books. I know because...I pulled a few down off the shelf and checked. Perhaps not my most sophisticated moment.

My jaw dropped when I saw that my hotel room had its own living room. Since I was traveling alone, it was a bit overwhelming. One by one, I sat in all the chairs. One by one, I turned all the lamps on...then off again, so as not to be wasteful. (Just to be clear: I'm not trying to gloat by showing this. I just know that -I'd- want to see, if someone else had this opportunity. A month from now? I'll be back on my friends' couches!)

A few days ago my lovely poetry-friend Maureen Thorson, who I have known since our undergrad workshops at University of Virginia, had sent me this sneak peek of the display of my book at the Upper East Side Barnes & Noble. (Aside: Maureen's Applies to Oranges collection from Ugly Duckling Presse is killer. Check it out.) When I arrived on Tuesday night, through welcome coincidence the first familiar face I saw was Jeff--Maureen's husband. Also, the book was stacked all over the place. And pictured on the Jumbotron screens overhead. Crazy. 

What can I say about the reading? Reading prose is very different from reading poems, in the same way that running a series of wind sprints (poetry) is very different from running a marathon (prose). I had agonized over my selections beforehand, before settling on a trio that I hoped capture a few different aspects of my personal story: a part of the introduction, a section from childhood, a section on dating as an adult with food allergies. The question and answer session was lively, a nice mix of people who came to the topic from firsthand experience and people who were just curious. Afterwards--plenty of books, sold and signed. Here are a few glimpses...
Upside: I'm an impassioned reader. Downside: I'm destined to make funny faces when I read. This is my signature "oooopen mouth" look, frequently captured on film.
Here I'm with Barbara Rosenstein of the Food Allergy Initiative. Such a great group--focused on research and long-term solutions. And I now know (from this morning's meeting) they are also fun, lively, super-smart people. I'm excited to work with them.
This lovely lady, Lisa, came to the reading after having heard me read poetry as part of last year's Boog City Festival. She's a talented poet herself. That is one of the surreal aspects of touring for this book: integrating it into the identity I've already built as an author of poetry. This morning I dropped by the offices of W. W. Norton--the paperback of I Was the Jukebox is out August 1--and chatted with my editor, Jill (who is also an author in multiple genres) about this balancing act.
 This guy said "I just like memoirs." You can see how I'm beaming. Refreshing to have an audience who attended in equal parts for the topic and for the craft. 
I love this photo for three reasons. One: it shows the random friend-of-a-friend who gave me two of his own CDs--I love it when artists randomly cross paths. Two: it shows me signing a poster for the Barnes & Noble wall of fame. Three: it shows the yellow origami turtle given to me by poet-friend Kimmy Grey. Talk about your talismans of good luck! (She was inspired by the origami poems in IWTJ.) 

Kimmy, know I carried that guy around in my purse for the rest of my New York trip.
And here we are. I've said this before, but I'll say it again: the people at Crown are awesome. Meet Julie Cepler (black jacket), Rachel Rokicki (black skirt), Sydny Miner (plaid dress), and Anna Thompson (gray skirt). They are my editorial and publicity team. They are my safety net and saviors. They are my "Oh, it's 4:55 PM? Yep, we can get that out before end of business day" people. They are the best. 

Mom...thanks for helping me pick out that dress. Dad...thanks for that red coral necklace. I couldn't have asked for better birthday gifts. Let the adventures continue~


Kristen said...

How exciting!! Do let me know if you someday come to read in St. Louis. (Yes, I know it's where literature goes to die...but still...)

Leslie said...

Love the dress! So sorry I won't be here for your DC reading, but I know you'll be fabulous! xoxox

Diane Lockward said...

Your dress perfectly coordinates with your blog design!

Patricia said...

Fantastic post, Sandra! I think I am your newest fan! Your article on Meg Waite Clayton's Blog drew me in from the first paragraph. I cannot wait to get your book! Having allergies and being lactose intolerant I can identify to some degree. I do know people who have gluten and celiac diagnoses - their life can be very frightening. I applaud you for sharing such personal stories.

Now.... off to the bookstore.....

Choose Joy!