I had the profound pleasure of reading with the illustrious J. Adams Oaks, author of “Why I Fight” at Women and Children First. I wanted my first official reading of “Cast the First Stone” to be at my favorite Chicago bookstore. David and I moved to Chicago from San Francisco about two years ago and I was feeling pretty homesick. When I walked through the doors of W&CF, I immediately felt at home. The positive energy of that bookstore is simply wonderful. (By the way, they’re celebrating their 30th anniversary!)
So, of course, I was panicking about the reading. To say I was nervous is a tremendous understatement. I couldn’t sleep all week. I wanted to cancel several times. I was worried that I wouldn’t find the right outfit, that my hair wouldn’t cooperate with me, that I’d lose my voice. What if no one showed up? What if I forgot how to read?
I read aloud the section of CTFS for the reading about 5 or 6 times. I practiced voice inflection. I figured out when to pause and take a deep breath so I didn’t pass out.
David, my husband (and everything-else-that-I-might-need-in-a-moment’s-notice), was a huge support. He baked cookies. He coached me through my bazillion practices. He told me that I looked great about a hundred times. He filmed the reading and the Q&A section afterwards. (The video should be up by the end of the week. Check back for details.)
Good friends, coworkers, and classmates showed up. I was thrilled to see so many friendly faces. Then people started walking up to me that I didn’t recognize. They introduced themselves as “so-in-so, but you know me as such-in-such from Open Salon.” I couldn’t have been happier. (Except that I was also trying to breathe and had a hard time focusing on people.) I told everyone that we would talk afterwards. If I made it through alive.
The little bookstore was packed. Kathie, an amazing writer and events coordinator, introduced me. I walked upfront, thanked everyone, and started reading. Once I started, I was on a roll. I tapped into Denny’s strength. I became my strong-willed and out-spoken narrator.
It was a major success. Why, you ask? Well, for one thing I didn’t pass out or throw up or forget my name. For another thing I felt even more a part of our remarkable Chicago literary community. J. Adams Oaks was kind, friendly, and even managed to make me laugh. This has been my experience with every Chicago author I’ve met. I’ve been so impressed by the literary community. It’s welcoming, intelligent, and down-to-earth.
I felt good. When happened after the reading felt even better. It was like a dream.
You know the dream. The one where you’re on Letterman or Conan, talking about your New York Times bestseller. The one where you get to quit your day job and write every day for eight hours. The dream where your book is studied in literature classes. Yeah, you know the one.
People I didn’t know or barely knew were asking me to sign their newly-purchased book and telling me how well I did. I was humbled. Honored. Overwhelmed with gratitude. I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening to me.
A group of OSers, my husband, and I went to Hamburger Mary’s where the party really got started. We laughed and talked like old friends. It was simply wonderful and I felt so grateful to have such an amazing community.
I really and truly couldn’t sleep last night. I tossed and turned, playing the events of the evening over and over in my head. It’s finally hit me that I’m an author.
Watch out, world, here I come!