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11.20.04 Bookstore Readings 

One of the challenges about being a writer is that you need opposite talents. First, you have to closet yourself in a room, alone, for six months or more, and write an interesting, entertaining novel. That requires the ability to write well, imagine a good story, spend hours upon hours in isolation, and sit on your ass for sustained periods of time. That last requirement is particularly hard for me because I have bad knees. When I get up after writing several pages, I can barely straighten my legs. It's a problem.

Then, when the book is finished, you have to be able to go on the road and promote your creation, exchange witty repartee with radio and TV interviewers, impress and delight newspaper reporters enough to write about you, and entertain at bookstore readings around the country. These bookstore readings are particularly nerve-wracking for me. Not that I've done one yet. I'm just thinking about what I'm going to say at those appearances. Not that I don't HAVE a lot to say, I do. But I don't want to ramble (my natural inclination as you can see). Plus, they want you to read aloud from your book at a bookstore (hence the term "a reading"), and being read to as an adult seems kind of dull, no matter how interesting the book.

So this week, I decided to go see a writer speak to get ideas about what to do at my own readings. Actually it was a writing-duo, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, who penned The Nanny Diaries and Citizen Girl (their new book). Quite justifiably, I was totally prepared to hate these girls. They had a huge bestseller, so I'm jealous right out of the box. We asked them to write a blurb for my book and they didn't even answer the letter (rude, rude, rude). They kept firing their agents, and in my world it's just plain wrong to fire the person who gave you your first break (I'm judgemental, so sue me). They left their first editor just because a better deal came along. Yes, it was a much, much, much better deal, but still. Sadly, God punished them when Random House rejected their submission and made them return the advance. Heads rolled over that one and it became a minor scandal in the publishing world. Then it is rumored that Emma and Nicola asked for (no, demanded!!!) hair and make-up before all their appearances, which is apparently considered a spoiled thing to do in the book business. So anyway, my basic instinct was to actively dislike these girls, or at least not buy their book.

Despite my best intentions, I couldn't hate Emma and Nicola once I saw them in person. They drew a big crowd, friends and family mostly, but all the seats were filled. And poor things, a lady in the front row was wearing a hearing aid, which kept interfering with their mike. After several minutes of unbearably loud, high-pitched feedback, they went with no amplification (big mistake) until a better AV set-up could be arranged. I applaud them for not asking the lady with the hearing aid to go sit in the back, which is what I would have done. Nicola was wearing jeans and a casual shirt (which I didn't get, I mean this was her BIG Barnes & Noble moment!). Emma was dressed in suitable head-to-toe New York black. They gave a short intro about what inspired their book (good idea for me to adopt) and then went on to read for the rest of the time. Their reading was so dramatic that I suspect an acting coach was involved and it made me wonder if I should get one.

But then the reading took an unexpected and confusing turn. For their third passage, the girls read a graphic chapter that involved hookers and shoving not one, but two fists up a woman's ass. So I spent the rest of the reading obsessing about fists and asses. I mean, how would that be physically possible? Wouldn't it hurt? One small fist, okay fine, but two? What position would you have to be in? Beyond the fist, would there be arm involved? And what if the shover didn't take his ring off? Anyway, the authors lost me when they read this exerpt. Call me old-fashioned but there's a time and place for shoving fists up asses and it's not at 7:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble. Especially not when your dad and assorted grandparents are in the audience. Lesson learned: Do not read sex scenes at readings. Anyway, next week I'm furthering my bookstore reading research by seeing Toni Bentley read from her new book The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir. I'll report back if anything memorable happens.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

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