The Reading

Arriving at the Venue
The Promise of an Audience

A couple of weeks ago, I was scheduled to give a reading at Bookery, Manchester, a new independent bookstore in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire. I’d never been there before, and as a debut author, I was naturally worried that no one would show up.

I arrived at the venue in plenty of time and had an enjoyable conversation with the magenta-haired marketing assistant.

Chatting up the Magenta-Haired Marketing Assistant

As the minutes ticked by and the chairs remained empty, I was already composing the ironically sanguine gotta-pay-my-author’s-dues blog post, when my nephew Andrew and his girlfriend Shannon arrived. We had a lovely family catch-up while the rest of the chairs stayed empty. I finally asked them in an ironically self-deprecating way if I should just read to my family. Of course, they said yes.

So I told them about the inspiration for Telling Sonny, a little awkwardly at first, but when I began to read, something magical happened. I could feel myself reconnecting with the book and sharing that connection with Andrew and Shannon, a connection of writing and family that is at the heart of who I am.

You see, it started like this.
A Life Summed Up in Two Facts: Elliott I. committed suicide and had a sister Dorothy.
“It had been a car accident, an inexorable hurtling of metal and glass against tree, Louis dead on impact.”

When the reading was over, we didn’t want the evening to end. We found a place close-by to eat Italian food and get loud in a public place, in the best Andrew tradition. (As a two-year-old, he had once gotten so loud in a restaurant in North Carolina, the family was summarily ejected.)

I couldn’t have asked for a better reading if attendance had been standing room only.

Andrew & Shannon

136 thoughts on “The Reading

    1. Thanks, Barbara! It’s good to see you. I haven’t had a chance to connect with any of the old Granite State gang since I went to Champlain. This week I’ve been working with the librarian on information literacy for the workplace. It’s a lot of fun!

      Like

  1. We were at a gathering recently and many fewer people showed up than usual. It was delightful. Yours was meant to be, making for such a delightful post. I’m a little nervous about giving a talk Tuesday, but if no one shows up, maybe I should just practice anyway! (Hubs and my sister will be there.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I was thrilled when Andrew and Shannon walked through the door. It is a great book store. We’re getting some good independent bookstores in our neck of the woods with the goal of becoming vibrant community hubs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yes, lots of them! My husband and I couldn’t resist buying a book about the history of Moxie, from which we learned that this healthful nerve tonic (now sold as soda) was made with no alcohol, heroin, cocaine, or poison.

      Like

  2. I don’t do book readings since I don’t write about “hot topics” such as political scandal. My songwriting classes, on the other hand, have had everything from only 8 people to huge crowds. Sometimes, it’s just the time of the year, the weather and who knows what? If you had family there with you, you were well ahead of the game!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, it is. I’m reading a book now written by a mother and daughter team. I’m enjoying the sense of the mother telling the daughter the story of her childhood at the same time the book’s narrator is telling the story to me.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. An author experience that went to the heart of your book, the heart of your values, and the heart of your very personhood. It doesn’t get any better than that. Thank you for this beautiful story, Liz! (And I loved the photos, along with the helpful captions. Really helped me be there.)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Daughter Kathryn, VP, Population Health at our local Hospital, just last week had a similar no-show experience at an 0645 presentation for doctors. Twelve hours prior we were the recipients of her prep-presentation. We learned a lot about the availability of services in our and close by communities for an individual when discharged from the hospital. I guess the Discharge Planners would have been better served with this information.

    Having graduated from the old New Hampshire and knowing you electronically, were I still in the neighborhood I would have made your audience a threesome. The meal sounded good also.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. So precious!!! I have learned a lot over the years about numbers….they are not all that important. The quality of the meeting or wherever you are speaking is more important than the amount of people that come! So glad it turned out so well!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Giving a reading and throwing yourself out there not knowing who might show is not for the faint of heart, Liz. On the other hand, you connected with two people on a much deeper level than you might have with twenty strangers in the room. I admire you for making the best of a challenging situation.

    I also believe it will be easier if you are ever in that situation again. I dreaded public speaking when I was in high school, but over time and with some positive experiences, I learned I could do it and felt better about myself in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you, Pete. I was terrified of public speaking when I was in college, and I was given a choice of courses in general education, so I didn’t take it. Then, every professional job I’ve ever had has involved public speaking. Readings are a little easier because I can read as the characters and not myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was that shy kid who hated being the center of attention. When I became a young adult, I finally found my confidence. From that point on, I tried to offer safe public speaking situations for my elementary students. I hear what you’re saying about reading aloud. It feels much safer to get into someone else’s character and voice.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In elementary school, I was painfully shy, to the point of dreading spelling bees. You did such a valuable service to the children you taught by introducing them to public speaking in a safe and supportive way so that they wouldn’t fear it when they got older. I’ll be they appreciated it!

        Liked by 1 person

            1. Thanks, Jennie. I’ve been so inspired by your chapter book posts that I would really like to give my two nephews books for Christmas. Do you have any guidelines on your blog about selecting chapter books for children? Maybe “The Poet’s Dog” for the fifth grader?

              Liked by 1 person

  8. What a beautiful and inspiring post. I sense that you spoke from your heart and that is where the ‘magic’ began. When we speak from the heart, our audience may only be one, but numbers do not matter…the words become real. And the fact that it was family made it all the more transformative. Family and friends are such blessings!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Good for you for staying and reading to your family! I think those kinds of signings and readings are the hardest part of being a published author. Even a writer as successful as Ann Patchett has so many stories of readings where no one showed up, and she spent the evening chatting with the bookstore staff. You were very wise to simply adapt to the environment and appreciate the support you had form your nephew and his girlfriend…and then to turn it into a meaningful evening was just priceless! I have a feeling you’re going to be just fine!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was started a reading to a practically empty room. I was just scheduled for half and hour and after about ten minutes a huge crowd came in (Later I found out they had arrived to hear the next reader). It turned out to be a fantastic experience for me and it seems then as the second reader mention later to me how much they had talked about my reading. I did have a lot of funny stories, plus I always have gifts for the attendees–this time it was hand clappers.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I loved your post, Liz. I am so glad you could reconnect with your book and explain how it came to be to your family. The problem with these sorts of events is they usually aren’t advertised. I have had similar experiences. I love your book and wonder if you are considering writing another?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You couldn’t have had a better audience; two people deeply interested in what you had to share. Hopefully they will remember this precious time together and pass it on to future generations. And with each telling it may grow in the tradition of your father’s story telling.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is my third time reading your post. The idea of reading aloud has profound outcomes, both for the reader and listeners. It is as if the words take flight as they are spoken, lifting the mood, inviting us to come closer, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Clarity of vision and a greater understanding of ideas fill our mind with possibilities, with inspiration, with joy. Recently, I was reading a poem to myself – no one else was in the room, and I found myself in tears with the loveliness of the words. As William Wordsworth once wrote: “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” Thank you for a marvelous post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad my post touched something in you, Rebecca. I’ve had the same experience of being in tears with the loveliness of the words of a poem. Particularly lyrical prose will do that as well. Your comments brought to mind an experience I had with a colleague as we were driving to a work event. She’d brought a copy of Toni Morrison’s Beloved with her, and she read to me as I was driving. I’ve never forgotten how much that meant to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. A heartwarming story of your inner strength, the power of family love and care and the magic of words! I’m in awe of your calm and deeply touched by the warmth of the evening for you all. Inspiring! Btw. The bookshop looks divine,somewhere I would happily spend some hours browsing!

    Liked by 1 person

Thanks for stopping by!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.