Now, I have this love/hate relationship with public events. A natural introvert, my first instinct is to cringe, lock the doors, and hunker down in front of the television, eating junk food and watching episode after episode of The Big Bang Theory. But getting out and meeting people can be a very good thing. So I do it. I even wrote this blog post on public events, and how to stop doing pointless and mentally poisonous things like imagining the audience in their underwear.
Preparation. Yes. It’s all in the preparation. So that’s what I did. This was a pre-Mother’s Day event, with writers who have decades more publishing experience than I, so I needed to choose the right excerpt from the book. I printed it out in a large font to make reading easier, since my fifty-year-old eyes no longer like the ten-point type that has been standard for book production for the last fifty years. I rehearsed over and over until my tongue no longer tripped over the lines, until I hit all the right marks. I gathered all my books, the easel I display them on, my bookmarks and business cards, a printout of the reading, and put them in a box in my living room. I threw in the copy of my new book, just received, to whip out when the inevitable question of “what’s next?” arose. Damn, I felt impressive. I was even wearing jewelry. And I don’t pull that crap out for just any old occasion.
But something happened in the half-hour between getting into my car and arriving at the library. It wasn’t my confidence. I felt great. I love reading in Woodstock. The book is set there, and people love hearing about the things they’re familiar with. Plus, I was reading with other writers so the pressure wasn’t all on me. No. A confidence crisis wasn’t the problem. I parked, and, smiling to myself, I opened my trunk. No box. No books. No reading carefully selected and printed out in fourteen-point type. No beautiful new sample book. No easel. Nada. Bupkes.
I found myself rapidly cycling through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief.
Denial. No. This can’t be happening. I’m going to close the trunk, and when I open it again, there will be books.
Bargaining. Please, Universe, if you can just make one copy of my book drop from the sky, at least I’ll have something to read, and then I’ll donate it to the library. Pay my library fines. Pay everyone’s library fines. I looked up. Nothing. Bastards. All my new age friends have been lying to me. There is no Universe and the only way it works in strange ways is in its innovative methods to screw you over.
Depression. Why? WHY? Why do I bother? I should have stayed home and eaten ice cream in front of the television. I suck. I am too stupid to be a writer.
Acceptance. Okay. Even though I am the biggest schmuck in the world, there has to be SOMETHING I can do to save my bacon.
Just in case, I checked the trunk again, and the parking lot, in case that book dropped from the heavens and landed, say, in the hedges or on one of the many hybrids and Volvos in attendance. Nothing. My brain-wheels started turning. As I paced the library’s driveway, two minutes until show time, my mind bounced between daring to recite what I could remember of the reading (not much), and driving to the nearest bar. Just then, the results of Bargaining showed up. No, a book did not drop on my head, although I sort of wished something heavy would have, maybe Stephen King’s latest, to put me out of my misery.
As I was contemplating how to explain my soon-to-be-absence-and subsequent-public-drunkenness, a friend walked out of the library. A friend who lived in Woodstock. She saw my stricken face. I told her the story.
“You want me to go home and get my copy?”
Thanks to this angel, I did my reading—ironically, a scene where one sister reassures the other, with total lies, that their fledgling holistic health retreat would not be a flop—and everything was fine. The audience did not believe the story I told them about the black hole that ate my books, but they did find it amusing.
What have we learned, boys and girls? Of course, do the preparation. Rehearse the reading. Wear the jewelry, if that’s your thing. But first, put the damned books in the damned car. Better yet? Keep them there.
(Previously published on Indies Unlimited.)