Last Wednesday through last Monday were some very busy days. On Wednesday, I spoke to a fifth grade class, and we’ll get back to them in a minute. Thursday I met with the Chestnut Ridge Lunch Bunch for lunch then I was lucky enough to be the first selection for the Love Our Readers Book Club that met at Foxtale Book Shoppe that evening. On Monday, I got to meet with the No-Name Book Club–although I’m lobbying hard for them to become the Happy Hour Book Club. I’m looking forward to the Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Weekend*, and the whole thing got me to thinking about why I love reader events–especially book clubs–so much.
First, I’m in the midst of book lovers. I love books, too, and I love people who love books. I love to smell books, to read books, to talk about books, to write about books–that’s probably why I was an English major, although many days I think I should’ve been a librarian. But if you love books, then we’re going to have something to talk about.
Second, it’s always an honor to answer questions about my book and to talk about the writing process or how my stories came about. Sometimes people will put me on the spot. That’s cool because, when you’re put on the spot, that’s how you grow. If you never think about how other people see your work, then you live in a vacuum. Sure, I wrote all of those stories because I wanted to write them, but if I didn’t care what other people thought, then I would keep a private journal, ya know? My goal has always been to write a story that is true but uplifting.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I want to be at any event where there’s food and possibly wine. The Chestnut Ridge folks fed me delectable salads and a wine cake that was to die for. Love Our Readers had these great little desserts from Tea Leaves and Thyme, and the tea they sent reminded of my grandmother’s “tea leaf” tea. Then the No-Namers had quite the spread: fruit and cheese and crackers and this really good rioja. Let’s take a minute and think of all of the book clubs who have fed me. Good times. Y’all are the best.
Finally, y’all make me think. The fifth graders–I told you we’d get back to them–asked me all of the questions, and they did not shy away from getting into my business with inquiries about how much money I make or how people are supposed to know I’m even out there. I never mind answering those questions for kids, especially. I told them to keep writing, to be smart about it, and to always have a Plan B. They suggested I call my next book Manger Baby, and, quite honestly, I have yet to come up with a better title. Oddly enough, one of the teachers from Chestnut Ridge asked a similar question: you have these books but I’ve never heard of you–why?
That’s a good question.
Because the market is glutted with good books, and it’s hard sometimes to stand out in that crowd. At the time I wasn’t prepared for that question–and I should’ve been because the fifth graders had already asked me–but I’ve thought about it and want a redo.
If you like an author, any author, the best thing you can do is tell other people about him or her. In addition to word of mouth, you can always leave a review on any retail site and/or Goodreads but especially Amazon where the number of reviews that you have can sometimes determine whether or not a book goes on sale and thus gets extra attention. Now this part is important: I appreciate every book club visit and every review, but I’d love for you to take that philosophy for any author that you like. If you don’t like my books, but you love someone else–please go leave a review for that person. Heck, leave an honest review for me. A one or two-star review might sting, but it’s still a review. I consider anything that’s a three or above to be a win. Besides, I might actually take to heart what you didn’t like. For example, some folks don’t like the cussing, and I’ve tried to tone that down a bit since Bittersweet Creek.
There’s room at the table for all authors, and that’s one reason why I keep track of all of the books that I read on Goodreads and don’t hesitate to tweet or share posts about other authors. I don’t rate books anymore because I don’t think that’s cool, but I write a reaction for every book that I read in the hopes that someone may read that reaction and think, “Hey, I might like that book, too.” You can find the books I read or have read here.
So, if you would like for me to speak to your book club or to your class, I will always try to make that work. If there’s another author you’d really love to talk to, then you might want to take a look at his or her web site. Many authors will do book club appearances–even Skype if they don’t live nearby. As long as everyone is reading, then I am a happy camper. As Levar Burton told us so long ago, reading is fundamental.
Oh, and thanks to all of you who read my books and then humor my long-winded stories and answers. I learn from you, and I appreciate you. Mwah.
*Several of the Barbara Vey Events are open to the public and the pizza party and Sunday breakfast both have tickets still available. If you’re in the Milwaukee area, I highly recommend checking this event out. You’ll be up close and personal with several authors, and you’ll be among some really voracious readers.