Book Launch Lessons
I had been preparing for my book launch at the Life Enrichment Center for weeks. For at least three weeks it was the first thing I thought of each morning at around 5:30 am. I lay in bed as the opening statement of my presentation floated into my mind, mocked me as my words rose above to the darkened ceiling over our bed. The words rose like chalk lines on a black slate, then evaporated like dust, or dreams. By the time Tim stirred beside me I was ready to rise and rush to my laptop, sleepily making revisions to my presentation. It seemed fine, but how could I know, really?
I argued with myself, as we writers always do. Is this the right word? Am I getting my feelings across? What can I say to let others know the struggle and the joy my memoir had created in my life? What’s important? What should be avoided?
I practiced in front of Tim, in front of the mirror as I was putting on make-up and as I was driving to complete one errand or another. I thought I was ready. But what if I froze up at the last minute? Getting a haircut and a highlight helped my confidence, but the day of the event I was having a bad hair day. No way one can make thinning hair cooperate, no matter what you do to tame your coif.
Finally the day arrived. My dear friend Kelly picked me up and her confidence buoyed me. We arrived at the Life Enrichment Center and some of my friends were already there. The hugs and well wishes I received were much needed and appreciated. I was amazed to see all the happy faces of friends, the chattering of writers reconnecting, the wine being served and the Cubans consumed. So much welcoming warmth. Then, two magnificent bouquets of flowers, completely unexpected and very much appreciated, arrived in the arms of two LEC members. The scent, thoughtfulness and beauty of the flowers stilled my fears. The positive responses from those who had read my book pushed me to the forefront of the room. So far, so good, I thought, as the chattering quieted down.
Taking a deep breath and making eye contact with a few of my dearest friends I began my presentation. It flowed. All those 5:30 am practice sessions, all those dreams providing me with the right words had served me well. People laughed, seemed close to tears at times, nodded and understood. I had wormed my way into their attention, hearts and minds.
The readings I chose from my book were appropriate: one page from my hippie life, one from my housewife life. I could see the smiles and comprehending eyes. I sensed other women and men traveling through the years to their own hippie days, their own child-rearing years.
Then we had a short question and answer period. I had looked forward to this part of my presentation, having no idea what questions would be raised. I answered each question thoughtfully and hope my answers shed light in the world of my listeners and readers. I thanked everyone for those who said I was so brave to have shared such intimate secrets, pains and joys, of my life.
I replied, “Either I’m brave or stupid to have shared so much!” Everyone laughed, as did I.
One woman rose, Pamela, who I knew, but whose history I did not. Her remarks, not a question, stopped me in my tracks.
“You said you might have been stupid to share so much. You are not stupid. You are courageous, and you gave me courage. I can relate to all you said. Everything meant so much to me. I have been through the same psychological abuse. You’ve inspired me to write my story, which I’ve been wanting to do for years. The truth of your stories for those who have had similar experiences make me realize I’m not alone. You’ve given me courage to write my own story, to free me from my own past.”
I had no idea Pam and I had shared experiences, which I could see she was still healing from. Pam’s words gratified me as much as any of the positive reviews I had received. Her words were poignant. They came unexpectedly from her heart and soul. They hit home for me and every person present. There was a hush in the room. We were all amazed at Pam’s confession, the importance of her sharing her secret self. How many others were experiencing the same thoughts? In that moment I realized I had done something that matters. I had written a book others could read, relate to, and grow from.
That evening as Tim and I did a redoux of the event and how well it had gone, I reminded him of what I had said four years previously. We had been discussing the expense of my hiring an editor and going forward with all the work of having my book published. I knew how slim the odds were of being published. He had asked me why publishing this book was so important to me.
I replied, “If I can reach one woman who has experienced the same type of emotional abuse I will know I have succeeded. Just one person to learn what I have learned, and who might gain courage to change her life or confront her past.”
Pamela was that one woman. She made all the financial struggles, the work of querying agents and publishers, the feeling of desolation I experienced with each agent’s and publisher’s rejection worth it all. Her confession touched my heart and validated my dream of publishing and reaching “just one woman”.
Thank you, Pam, for validating my words. For being “that one woman.” I look forward to reading your story. I hope there are many more who will discover their courage in my words, and their own.
You, and all my readers and listeners, have made all the fears and doubts worthwhile. Thank you. You have taught me so much.