Saturday, September 16, 2017

Popcorn, Please!

"It started with a nail in a tire."

That was the explanation a dad and his teen daughters had for why they were just arriving at the Irvine, CA Barnes & Noble tour stop for Wild Bird as I was packing up to leave.

I had someplace to be, but clearly, they knew how to tell a story. And then I noticed the dad was wearing a Wild Bird pin he'd made himself. 

I put my stuff down, and listened.

Turns out they were all three big Sammy Keyes fans. Turns out they'd driven about 60 miles - a considerable distance, especially given the region's notorious traffic congestion. And, it turns out, there are three Barnes and Noble stores in Irvine. It wasn't just the distance or the traffic that made them so late. They'd gone to the wrong two stores first.

(Hey, when you're stressed and running behind, and you've started your trip with a nail in the tire, you punch in Barnes and Noble, Irvine. You don't think there'll be more than one, let alone three of them.)

Me and my cousin's girls - my "cousin-ettes" - about 10 years ago
Me and my cousin-ettes now, during the Wild Bird tour..
Lucky for me, my presentation had run late. (As Mark would - and did - say, "Shoulda brought popcorn.") Lucky for me, I got to meet this awesome dad and his delightful girls. And after they bought copies of Wild Bird and we talked about the importance of edgy-yet-clean literature for "the kids stuck in between," talk turned to Sammy. 

Want to revive me? Start talking about Sammy like she's real. And this family knew how to do just that. 

Being on book tour sounds glamorous, but it can be exhausting. Especially when you tell your publicist you'd be happy to drive yourself to and around Los Angeles because, come on, you're familiar with the region and that's the only sensible way to approach it. Plus, everything seems doable from the comfort of your office chair. 

I tried to talk Mark out of it, but he took one look at my final itinerary and insisted on coming with me. 7 days, 702 miles, 6 bookstore events, 8 school assemblies, 1 public library, and 14 cities later I'm so glad he did. 

I enjoy in-store events because you get a chance to one-on-one with people who love your work. I love school assemblies because there's nothing better than making middle schoolers laugh when they weren't expecting to. Give me 500 middle schoolers in a hot, sweaty gym and I'm in my wheelhouse. 

But the very best encounters on tour are with people who share their personal stories with you; the quiet stories that tell you that what you do matters. Seeing what impact something I wrote from my heart had on another person's heart is a profound experience. I never, ever let the intensity of a schedule or the weight of fatigue interfere with appreciating the significance of the quiet stories people tell me. Popcorn, please! 

So as the Wild Bird tour continues, I'll look forward to sweating in gymnasiums, meeting dear friends and new ones, too, and hearing any quiet stories readers are willing to share. 

If you're interested in knowing the upcoming public events schedule, check this link.  And if you can't make a tour stop, I'll meet you back here next week. Until then, lean in and don't let go!

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