Planning a book tour is a mysterious process that leads to great mystery when reality hits the pavement. Sometimes there are hours of exhausting travel only to arrive at a bookstore where no one bothered to post a flyer you sent them. Or there are occasional landings in vast places (such as a lovely chapel that seats 800) to discover the audience consists of three. Even the best divination tools doesn’t mean a writer won’t find herself reading to someone falling asleep while a baby screams like Ella Fitzgerald nearby.
I’ve adopted an attitude of trying to love whatever the readings might bring, even if it’s mostly the sound of my own voice reading a passage in my book that I enjoy. If I can connect with one person in the audience, even if that’s the whole audience, I figure there’s some value. Maybe afterwards, I thrash around and complain, but eventually, I come back to how doing readings is about leading with the heart. Sometimes, the wind hits you head-on and sometimes the wind is at your back.
Like today. But that was, in part, because of the convertible. It turns out that my inner administrative assistant, months ago when I wasn’t paying attention, snagged a convertible for me to drive around Florida (yes, the same one in this photo!). Finding a coupon for a cheap car with removable lid was far easier than removing that lid. Flash forward to this morning when my lovely sister and brother-in-law helped me figure out how to get the top off. It’s not as easy as you’d think, but thankfully, my sister’s past-life experience working in the car rental universe taught her a few tricks (including where rental cars hide their manuals), and we discovered the secret to making the top of the car fold itself into the back trunk.
Next thing I know, I’m on a lidless road trip on a perfect Florida day, heading to the panhandle for a reading in Tallahassee. Alternating between E. Street radio, showtunes, spa music, coffee house folk tunes and occasional songs by Sinatra, Yes and Tanya Tucker (Sirius radio — who knew!), I drove close to 300 miles. Ample breezes abounded until sometime in Gainesville, getting too wind-blown to remember my middle name, I converted the car back to its lid-on state.
In the end, I found the beginning: the first reading for Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor & Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other with the book in hand, and what’s more, happening in the home of that Polish resistance fighter’s daughter. Ellen and Marek were outrageously wonderful, turning their home into a perfect venue for such a reading. Between wine and cheese, the reading (which also included an excerpt from The Divorce Girl), and chili dinner afterwards brought people together to really visit, talk about the book and catch up with each other, ask me questions about the process, and enjoy astonishing chocolate peppermint pie and carrot cake. We ended with a small group of us warming ourselves outside around the primordial (and literal) fire in the outdoor fireplace Marek built. I was especially moved by a Polish woman telling me how important it was to share stories of Poles who saved Jews (“Every Polish family has a story,” she told me), and a young Polish man telling how his grandfather’s family saved a large Jewish family by feeding and housing them for five years.
In the quiet that follows, I sit before a large arch-shaped window, my heart full, the luggage lighter, and the green world around us alive with weather, change and motion. Tomorrow, the car, books and I go east to the ocean for another reading. I’ll push that magic button before I go, let the car fold up its top so that I can feel the sun and wind, blessings upon blessings.