“Oh no, not another long inane story about those silly goats.” “Is she really going to recount every stride of her last horse show?” “She just posted twenty-five nearly identical photos of her dog sitting and staring straight into the camera. Again.”
You know the way it goes. Every time you mention your animals, everyone in the room rolls their eyes.
Well, it’s taken over two and a half years of finagling, but I hit the jackpot twice last week. There was a room full of people and they wanted to hear about my animals. Nirvana. It finally happened. They were all ears–looking at me with anticipation. And all I had to do was stand up front and read–just like grade school. Back then, I wore two-tone pointy glasses that were always cock-eyed–or my eyebrows were. So I was hoping to act a little cooler than the last time I read out loud in front of people. It wasn’t be a high mark to meet.
My author friend, Susan, trying to warn me, told me a funny anecdote. She said that before a book talk, it’s common for an author to open their book and find absolutely nothing to read. She said it happens to everyone, but I was undaunted. I love my book.
Three hours before the first book talk, I began to page through Stable Relation to find the right chapter. Oh holy beans, she was right. It was all just too pathetic. Not one readable word. I decided to put off the decision until sanity returned.
A blink later, there I was, wearing not-barn-clothes and standing on a beautiful deck with a dozen people smiling at me. When the time to read came, I asked for a request; I wanted to be the kind of cool who could handle that. Besides, I didn’t have a better idea.
I opened my book to that requested chapter, one of the same pages that looked pathetic very recently, and with all the savoir faire of a grade school girl with sagging anklets, I started reading out loud.
Disclaimer: I am not actually a graduate of the Evelyn Wood School of Speed Reading. I had a runaway.
Then I lucked out. Every drop of saliva in my mouth dried up, my teeth became a 3-D tongue magnet, grabbing from all angles and forcing me to slow down. The words were unfamiliar and awkward; they had no glide. I took a sip of water. Okay, a huge gulp of water. And went back to reading, but slower on some of the words. Finally, with a super-human anxiety half-halt, I slowed down almost all the words, almost consistently.
Apparently, I am still learning to read. But the group was generous beyond belief and no one seemed to notice. In the end, I had a great time and I hope the
guinea pigs people who came enjoyed it as well. Thanks to everyone for your patience.
The second book talk was two days later. There was still nothing to read and this group was twice the size of the first. Again, I asked for a request but this time, I took a deep breath before beginning. Horses taught me to do that. I read the words slower and with a rhythm in my voice, obedient to the punctuation marks. My mouth was a desert island and I let the words frolic in the sand this time. During the pauses, I could hear people laughing. But in a good way.
When I finished reading, it was time for questions. Someone asked about the animals living with me now. Can you believe it? Every animal fanatic’s dream. I mentioned the corgis and Edgar Rice Burro. I told a story about trying to train Bhim, the mini. I don’t remember what I said, but there was more laughter. Now that my book wasn’t in front of my eyes, I could see the people actually looked quite friendly, and there were moments that I felt remotely comfortable.
Maybe reading in public is a little like doing a series of flying changes on a horse. At first there is so much anticipation that you try too hard and it feels just like a high-speed, slow-motion tumble down a hill. But eventually, you pick yourself up, settle you mind, and let yourself be carried. Then it turns into a rolling dance. I am hoping that happens soon, because these words really should fit in my mouth a little more comfortably.
WEEKLY UPDATE: Sales continue to trickle in, some days five, some days none. My hope is that early readers will encourage a second wave of readers; that word of mouth will kick in soon. As the number of reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads grows, Stable Relation will be spotlighted and come up in Amazon and Google searches more often. This is where I plead one more time–please take a moment and write a brief review if you’ve read the book. It means a lot towards getting the Stable Relation in front of more readers. And thank you to everyone holding the vision here with me. Thanks for all the support and kind words. I borrow on your optimism regularly.
For now, I’m on the lookout for book contests and more speaking opportunities. I am not, however, looking for passages to read. It’s better when that’s a surprise.