My somewhat unusual campaign of promoting Diana Lively is Falling Down grew out of at least three burdensome character flaws. Not only am I afraid of phone calls to strangers, I’m equally fearful of small talk with people I don’t know. The typical book tour involves large doses of both, since most writers have to book their own venues, and then, when they show up at a bookstore, they must introduce themselves to someone else they’ve never met, who is most often not the person they talked to on the phone. This stranger will swiftly become the writer’s New Best Friend, offering sympathetic encouragement when not a single person shows up for a reading, or worse, when only one person does, and s/he is affronted that the author hasn’t written a different book, on a different subject, or in a different genre.
Given my insecurities, combined with my one outrageous fortune – the wonderful people I already know who live in the many hometowns I’ve called my own -- I decided to skip the cold calls to bookstores and rely on my friends and family to join me in any event involving strangers and small talk.
Wherein lies my third relevant character flaw, which may indeed be related to the aforementioned social anxieties: a zest for certain party beverages, and an unwholesome conviction that any social gathering worth its salt requires food and drink.
I know such confessions aren’t likely to win me any wellness awards, and yet, most people I know seem to feel similarly. Given that my ideal readers will be at least somewhat like me, I figure the best way to attract them is by throwing a party or two, and then asking everyone I can to help me in this party-throwing effort
Thus was born my Sheila’s-Clearinghouse-of-Friends-and-Family-Book-Release-Pyramid-Scheme, in which my loved ones host the get-together and I swoop in to hawk my product (which I hope the party-goers will read as soon as humanly possible). The urgency has to do with a peculiar fact of the publishing world, in which bookstores may return inventory within three months of ordering it. This is a slim window of time.
Hence my trips around the country, and my most recent voyage to Washington, D.C., where my dear friend Barbara Murphy gathered together forty women and three very cute men to eat food from the book, drink wine and hear me introduce the cast of characters from the novel.
One of my college roommates drove over from Annapolis; another was in town from San Fransisco, a filmmaker named Rhian Miller who had in fact introduced me to Barbara’s sister in 1979. I had just moved to Chicago and Charlotte was housesitting for Barb and Ken (yes, I did say Barb and Ken, and yes, they do know about the doll couple of the same name) who were off in Europe. Five years before, Charlotte had rescued Rhian (another Air Force brat) from a tragically isolated senior year in a Maryland suburb, bringing her into the city to meet her family and friends. After college, when I moved to a different city and was feeling rather tragically isolated myself, Rhian insisted I meet Charlotte Murphy, whose sister Barbara “she just knew” I would love.
Do you see how this pyramid scheme works? Unlike the financial scam, this perpetual motion machine really does go on forever, for friendship is like Escher’s mirrors, infinitely refracting. As my family’s friend, Craig Silverman said -- when I thanked him for the Bruce Springsteen tickets and an introduction to his best friend in the book trade – “What goes around, comes around.”
Truer words were never spoken, for kindness is a renewable resource, maybe the only one.