One thing you might get to do if you write a book is go on a book tour. This means going to bookstores in different cities, talking about and/or reading from your book, and signing copies.
As you may know, we wrote a book, and we went on a whirlwind tour of bookstores in St. Louis and Washington, D.C. And yes, it is still a tour if it’s just two cities. (If it’s just one city, it’s a residency, like Britney Spears is doing in Las Vegas.)
Anyhow, our book tour was a wild ride! Do you want to hear about it? No? Too late!
Our presentation included “featured typos,” and also an audience participation section where people voted on whether or not our presentation should have included featured typos. We were pretty much doing everything we could to avoid talking about the U.S. presidents.
Day 1: The Novel Neighbor, St. Louis
Ahead of our first-ever bookstore appearance, an old coworker of mine predicted that “it’ll be funny, then it’ll get funnier, then it’ll get awkward.” I delivered on this when someone in the audience commented that an author’s work to publicize his book never ends. I replied that it does end, because everything ends, because someday all of us will die. This did not get the laugh I was hoping for!
Highlights of this appearance included:
– In reference to George W. Bush, I mocked cowboy hats on non-cowboys as an affectation, having forgotten that my dad was in the audience, wearing a cowboy hat. (My dad is not a cowboy in the traditional sense.)
– I came this close to spilling my cocktail on the stack of our books the bookstore was hoping to sell. This was, actually, a heartbreaking miss for The Novel Neighbor. Just imagine what you could charge today for a first-edition For Whom the Bell Tolls on which Hemingway had spilled a drink. $20? $25? A lot, anyway.
We left a little something in the hotel nightstand for any weary business travelers who are searching for meaning in a troubled world.
Day 2: Comfort Suites, Uniontown, PA
I just want to say that Uniontown looked really nice! I don’t mean this as a dig at labor unions, but I was picturing Uniontown as being a bunch of steel mills and dive bars and country music and rusty pickup trucks. (Basically, a pickup truck commercial, but with rust.)
Our hotel’s suite did not have a separate bedroom for our kids, which was my fault. I’d assumed the word “suite” means “more than one room,” but apparently it just indicates that someone decided to call it a suite. I wish I still had an office job, so that when people asked if I had an office or a cubicle, I could say, “Well technically, I have a suite.”
Day 3: Embassy Suites, Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.
This hotel had an indoor pool, which is how we got our kids to agree to go to Washington in the first place. It also had an arcade, where our functionally vegetarian kids opted to play “Big Game Hunt.” I kept accidentally shooting the female emu or wildebeest or whatever, at which point my safari guide would admonish me in his lovely accent, “You shot a cow!” So, I guess I’m either very bad or very good at hunting, depending on how you feel about cows.
Uh oh, I’m wearing the same outfit I wore at the previous event. Now you know!
Day 4: East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.
We miscalculated how long it would take us to get to Eastern Market from Dupont. And, consequently, we had to sit around a Le Pain Quotidien for an hour and a half, wondering how we’d tell people where we’d been, since we couldn’t pronounce Le Pain Quotidien. I drank a five-hour-energy, secretly, in the bathroom, because it is shameful.
– Someone asked, “You seem like you’re straight, so how is it you’re able to rate men on their attractiveness?” I was taken aback by the question and don’t remember what I said, but what I should have said was that straight men can, in fact, tell if other men are good-looking. And in fact it’s critical that they do so, because you never want to be below-average in your friend group.
– Our agent was in the audience and brought a few of her friends, presumably to show them the kind of idiot writers she has to deal with.
Our hats are off to the Politics & Prose customer who spotted one of the Russian-language terms in our Trump word search. (The term is a cognate, so we’re not SUPER impressed, but still.)
Day 5: Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C.
Politics & Prose is one of the most famous independent bookstores in the country. When we arrived, I told our host I felt a little arrogant doing a book event there. Without missing a beat, he said, “You should.” And he was joking, but in that way you joke when you’re joking but also you’re not joking.
Truth be told, I also felt a little intimidated, so beforehand I drank a beer two doors down at Little Red Fox. And when I say “drank,” I mean “I drank a 16 oz can of beer in approximately one minute, then stood around pretending to drink from an empty can for another ten minutes to play it cool.”
Now, it’s probably worth mentioning that one thing I don’t know a lot about is the U.S. presidents.
By in large, I’ve been able to conceal this ignorance whenever I get a tough question about presidential history by changing the subject to LBJ’s penis. (Incidentally, this is a great way to swiftly change the subject no matter what you’re talking about.) But my streak of faking it ended at Politics & Prose. One after another, attendees approached the mic to ask questions to which I did not know the answer, and in some cases didn’t even understand. Fortunately Kate does know a lot about the presidents, and so I just punted all the tough questions to her.
– Our publisher had blown up the Trump campaign word search from our book for each event, but only at Politics & Prose did anyone actually circle words. This proves what everyone knows about Politics & Prose customers, which is that they love writing on things with sharpies. If you don’t believe me, check out the restrooms at Politics & Prose!
– Our editor’s parents were in the front row. I couldn’t bear to make eye contact with them because I’m worried their daughter will get in trouble at work for signing off on our book.
Day 6: Great Wolf Lodge, Mason, Ohio
We had planned on arriving at Great Wolf Lodge in the mid-afternoon so our kids could have plenty of time in the water park. But this was plan disrupted when we hit an snowstorm going through Pennsylvania. Then our plan was disrupted further when we hit the same snowstorm again going the other direction, because as it turns out, I had gotten on the Pennsylvania Turnpike going the wrong way.
I could write 100,000 words on Great Wolf Lodge* but here are some general observations.
– This is obviously not exclusive to Great Wolf Lodge, but seeing a bunch of your fellow citizens in their swimsuits is weird.
– I fell off my inner tube inside one of the long, tubular slides, and had a harrowing experience trying to climb back on and continue down the slide. It was exhilarating and terrifying. Everyone should experience a close brush with death, like I did, at Great Wolf Lodge.
– No one recognized us and asked us about our book, which was disappointing.
And then we drove home. We spent the whole 7+ hours listening to the audiobook of a biography of Harry S. Truman, because we were doing an interview with the Riverfront Times the next day, and for some reason we were under the impression they were going to ask us a bunch of questions about Harry S. Truman. (We were asked no questions about Harry S. Truman. But I regret nothing, because Harry S. Truman led a fascinating life.)
In closing, I would like to express my deep gratitude to everyone who came to one of our events. I don’t know if we’ll do anything like this in the future. But if nothing else, the next time we take a family vacation, we might try to squeeze in a book signing so that we can write off the whole trip as a business expense. So if you’re in Orlando, keep an eye out for us at whatever bookstore is closest to Disney World!
*Henry Holt & Co.: I will absolutely do this if you’d like me to. I can just live there for a year, perched in the rafters above the water park Phantom of the Opera-style, recording my observations and also my accelerating descent into madness.