Saturday, April 28, 2007

My Book Launch

"If I’d known fifty years ago, when I started writing, that it would take fifty years to reach this point . . . I might have stayed on the farm."

Those were my rehearsed opening words from the podium at the launch last week in Nelson, B.C., of my memoir, Leaving the Farm, after being enthusiastically introduced by my friend, the artist and writer Judy Wapp, and as I looked into the crowd of attentive faces before me, waiting to hear me read from my book. Over the sixteen years it took to complete the book (after fourteen drafts!) and see it published, I’d read many times before in public—most often from the work in hand when it was a work in progress—and had grown used to it, had graduated from abject, bowel-disturbing fear at the prospect of standing figuratively naked in front of an audience to a rather pleasant nervous excitement, but this time was very different. I was reading not from a manuscript that was far from finished, whose eventual publication seemed remote, if not impossible, but from a printed book, my book. Success! Recognition!

The experience was a little dissociating, to say the least. In other words, I had the odd feeling, like one gets when "watching" oneself about to have an accident, that I was somehow removed from the proceedings. Someone else stood in front of this audience, reading from someone else’s work. I was a bystander, or rather a spirit, floating above and a little behind the person at the podium.
At the same time, I was also astounded, flattered, humbled by all those good folks, friends and relatives, acquaintances and strangers, who’d turned out to hear me read and, in gratifying numbers, to buy my book. Nelson is certainly one of the best small communities for a writer, or any other kind of artist, to live and work in. You’re not alone here. You’re supported. You feel yourself (and especially now that you’ve finally produced a book) a member of what Margaret Laurence called "the tribe"— and of what I like to think, in my more grandiose moments, as that august company composed of all the writers who have ever lived and left written evidence of their having been here.
Of course most of what gets written, and published, disappears—winds up on remainder tables or gathers dust on somebody’s or some institution’s bookshelf or lies begging on a giveaway table at a garage sale. But what the hell. Don’t most of us strive for expression in one form or another in the face of eventual dissolution?

Sure we do, and forgive that last sentence. Reminds me of the Saturday Night Live comedian who used to do hilarious skits called "Deep Thoughts."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Back in B.C.

We’re back in temperate Canada, back in our little house on Laird Creek above the West Arm of Kootenay Lake in southeastern British Columbia, and tropical Mexico, the village of Yelapa just south of Puerto Vallarta on the west coast of Mexico, is now just a pleasant dream we had for three months this past winter.

We came home last week to find bright, early, chilly spring weather here (chilly to us; not so for folks on the streets of Nelson, many going about without jackets). Though the weather continued warm (it’s since turned cold again), it took a couple of days before we ventured out in our spring, rather than our winter, jackets. Yesterday (or was it the day before?), April put on shorts and lay comfortably in the hammock on our front deck as if she were still in Mexico. I sat in the sun nearby, and read, as if I too were still in Mexico.

My book is out. My free copies, and additional copies I’ve ordered at the publisher’s forty percent discount, are on their way to me. My book launch, in Nelson, is April 20. In May, unless something intervenes, I’m off to my native Minnesota to flog my book there, where the boyhood I describe in my book, Leaving the Farm: Memories of Another Life, happened. It’ll be strange reading it to people there – in many instances, I’m sure, to people I grew up with, all of whom doubtless have their own memories of that time and place of more than fifty years ago.

I have few illusions about the reception of my book. Its readers will be limited, I’m sure, on both sides of the border, and the best I can hope for are a few positive reviews and enough sales to justify its publication. It’ll make a small splash, I suppose, locally if not elsewhere, then sink, like most books do, quietly, even quickly, out of sight. Still, I’ll have the book to keep; I’ll be able to hold it in my hand. I may even reread it from time to time, and no doubt cringe at parts of it, marvel that it was ever published. My relatives will read it. Some folks back in Minnesota who knew my parents and remember our farm and maybe me as a boy will read it and get a laugh or two out of it. That’ll be enough. I wrote the book, finally, and finally it was published, and now I can look to other things – try to write, among other things, another book.