I've been a bookseller for many a long year. So for me, a bookstore signing is like a busman's holiday. Here are my remarks on my signings thus far.
a. The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, NC, my hometown. The Regulator is, with Duke's Gothic Bookshop and Chapel Hill's long gone Intimate, one of the first bookshops in which I felt that sort of personal investment you make when you fall in love with a bookstore. There were a whole lot of people at the reading and it's possible that I knew them all. There were faces I didn't recognize, to be sure, but maybe it was just because I hadn't seen them in so long. ( A note: this is the good side of having a debut of something when you're old, that is: you know a whole lot of people because you've lived so long and so probably a good percentage of them will come to see you dance, recite, sing, or, as in my case, read from your little novel.) Tom Campbell, one of the owners of the Regulator, welcomed me very charmingly and toasted me with a glass of milk, which was clever and sassy and which I appreciated. I liked hanging out in their stock room before the signing, I enjoyed reading from the little landing up four or five stairs, I liked the layout of the big room downstairs, I liked signing the big poster afterwards, I liked how Tom and I looked at each other and sighed when the "Amazon" name came up as it would do. It's a great store.
b. Powell's in Oregon. Every writer wants to read at Powell's. It's like Carnegie Hall or La Scala. When I realized that I would already be in Portland on the day after the book's pub date, I begged my publicist to set something up and she did. I praised her highly, she accepted my praise and then she left for another job somewhere. What she didn't tell me before she left was the I was going to the Beaverton Powell's--still a Powell's to be sure, but without the cachet of the real one, the City of Books Powell's, in Portland. It got to me for a couple of days, I have to say. But the store was nice enough, there were 40 people at the reading, the store sold some books and the bookseller--and this is like a big deal--HAD TO PUT OUT MORE CHAIRS. I tried to help him but he wouldn't let me. I could see exactly the same anxiety I always feel: you put out too many chairs and it looks pathetic when there aren't enough people to fill them; you put out too few and you have to scramble at the last minute. Bless his heart. I signed stock afterwards and he did that sweet bookstore thing of opening the book to the correct page for me. I've done that for others oh, a zillion times. Having it done for me was heartwarming.
c. The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines. Southern Pines is a lovely little town and I'd never been there though I'd heard enough good things about the bookstore to be thrilled at the invitation. The audience while small, was select and they asked wonderful questions. I enjoyed meeting the manager, Kay, and was humbled by the massively researched article on The Wet Nurse's Tale that she'd written for the local paper. This store served cookies. Rather than standing at a podium, I sat at a table, which I rather enjoyed. They have a nice space in the back of the store for readings which I envied because, just the day before, I had been forced to get rid of the lovely space the Bull's Head had used for readings--this was a commandment from on high and I was powerless to disobey since my choice was to get rid of the space or get rid of a bunch of books. You never ever ever want to get rid of books if you have any sort of choice.
d. Malaprop's in Asheville. Perhaps the best thing about this reading was getting to meet Emoke B'Razc, the owner of the place. Emoke is a name I've heard for years and years and I felt a little like I was in the presence of some bookselling deity to shake her hand. I've been in the biz for 30 years; she has too, but she made her shop exactly the way she wanted, uncompromising, feminist, political, while I, who do not my store, endeavor to make it all things to all people which, of course, makes it less, rather than more. Malaprop's inspires. I stood at my podium and afterwards, was asked to sign the Malaprop's autograph book which I thought was very classy plus in it was David Sedaris's autograph and my husband had just been telling me about a New Yorker story by David S. in which he remembers how, when he was nine, he'd sing Kukkaburra in a torch-singer's style so loud that his dad would come and smack him. Which struck me as hilarious. I loved Malaprop's.
Next comes Quail Ridge and then McIntyre's and then a store I've never been in: Page AFter Page in Elizabeth City. I'll write about them later.