Saturday, February 05, 2011

Book Events I Have Known and Loved

Donis writing today. My book launch party last Saturday went very well. That's Jeffrey Siger to my left and Tina Whittle to my left. Dana Stabenow was off getting a glass of Proseco. The crowd was large and enthusiastic, the authors all brought their "A" game, and a good time was had by all. The only small difficulty with the proceedings was that there were four of us launching books at the same time, which meant that in an hour, none of us had as much time to expound about our work as much as we wanted.

It does keep the speakers short and to the point. I know that when I was preparing myself for the event I was quite aware of the fact that I wasn't going to have much time to make an impression. No meandering or philosophizing. Perhaps that's a good thing for the audience, I don't know. In fact, there are a lot of things about author appearances that I'd like to know.

After last week's entry, which had to do with my preparation for the launch, Marilynne wrote a very interesting comment in which she gave me some advice.. "Wear your friendliest smile," she said. She likes it when the author is "relaxed and talky." And", "humor is good, but I don't come to hear a comedienne." Then, immediately after my event, a friend of mine commented that she appreciates it when the author dresses nicely rather than showing up looking like the dog's dinner. "It shows some respect for the audience," she said.

Both these comments, one following hard upon the other, got me thinking. I'm sure that some people love hearing an author do a regular comedy routine, whereas others, including Marilynne and my husband, are put off by excessive cleverness. As I mentioned last week, I admire a nice outfit, and I'll notice if a speaker looks like he just rolled out of bed, but I'm not offended by it. When I think back over the many, many author presentations and talks that I have attended over the years, what was it about the ones I remember with particular fondness that made them , in my opinion, better than average?

I like wit, if it seems natural and not forced, but I certainly don't require it. I like it when the author seems to be enjoying herself. She will keep my interest if she has depth and passion about her work. I don't care much for big ego. I don't care if he has a big ego. In fact, I think he probably ought to. Just don't push it in my face.

I've come away from many an author talk with warm feelings and a desire to read everything he ever wrote.

One of the best author events I ever attended was a year or so ago when Louise Penny appeared at our local library. She won us over from the first moment she walked in by shaking the hand of and personally introducing herself to everyone who had come out to see her. Her talk was intimate, personal, and joyful. I came away with the impression that this is a woman who is filled with love for her work and her life. Even if her books weren't as good as they are - and they are amazingly good - after seeing her in person I wanted to read everything she ever wrote at least twice.

I learned from that experience, you bet I did. I go into the audience before every event, and when I talk I make as much of a human connection with the crowd as I can. It's the least I can do for those people who made the effort to come and see me.

I'm thinking of taking a survey of people who attend book events.. What do you like or dislike about the performance when an author talks to an audience? Don't be shy. Your opinion may really help some poor writer who's wondering how to behave.


Anna said...

Donis, your points are well taken. I like the events where authors are truly happy to be there. It is eaasy to tell if they are simply "working" or enjoying themselves.

As long as the author shares a bit of themselves when they talk and are honest about their book, it is a win-win. Also, when signing a book, the one on one interchange is critica. For me, authors who have perfected this moment in time include: Jimmy Carter, Naomi Judd, Richard Paul Evans, Marilu Henner, Billie Jean King, Jim Belushi and Patricia Heaton. Interesting that most of the memorable book events I selected were for writers who are best known for things other than writing? Perhaps a lesson for all of us.

Donis Casey said...

What an interesting insight, Anna! You mention performers, a politician, athlete, people who make their living in front of people. Authors tend to be solitary sorts in the first place, and I imagine some find public events awkward, if not painful. I think the more one does it, the better. I heard one author recommend joining Toastmasters as a way to learn to be comfortable in front of a group. (Hannah Dennison, was it you?)

Donna Fletcher Crow said...

Yes, all the way down your column I was thinking of the event i went to where Louise Penney spoke. And then you mentioned her, too. I thik much of the popularity ofher books comes from the fact that they exude the same warmth that she does in person.

Donis Casey said...

Donna, I agree. If you read Louise's books, you want to know her. If you see her speak, you want to read her books. I told my husband once that if I like an author as a person, I want to read her books. I think of that whenever I do a signing.

jenny milchman said...

I'm so happy you got to do this, Donis--must be amazing to once see authors up there, then be there yourself. And what great company to be in! I'm not familiar with your work, but will look for it now.

I agree with all your points. I've never seen Louise Penny in person, but from afar she is one of the most gracious writers I know, with true appreciation for getting to do what she loves most.

The personal connection is what writing stories--certainly publishing them--is all about. It must be a privilege to meet the people who allow writers to write. Heck, they even encourage it!

This is a great topic for a post. Thank you.

Hannah Dennison said...

I met Louise Penny once and I too, was warmed by her genuine interest in everyone who showed up to hear her.
Great post Donis and wonderful comments too.