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Friday, June 27, 2008

Blog Fodder at Last--The Book Tour

OK. The secret is out. I do not have this blogging thing down yet.

I came across an article that said I should blog at least once a week or it isn’t worth the effort. Worth it to whom, I wanted to ask? Are you now going to tell me, just like my kids, that I am hopelessly behind the times in music and fashion, too? At least I know what a blog is (I think.)

So let that stand as my apology for anyone logging into my website hoping for regularly scheduled glimpses into my life. Trust me, my life is pretty mundane, filled with carpooling and rotated leftovers and cleaning out the cat box that every child swears is not their assigned chore.

This month, though, I indeed have news to blog about! For my fleeting fifteen minutes of fame, I have been on a book tour, and it has truly been life changing. Not because of any briefly blinding spotlight, and not because I had the best-ever excuse to redo my make-up and buy some new clothes, and not because I got the luxurious excuse to order room service breakfast in bed on my publisher’s dime (or twenty, as it ended up). The life change came from scanning the faces in every audience and discovering dozens that are too familiar: someone I went to grade school with, someone who knows my parents or lived next door to us when I was ten. someone who taught me English in high school or drove one of my own carpools, studiously ignoring our girl-gossip while they absorbed every word. People I have not seen or spoken to in decades came to my readings in every city. Half of them probably had to drive longer to get there than my talk lasted, and we didn’t even serve food. I could not hope for more at my own funeral!

So what is it that brought so many friends, and many strangers too, into a bookstore on these blue summer days? Much of this support is personal, I know—the same collective generosity that brings us out to weddings and baby showers and birthdays that end in a zero. There are moments the signing line comes to a standstill because I am near tears.

But the volume of congratulations goes beyond me, I believe. After all, most of these friends could not have read Oxygen yet—it is too new. Besides, I worked the same number of years on my medical degree, but only my near and dear family dragged themselves to that walk.

There has to be a more universal element at play. I wonder if it is the power of the printed book and the value it still holds for us as a culture—the legacy of a story-telling animal, a trail straight to the cogs of the Gutenberg press. The National Book Award ceremony may never get the Oscar-level prime time that makes people opt for a frozen TV dinner, but it seems we do still honor writers. Maybe my homebound book tour put human flesh on the words “published author” for these friends; a chance to talk to the story telling voice we hear with every novel we read. It makes me want to drop my home cooked dinner plans and rush out for the next book signing event at my local bookstore.

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