As I sit down in my mom’s apartment to write about my very first book party ever in this world, planet and universe, major construction is taking place above my head. I cannot for the life of me imagine what kind of remodeling they are doing up there, but it sounds like they are thumping down huge Grecian pillars that will burst through the ceiling at any moment. After the events of this past week, I can pretty much die happy, but I’m also going to put in a vote that I get to keep living. Now that I know how much fun there is to be had when your book comes out, I want to get in as much as possible.
The first book party event took place at The Bank Street Bookstore. Because the bookstore is somehow affiliated with the K-8 school and the teachers’ college of the same name, it doesn’t just have excellent books—it has kits for science experiments and homemade soap! I felt right at home and got to work setting up.
We had mad food, man. My mom had volunteered/been deputized/kind of been forced since I was getting in so late to shop, and there was a lot to lay out—including the book-cover cake that my partner commissioned from the Food Emporium and the mom-designed napkins! I’m sure there is some teenage version of myself that thinks these are a little, I don’t know, hinky, but the adult me is like, “This is great!”
The next stage of the game was the advent of people who made me want to cry with happiness. Which was pretty much all of them. The first guests were high-school students I’d met doing research for the novel. One of them had randomly contacted me a few days before the launch (quote from email: “i hope you’re not a weird old person who doesn’t get crazy teen abbreviations”)—and I’d invited him to the party, so I was thrilled when he came (from Long Island!) and brought one of the girls who was on the trip as well (from Connecticut!)
Let’s see, who made me cry next? DP, one of my incredibly talented classmates from the Vermont College MFA, up all the way from Brooklyn where she teaches. So great to see her, although I didn’t get to snap a pic. My 9th-grade English teacher, who for years read drafts of my novels. Family friend Suzy, who inspired me to write for kids in the first place. The principal of the school where I taught, who every year makes that school even cooler. Old friends. Parents of old friends. My sister’s friends. My partner’s friends. My partner’s mom, down from Syracuse. My agent, and her three adorable children. Amazing grad school writers. Lots and lots and lots of people. I was really moved.
One notable moment: Seeing my mom, my 9th-grade English teacher and my agent talking and thinking, “Collectively, they all know way too much about me! I’m not going anywhere near that conversation!”
Another notable experience: after hearing many Tenners advise on the subject, I’d decided not to read from Nice and Mean. I’d been advised, “Socialize!” and had set it up more like a party than a reading, although my display did draw in a 5th-grader, who asked her mom to buy a copy. Partly I was following the Tenners’ advice in my set-up, but frankly, there were so many amazing writers at the party (see below), and the thought of reading in front of them reminded me of little girls who pull their dresses over their heads in public. You’re like, “Yeah, that’s kind of cute—but not here.”
But you know what? After the party, even though everybody was so nice and congratulatory, I had a strange little feeling like something was missing. (Ogads—they’ve started dismantling the temple again upstairs! They are seriously going to kill us all! Hold on, must change rooms.) All right, what was I saying? Yes—something was missing. It was like going to a wedding shower and not having someone open the presents—a piece of theatre that didn’t have the catharsis. When I read in Boston on Monday (and I will post about that in a moment), I thought, Ahh! This is what the book release occasion needs!
I honestly don’t know if I would do things differently if I had the chance again; I still shudder a little to think of reading in front of some of those guys, which is idiotic, since most of them are from grad school and we’ve all done the writerly equivalent of seeing each other in our underwear anyway. (That is a metaphor. Vermont College is not a hook-up scene, believe me.) I guess I’ll just file those observations under “things to remember next time you are nervous,” but mostly, I file this night under E for Excellent. Thanks again for coming, everyone.