Book promotion begins again this afternoon with a trip to chilly Minneapolis where I’ll be speaking at the University of Minnesota tomorrow as part of their Provost’s Conversation Series. I’ve been lax about updating my events page but there are a raft of appearances posted there now. Between now and June, I’ll be in Kelowna, Torbay, and all points in between, giving keynote addresses, speaking on panels, and running workshops so keep an eye on that events page because I love meeting readers.
Rebecca wrote this dark comedy of a blog post recently and I was all “SING IT, SISTER.” It’s about the indignities she has endured in her years as a writer. Rebecca has been writing and publishing longer than I have so she’s had to grin and bear more, but I share indignity #4 on her list.
Anyway, like Rebecca, I’ve mostly had wonderful experiences and I know I’m incredibly lucky to even be a writer and have work published but there are also moments that make me want to shake my fist. Please enjoy some dark humour…
In March I adjudicated a short story competition. Reading stories and choosing the winner was a pleasure but then the organization tried to scam me out of my payment with the old “the cheque is in the mail” routine. It was not in the mail. Not even after I sent several emails. And then there was radio silence and I started to get seriously concerned. Fortunately, the organization was the PEI Writers’ Guild and I have an acquaintance from PEI. She intervened and then the cheque really was in the mail.
In April I took part in the book club at my local museum (The Rooms in St. John’s). People paid $15 each to attend. The evening was a delight. We had a really big and wonderful audience and the interviewer was fantastic. But the payment took months and several emails on my part. If I don’t pay the plumber within 30 days he charges interest. But some organizations seem to think writers don’t deserve to get paid on time. Anyway, good thing we have Status of the Artist legislation, huh?
Speaking of the Status of the Artist blah-blah-blah, remember this?
An organization asked me to give a key note speech at their event. Key note speeches take time, effort, and stress. I wrote back a very polite email (which I put a lot of thought into) where I laid out why I couldn’t work for free, how to get in touch with my agent and negotiate a rate, and then listed a couple of other much cheaper options for how I could help them out. Think I got the courtesy of a reply? Nope.
A group of writers asked me to teach them a private workshop for free. LOL.
FOR REAL THOUGH…WHY THE HELL DO PEOPLE THINK I WANT TO WORK FOR FREE? FOR THE RECORD: I DO NOT.
Once I was on a panel where all the authors were asked to prepare a 10 minute reading. One of the authors yammered on for about 25 minutes while the other author and I stared dolefully at each other. Finally the moderator cut him off (he hadn’t even gotten to his reading yet!). Then we did a Q&A and he kept trying to hog all the air time. Who am I kidding? Of course this happened more than once. And to paraphrase Rebecca, it’s not all male authors of a certain age but it is ALWAYS male authors of a certain age.
Writers are forever being picked up at airports and driven places by strangers. Sometimes it’s innocuous and you make pleasant small talk. Just as often it’s a bloody nightmare. Once, I got into a fight with a driver about “Hilary’s emails.” I hope he wasn’t expecting a tip. In New York, a driver with a Spanish accent complained about “Muslim foreigners.” He didn’t get a tip either. Once, soon after the miscarriage of justice that was the Coulton Bushie trial, a driver talked about why “Indian boys” deserve to get shot.
Hello older man I’ve just met. Please remove your hand from my upper back. Please stop taking every opportunity to randomly touch me as we stand at this registration table making awkward small talk while we wait for our name tags. I’m going to stand waaaaaay over here now and go out of my way to avoid you for the rest of this literary festival.
At a big event, in a room of 500 people where everyone had a copy of my book but most of them hadn’t read it yet, a woman stood to ask a question and shamelessly gave away the ending while the rest of the audience shouted her down. (Not the first time it’s happened either.)
Nasty emails from readers. Yes, really.
I agreed to take part in an event with another author. After the arrangements were made and plane tickets were bought, I found out it was an unmoderated conversation. For an hour. With an author I had previously met once for five minutes in an elevator. I happen to like this author very much and I think the feeling is mutual but it’s really unfair to make authors act as their own moderators. Promoting your own work and moderating a conversation are two very different skills and it’s impossible to move back and forth seamlessly. Fortunately, there were only 7 people in the audience.
Once after I’d given a 45 minute speech that I’d spent a very long time researching and preparing, a man in the audience said: “I haven’t read your book but let me tell you why everything you’ve just said is problematic.” LOL. When it was my turn to reply, I very politely eviscerated him to audience applause. Come at me, bro. But you best not miss.
Fall is here and with it the busiest season for authors with new books! I'll be zipping around the country appearing at festivals and book shops and events from now until the end of November. I'm trying very hard to keep my events page up-to-date so you can keep up with me there.
This month I'll be in Guelph for the festival at Eden Mills, doing a reading on Sunday, September 9th and sharing the stage with Kim Thuy and Dr. Brian Goldman. We'll be talking about empathy, among other things. A couple of weekends later I'll be at Word on the Street in Toronto doing two events: an unmoderated one hour conversation with Catherine Hernandez (author of Scarborough) on Saturday, September 22nd and a half hour reading and Q&A on Sunday, September 23rd. And at the very end of the month you can catch be at the Cabot Trail Writers Festival in Nova Scotia. I'll be on stage three or four times that weekend and will also be running a writing workshop. Full details for September are here. Please come out if you can. I love meeting readers.
This weekend I'll be taking part in two events at the PEN World Voices Festival in New York. I'm very, very excited. First, because I haven't been to New York in exactly 10 years and I love it there. Second, it's still winter in St. John's and I'm ready for spring and sundresses in New York (fingers crossed for magnolias). Second, this is a big deal festival, founded by a group including Salman Rushdie and featuring a whole cast of super stars. Oh look, here's my name on a list with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Roxanne Gay, and Hilary Clinton...no big deal!
I'm taking part in two super events. The first is this Friday night at Westbeth Centre for the Arts, an artists' coop and studio space. Artists open up their homes/ studios to the public. I'll be in one of the spaces doing two rounds of readings for a rotating group of audience members. And then there are drinks afterward. Can you think of anything more New York City than that?
The second event is on Saturday night and I'll be reading and answering questions as part of a panel called Still, They Persisted.
A couple of good pals from Toronto are joining me for the weekend so along with business there will be pleasure. (And quite possibly some shopping) But it's also a whirlwind. I'm back home late on Sunday and then off to Ontario for a week next Thursday morning! Book promotion is, as everyone promised, turning out to be a full time job.
I'm home after four days on the road promoting my book! Eight interviews, three days, two cities. Here are a few of the highlights:
My favourite interview of the week was the one we recorded for The Sunday Edition. Michael Enright, in addition to being a thoughtful and incisive interviewer, is an old friend of my in-laws so we'd met a couple of times before. As a result, I was totally at ease in the recording studio and I think that comes through in the interview.
Live television interviews are daunting, particularly if they are first thing in the morning and you've tossed and turned more than you've slept the night before. But the team at CTV's Your Morning are such pros they made my interview with Lindsey Deluce easy, like chatting with a new friend.
Sue Carter wrote a really nice piece for The Toronto Star and Metro on the book. And author Marissa Stapley gave the novel a glowing review in Saturday's Globe & Mail. It's behind a paywall but here are a couple of lines from the review that I appreciate: "Bala has vividly conjured worlds, both on Canadian soil and back in Sri Lanka, that show the dualities of living in any country – and that show how powerful the need for safety, the need for home, is in all of us...The characters Bala brings together in The Boat People are different and the same. What we also get from a novel like this is a new way of seeing." YES! This is exactly what I want people to take away from the book. There is no "other." At heart we are all want the same things even if our skin colours and accents are different.
There is little I love more than a good literary quiz. The CBC asked me to complete the Magic 8 Q&A. You can read more about my hatred of jargon and my love of podcasts.
This past Tuesday was also publication day in the US. I was in Toronto and celebrated in my very favourite way - dinner and champagne at home with a group of my oldest friends.
Mari Carlson wrote a very favourable review in BookPage. My favourite line was the last one: "The Boat People reminds us of the fragile nature of truth." The truth, and its imprecise nature, is something I was consciously working through as I wrote and I'm glad that resonated.
And here's an essay I penned for Signature over the holidays on writing about dark subjects.
But it wasn't all interviews and media appearances last week, I also spent some time signing books. If you are in Toronto and would like a signed copy, I scribbled my name in the books at the Indigo at Bay and Bloor and the flagship store in the Eaton's Centre.
Book promotion is a thrilling and exhausting (I didn't sleep for three days straight) and as fortunate as I felt to have such an amazing publicity team who scored the book all kinds of coverage (I've only scratched the surface in this post), I was absolutely overjoyed to flop into my own bed on Friday night. I've spent the weekend sleeping in and reading (Mira T. Lee's "Everything here is beautiful" - which is just as advertised in the title) and going to yoga and spending time with friends. Bliss!
More interviews next week and on Thursday we're having a launch. It's free and open to the public so please join us at the Eastern Edge Gallery from 7:30-9:00pm. There will be food and drinks and live music and books for sale and a short reading too.