Like many writers, I experience a certain degree of social anxiety in most human group encounters. That’s why I hide behind the page. The idea of throwing a book launch party for my first book that I wrangled for over a year just heightened the discomfort factor. I didn’t want to do it, I really didn’t. But everyone told me I HAD to do it, I would be shooting myself in the foot if I didn’t, and I was basically a pussy for not throwing some kind of local, in-person book event.
I took what I thought was the easy way out…
I organized a group “cultural event” with a friend of mine: art, live music, literature. It was billed as a one-night pop-up art show. As an artist turned author, it didn’t seem like such a stretch. I was actually launching two books within three months of each other and I had used my own artwork for the covers of both. The show was called “MAKE,” because it was all about how the artistic process happens. We showed sketchbooks, first drafts, videos of art making, and several artists performed live demos on the spot.
But, as you can see, I didn’t even get any good shots of my own room (the last one pictured above). What those nice men who bought a book and CD are blocking is my research altar, with all my books, notes, red-pen-endowed manuscripts, composition notebooks, and family trees. Why did I not think to take pictures of my space? Well, as I said…I have social anxiety…
My favorite part of it was the Music/Manuscript Symbiosis table and HERE is the post I blogged about that book/book soundtrack experience:
However, I did produce my very first video–a skill I had been wanting to develop for years–for my friend in another room. She’s a glass artist and I thought the most interesting thing that people would want to see at the MAKE show was the process of herbblowing molten glass at 2,000 degrees! Since I was helping a friend, I made myself finish the piece at all costs (something I had blown off for myself time and time again). I knitted all her raw video together to make an engaging, seamless piece, and I’m proud of my work. Learning Adobe Premiere Pro has been this daunting task hanging over my head for years, and now I feel free to move past the basics with video. Finally.
In addition to all my pre-book research and pre-art sketches and actual artwork from my past life as an artist, I also had the unique opportunity to showcase the original music soundtrack for my book, produced by Her Last Boyfriend.
I cannot explain how much I love these people. My husband produced a concept album so aligned with my book that one could not exist with the other. His longtime bandmate, Gerard, had been collaborating with him remotely for almost a year and he flew down from New York for the show.
Gerard even brought his friend and fellow musician Tara Lynn down with him! Together, they performed my book in music, in a way that was so cathartic I can’t even explain. How would you feel if you wrote a book, it was put to music, and then you got to sit there and watch it be performed live? It was a climax to this promotional stint that was magical in a way that I am decidedly not. So basically, if I had not done this whole MAKE show event, this magic would not have been a part of my life.
Oh, but this was an expensive event for me. Let’s get down to brass tacks. It was such a big deal, you know? Not just me, but the live music and the artists, too. So I had to go large with it, right? I made these expensive press kits, because that’s what I was “supposed” to do. I spent at least $400 on them and I think many are still sitting in someone’s trunk. Then I had to rent the venue. Not only had to buy the books (CreateSpace) AND the CD’s (CD Baby) to sell, but also lost several months of writing in the process of planning. I even had T-shirts (Galloree)! Okay, I didn’t really need those, but it seemed like a good idea to model one…until they didn’t show up in time. And I spent lots of time on those. Hey, you can still get one on demand:
At the end of the day, I sold a handful of books and CD’s, and the take home was nowhere near the cost of the event. Let’s be brutally honest here. I probably spent about $800 on the whole thing, all said and done. I may have made $100 in sales. Maybe.
So…was it worth it? Well, would finding your next project that you never imagined would fall into your lap make it worth it? Would suddenly being asked to move all your artwork to another venue, to be the backdrop of a contemporary dance performance help soften the blow of being in the red? It’s all experience in the beginning, right? Live and learn, go with the flow?
My next literary project is on the DL, as per the new partner’s request. Bah! It’s out of this world, though, let me tell you. But that’s for another post.
The dance project I can share a hint of. Here’s book/CD/art display #2 for last weekend, at Orlando’s Center for Contemporary Dance right after I took it down from the MAKE show:
Video isn’t yet available, but I will post it when it is. In the strangest, mysteriously advantageous turn of events, I went to clean out the space the next day after the MAKE show and I met a woman I never would have met had we not both been waiting for over an hour in the Florida summer heat for someone to show up and unlock the door for us. When she finally showed up, that someone told us we had to “expedite the process” for her, because she had a show that day, and she never apologized for being over an hour late on a Saturday morning. Me and Emma (who I would soon acknowledge as a sort of artshow angel, and she I), well our mutual anger and disgust bonded us together in way that doesn’t happen on a normal, perfect day. We made lemons into lemonade.
And the prints that were the basis for the cover art of my second book, Catchpenny, shared space with a breathtaking performance of carnal physical beauty and expressive modern dance. Like I said, the video will come later, but here are the performers after the show. Emma is silhouetted off to the right, giving a speech.
So, was it worth it?
In ways that can’t be measured like Facebook analytics and in ways that weren’t logged on my new PayPal card reader, yes. I didn’t sell much, but I lost a heck of a lot of business cards. The success of this event must be measured in pregnant possibilities, exciting new connections, old friends, new friends, and…all in all…a damn good weekend. You can’t hide behind the page forever.
Now, back to writing.