A week ago Friday I spent my afternoon baking cherry pies with Butler Ranch cherries and gluten-free crust for my official book launch, which was on Saturday June 30 at Mendocino Book Company. When I opened one of the jars of cherries that I put up in 1997, I was reminded that these cherries were not put up in syrup but in plain water. They were rather tart, to say the least. They cooked up into pie real well, though, with honey and a little lemon juice. We ate the pie and the cherries with vanilla ice cream (which will spruce up about anything) and they were heaven. My friend Cassie made chocolate chip cherry cookies and my friend Gloria made a cherry and apricot crisp. We also had delicious store-bought cherry pies.
Gloria serving up cherry treats.
Before the Cherryfest, I talked about writing the book and about how it got published as the winner of the Frances Fabri Literary Prize. The story of how my book got published is a long story, even the short version is a long story. I did my best to keep it short. I shared a little bit about Frances Fabri’s life and explained the uncanny connection between Frances and my book (part of that long story). The twitter version is: Frances was a Holocaust survivor and part of my book is based on family stories from the Holocaust. I read aloud, and it was the first time I have ever read any of the book aloud to an audience. I was surprised at the responses of participants. One woman said afterward that she wants to read the book to see how all the different excerpts that I read go together. A Latina woman sitting in the front row gasped audibly in recognition of her experience while I was reading a section in which a character is arrested for engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience to protest the deportation of Salvadoran refugees. I was shocked when I saw a woman whom I did not know crying at one point because she was so moved.
Me reading aloud to a packed bookstore.
During the Cherryfest, participants spoke with me and told me about their experience reading the book. Quite a few people are in the midst of it now. Some have finished it already. Honestly, I felt exposed and vulnerable; as if I have published my secret private diary.
My dear friend Jessica drove up from the Bay Area to attend. She was about 50 pages from the end of the book and had been calling me every day to report her progress and to holler at me for killing off characters she loved and to discuss the events of the story and to say how meaningful the book was to her. It was splendid to have her with me for the reading and to continue to discuss the book with her during her brief visit. My friends Gloria and Ken drove up from Sebastopol. Gloria and Cassie worked the Cherryfest for me so that I could concentrate on signing books and talking to people. (I even sold two copies of The Call to Shakabaz!) After the event, Ron and I returned home with Jessica, Gloria, and Ken and we shared a bottle of wine and good conversation. We were too full of delicious cherry pie and vanilla ice cream to eat dinner. It was a satisfying day.
My wonderful audience. I must have said something funny.
With the book officially “out,” I might be starting to go through a post-partum depression. Lately I have been thinking, OK that’s done, now what? I need to ratchet up the effort again and find a way to get my other books published (yes, I have more written that are not yet in print). It’s sort of crazy. My book is beginning its journey out into the world and I am ready to move on. Just because I managed to get this one published doesn’t mean my others will be shoo-ins. I have to climb down off that publication high and get back in the saddle. And I have to keep writing. I’m almost done writing the first draft of the sequel to The Call to Shakabaz and I have started mapping out a sci-fi for adults. I say it again: I’m a novelist trapped in a grant writer’s body. Sigh.
Another photo of Cherryfest food.
My next event will be at A Great Good Place for Books Bookstore in Oakland on July 19th at 7 PM. This will be a different crowd so I have to rethink which excerpts to read and figure out what I want to say. I’ll share my debrief of that event with you in a few weeks. I hope you enjoy the launch photos Ron took that are in this blog post.
Continuing on the journey.
Me and my book. So much to say, so little time.