Monday, June 6, 2011

Readings, and the road less travelled.

I've done a bunch of readings from The Jack Bank by now--five, to be precise, with more coming up. See my schedule on my web page. I love reading aloud from my book, and the interaction with readers is wonderful. I know this is going to sound schmaltzy, but I was almost moved to tears yesterday, when something like 70 people, most of them strangers, showed up yesterday to Congregation Beth-El synagogue in Sunbury to hear me. I felt just really honored and grateful.

But the experience of doing all these readings is getting me thinking about we writers, and how we try to connect with audiences. For most literary authors, readings mean bookshops and universities, period. And, fact is, I've loved visiting Virginia Tech, reading at my home institution of Susquehanna University, and reading at bookshops like Midtown Scholar and Atomic Books.

But so far, some of my favorite performances have been in "alternative" settings, especially religious congregations. There's a different flavor to this kind of visit. In bookstores--and, to a lesser extent, colleges--there's a certain sophistication mixed with literary jadedness. So many books, so many visiting authors, so little time! Whereas churches and synagogues are a bit like trading books for eggs at the Sunbury Farmers Market . One is visiting a group of people who don't read literature as a lifestyle, and as a result, I always feel specially privileged--and I feel that, if I make a connection with a reader, I'll perhaps be making a much bigger impact than I would in a traditional venue.

So, for example, at a Susquehanna reading, it's rare I read a visiting author's book within 24 hours of buying it. Yet since yesterday I've already received several emails from people at Beth-El who have finished reading my book and are recommending it to other people. Talk about a dream publicity gig!

This summer, I'm visiting Eastern Kentucky University, Barnes and Noble, and Wild Iris Books. But I'm also reading at Wild Goose Festival, Friends General Conference, and possibly some retirement homes. I'll keep you posted about how all of this goes, but right now, I'm betting that while most of all this will be tremendously enjoyable, some of the most distinctive memories I'll bring back from this book tour will be from places that don't usually get to hear from literary memoirists.

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