Updated: Mar 11
En route to Almonte and Kanata on separate nights for my first two author events in 2023, I had the same bizarre thought squirrel across my brain.
"Did Margaret Atwood ever carry her books, pop up covers, cash box, and swag to her events?" Most of these author gigs, I feel my age, 71, books and paraphernalia in the trunk to be lugged by my team (me, myself and I) into a library or church, mulish I am, and longing for agents or handlers.
Well, maybe Atwood DID carry a box or two back in the day before the awards found her. On Twitter, Atwood commiserated with Chelsea Banning, an Ohio librarian and author wailing over her audience of two at a bookstore for her debut fantasy novel. She had advised the bookstore to expect a full store.
Banning penned her ode to discouragement on her social media.
""Only 2 people came to my author signing yesterday, so I was pretty bummed about it. Especially as 37 people responded 'going' to the event. Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed."
Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Jodi Picoult, and other famous authors came to Ms. Banning's rescue with their own sad turnout tales,
"I did a signing to which Nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help. :)," was Atwood's tweet reply.
Yep. Been there, and done that. Banning is a fellow author whom, while I didn't know her, I hear her lamentation. I recognized her courage to write, the "lost for words", sheer ecstacy of holding one's "baby" in our hands, and the terror of skimpy audiences nor media interest. Since my two memoirs were published, I have attended 50-plus events. For my mental health, I've given up on audience expectations. It's disheartening to add a few hundred miles drive for those few folk
As my second book, Father Rick Roamin' Catholic (Friesen Press, 2022) is a faith memoir, a Scripture verse comes to mind. "Wherever two or three are gathered in my name. I am there. (Matthew 18:20). Good enougfh for the good Lord, but not for sales. So, back in the saddle in the last few weeks, bereft of expectations, I was stunned by two impressive audiences. Karen Luywendyk, a friend in Almonte, drew a crowd of 30 with connections to St. Paul's Anglican Church. 18 books were sold, including readers buying Father Rick Roamin' Catholic and Soar, Adam, Soar (Dundurn Press, 2019), my Dad and son story on his journey home to the boy he and we knew he was. . Yahoo! And, on the next night at Kanata Christian Reformed Church, Aaron Helleman and his team drew an even larger audience. Friends on the ground! No matter their sweaty love, Covid, social bubbles, and winter are a perfect storm swirling around author events.
I wish Chelsea Banning and other struggling authors crowds at their author events.
I am scheduling spring storytelling events in Pembroke at their library (June 4), North Bay's phenomenal OutLoud (supports the health and well-being of the 2SLGBTQA+ youth and allies), and an Espanola high school. My Facebook Author Page will have the dates soon. (author news is there while I try to keep my personal Facebook page for family and friends.)
I almost talked myself out of submitting a nomination for Father Rick Roamin' Catholic to the 2023 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. I was mindful of the memoir's sobering commentary on clergy abuse, religion's denigration of women, and residential schools. But the irreverent humour and mischief bubbled to the surface. Stories on my Jewish friend who heard uterus rather than Eucharist, forgetting all the names of the women I married (as a priest)my butchering the prayer of sorrow (Confiteor) when I told the priest I was "hardly" sorry for my sins. It may have been the truth, but the word actually was "heartily sorry". Was my confession a sin? I confessed elsewhere the theft of a Playboy Magazine and my stoic, Cape Breton Mom choosing an Italian Open tennis match featuring Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova over a papal audience when she visited me during my studies in Rome. Chapters called Jailhouse Jesus and Highway Jesus regale readers on my "crooked, straight" journey to heaven's doors.
No matter the audiences, the "love notes" from readers keep me going.
"I am really enjoying Rick's Father Rick book and think he is a great writer - very creative, entertaining style and very insightful!" Bruce, London, ON. counsellor
"Thank you for inviting me into your life and this incredible story. Soar, Adam, Soar is already helping my family heal." Jjess, Ottawa
"Rick made me laugh mostly His story-telling is really exceptional. He whets your reading appetite for Adam's story. I needed this because I have uncertainty about my faith. I feel like a fake. Kudos to you Rick." Mary, Almonte
What I'm Reading
Audiences ask me what I am reading. I joke that there's no time to read. I am a writer! Of course, the opposite is true. The reading fuels my imagination, unlocks narrative conundrums, and teach. So, for what it's worth, loving personal non-fiction, I am racing through Erik Larson's Winston Churchill early WW2 book, The Splendid and the Vile, Hassan Al Kontar's man @the_airport, in solidarity with his indomitable courage to rise again against all immutable or bureaucratic systems or people embedded in them. Kontar became a Canadian citizen recently. I fell in love with Peekay, the boy and wannabee world welterweight boxing champion, navigating the sins of apartheid in South Africa. (the power of one, Bryce Courtenay). And, soon, and long overdue, a Louise Penny book, A Fatal Grace, as she weaves through Chief Inspector Armand Gamache's encounters with all the bites life nips at good and decent people.
My cherished, stalwart friend, Greg Humbert, celebrated his 75th birthday. Humbert finds a way into many Father Rick stories. He has designed my event flyers, a Godsend for creeping deadlines and deafening noise out there. Thank you, Greg.