I could think of no finer bookstore to host the first public reading of Fobbit than Fact and Fiction in downtown Missoula, Montana. Bookstore owner Barbara Theroux is an enthusiastic champion of all books, but especially those by Big Sky Country authors. She rolled out a carpet as red as the cover of Fobbit for me last night—which coincided with Missoula’s festive First Friday event, along with the weekend-long Brewfest.
At 5:30, I read a short selection from Fobbit, introducing the audience to Lieutenant Colonel Eustace Harkleroad, and then answered questions for about a half hour. Our conversation ranged from integrating comedy into a narrative set in a bloody combat zone to how to land a literary agent. I’d joked on Twitter I was worried about talking to a room of empty seats, Clint Eastwood-style. But Missoula readers totally allayed those fears. They made my day.
After the reading, I moved to the front of the store to sign a couple dozen books (maybe more, maybe less—my mind was a blur at that point). Some things I need to work on in the future: abbreviating my chats with readers so I can keep the line moving….and trying to improve my penmanship—which may be a lost cause at this point. And to Justin whose book I accidentally dated “5.7.12,” I apologize. Consider the book a collector’s item, the product of an addled author’s “Launch-Week Brain.”
Two memorable moments:
1. Midway through the Q &A session, my mother came in, walked up to the front of the room and said she needed my cell phone (my wife was at another location in Missoula, setting up Backyard Bungalow’s booth at the Prairie Sisters Party, and my cell phone was the one we use for credit card transactions). My mother apologized to the crowd and snuck back out. I told the group, “Y’know, Mom was always barging in and interrupting me right when I was in the middle of something important.”
2. Due to a printing error on a Fact and Fiction flyer, we decided to hold a second reading at 7 p.m. Three people showed up, but they were the three coolest people in the world: Kris, a poet studying at the University of Montana; Chris La Tray, a literary advocate and blogger; and Chris Connor, a childhood friend of mine from Jackson, Wyoming (Chris now lives in Missoula where he runs the Ronald McDonald House). We called it “The Chris Reading” and it was a perfect way to end the evening.
At every stop during the book tour for Fobbit, I intend to support independent bookstores by buying a book recommended by booksellers. For the first event, I chose a new memoir about living in Saskatchewan, A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape by Candace Savage. Barbara Theroux said the book told a familiar story, but it was so well-written that it makes it stand apart from the rest of contemporary Western literature. Here’s the first paragraph:
Let's just say that it all began when Keith and I took a trip. Keith is Keith Bell, my companion of going on twenty years, and it's largely thanks to his love of travel that I've seen a bit of the world: the wild-and-woolly moors of Yorkshire, the plains of Tanzania; the barren reaches of Peninsula Valdes in Argentina. Yet the journey I want to tell you about was not a grand excursion to some exotic, faraway destination but a trip that brought us closer to home. A nothing little ramble to nowheresville.