Wednesday, November 21, 2012
The End. Finito. The Last Bow. The Final Curtain.
I looked out at the 15 people sitting in the classroom at Miami Dade College and, though I tried not to show it, I felt a pang of wistfulness. These were the last ears to hear me read from Fobbit on this final stop of the 25-city, 44-day book tour.
Sure, there will be a couple of readings and signings in the coming weeks and I already have a few events lined up for 2013, but my appearance at the Miami Book Fair International marked the end of a tour which was equal parts exhaustion and exhilaration. On this day before Thanksgiving, I have nothing but gratitude for a multitude of people who made these past three months successful beyond my wildest expectations.
First of all, none of this would have happened without the generous backing--financial and logistical--of my publisher. Though a lot of publishing world pundits believe that book tours are an expensive undertaking which sees little return in sales, Grove/Atlantic brushed all that aside and put me out on the road in full force. There's a good chance they didn't recoup the costs with sales of Fobbit at the book tour venues, but one thing's for certain: they gave me the boost of confidence and credibility I needed at the start of this late-blooming career of mine. I've talked to plenty of fellow writers on this tour and nearly all of them are amazed and jealous at how supportive Grove/Atlantic has been to me. Anecdotally, I know of only two other publishers (Graywolf Press and Algonquin Books) who back their writers with the same degree of love and faith. A year ago, soon after Fobbit sold to Grove/Atlantic, the editor of a well-known literary journal said to me, "A friend of mine is a Grove author and she told me that when you're with Grove, you're in the family for life." She's not kidding. Before this gets too sappy and goopy, let me shout out my deepest and most hearfelt THANKS to Morgan, Peter, and--most especially--Deb and Jodie, publicists extraordinaire.
Big thanks to the independent booksellers who have so enthusiastically embraced my novel: Quail Ridge Books, The Tattered Cover, Powell's, Brazos Bookstore, and University Bookstore in Seattle (among others). In particular, the biggest of thanks goes to the three bookstores here in Montana who have been such persuasive champions of Fobbit: Fact and Fiction in Missoula, The Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, and Elk River Books in Livingston. You are all armor-clad warriors out there on the front lines of the publishing wars and I think I speak for all writers when I say we would be nothing but overlooked books with low-rankings on Amazon if it weren't for your efforts to win readers, one chime of the cash-register bell at a time.
Along those same lines, thank you to Barnes and Noble who so generously picked Fobbit to be part of the Discover Great New Writers program. I don't know how "great" I am, but I'm certainly new and the kind of visibility B&N can give debut novels like mine makes a world of difference in putting the book in the hands of readers.
Thanks to the radio show hosts who brought into their studios, in person and via phone, and let me stammer into the microphone for a few minutes: Sam, Quil, Jennifer, Ed, Cherie, Hopeton, and Jim.
A big salute and manly hug to Karl Marlantes who took me under his wing and showed me what a true professional looks like. If I was in awe of his writing in Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War and What It Is Like To Go To War before I met him, then I was even more bowled over by his kindness and generosity during our two appearances together in Seattle and Portland.
Handshakes all around to the writers I met on the road and shared some panel/reading space with at events: Ben Fountain, Bill Roorbach, Cathy Buchanan, Scott Hutchins, Raina Telgemeir, Kim Barnes, Jess Walter, Alyson Hagy, and my Book Pregnant gal-pals Lydia Netzer, Barbara Claypole White, Brenda Remmes and Anne Barnhill. A special high-five to Mark Leyner and Antoine Wilson, my co-panelists at the tour's last event: Miami Book Fair International.
Panorama City and Mark's The Sugar Frosted Nutsack. I devoured both of them in the week prior to my flight to Miami--indeed, I finished Mark's Nutsack on the plane just as we landed in Florida. Both novels are--well, there's no other word for them but comic masterpieces. I don't throw that "M" word around lightly, so when I do, you know I really mean it. Panorama City is narrated by one of the most distinct and endearing characters I've met since John Irving's Owen Meany (again, high praise). Through a series of audio cassettes, Oppen Porter tells his life story to his unborn son while he--Oppen--lies in a hospital bed on the brink of death (or so he believes). Oppen speaks in these big long cascades of words that tumble, tumble, tumble across the page. He's an innocent (borderline naive) man making his way through an odd, messy world. Once you meet him, you'll never forget Oppen. I guaran-damn-tee it.
Now, back to the Thank You's...
I would be remiss (and living in the proverbial doghouse) if I didn't thank my biggest cheerleader and supporter: my wife Jean. For the past three months, she's been a lonely "author's widow" while I've been out on the road. Separation is always hard on both of us, but I've been touched by how many times Jean has told me on the phone, "Go have fun tonight" when I know she's back in the empty house in Butte, facing another night of reheated Chinese take-out, reruns of Dateline, and one-sided conversations with the cats. Though I did have limited amounts of "fun" on the road at festivals, publishing trade shows, and bookstore readings, you can bet I'm more than happy to be back home where I belong.
And finally, the biggest thanks of all goes out to the hundreds of people who turned out to hear me read from Fobbit at bookstores and book festivals. Though I was bummed I couldn't make it to certain parts of the country (especially Arizona and anything north of North Carolina), the tour took me on a cross-country, state-stitching journey that I'll never forget. Along the way, I reconnected with loved ones (my nephew Mark in Seattle, old friends Pam and Joe in Minneapolis), dozens of acquaintances from Facebook, Twitter, Epinions, Readerville and other cyber locations, and several surprises like old Army buddies (Pete in Atlanta and Darryl in Miami), my freshman English teacher, and--get this--my father's first girlfriend (now in her 70s, she weirded me out when she said, "Just think, if things had gone a little differently for your dad and I, you might have been calling me 'Mom'"). Thank you to everyone who came, who listened, who purchased, and who applauded. I love you all.
Now if you'll excuse, I'm going to slip back out of sight. I have another book to write.