By Catherine Gildiner
The Toronto Star, January 16, 2005
Reprinted with permission
Photo credit: Toronto Star
The writer’s solitary existence conspires against meeting the people who read what they’ve produced. The joy of the book tour, says Catherine Gildiner, is in bonding with complete strangers.
When I wrote Too Close to the Falls, a childhood memoir about my life from 4 to 14, I was thrilled that it made it to the best seller’s list. One of the best parts of the experience was the book tour itself.
Writing is a solitary activity. I was hunkered down on my third floor month after month pressing little keys and then one day I pressed print. Suddenly I was sent around the world to actually see the effect of my words. It is a magical moment to see a group of people you have never met respond to your writing with laughter or tears. It is a moment of shared intimacy like no other.
On a more practical level it serves as a mini market research group. You see what works and what falls flat. Audiences are not like friends. They don’t spare your feelings. You want the truth? Read aloud to strangers. On my first tour through the States I was given a ‘greeter,’ usually a cheerful middle aged woman who drives you to book stores and introduces you to people that she doesn’t know either. You not only have to talk all day to the people that are buying your books – fair enough, they’re forking over money – but the greeter is usually more demanding and she is getting paid.
Often they get lost in their own cities – having never been downtown. They say, “Uh oh. I’ve never been to this part of Chicago. Lock your door and read me the map.”
You stay in luxury accommodation, the kind that leaves chocolate on your pillow and then knocks on your door, terrifying you that they may be a rapist and saying they want to turn down your covers. Sometimes they call to see if you are happy and ask what they can do to assure that you are not disturbed. Then when you think you should go to more than five cities across the U.S. especially since the book is about small town life, the publisher says, “Sorry Cathy, we already spent our budget.”
Yeah – on a greeter and hotels.