There is a scene in the movie “Sideways” where the dejected protagonist – a writer – is being given a pep talk by his best friend, a womanizing dolt. The writer had just been rejected by his last-hope publisher and was ready to throw himself into the sea. The friend says (paraphrasing) “Forget them. Just get your book out there. Get it in libraries.”
The look that the writer, played to perfection by Paul Giamatti*, gives his friend is priceless – a mixture of scorn, anger and amusement. As if you just walk into a library and hand them your book.**
But in fact, I did just that a couple weeks ago. And it was thrilling, in a small, quiet way.
When I returned some books to our local Rocky River Library, I took a signed copy of the Press 53 Spotlight. Half of me was shy and self-conscious about doing such a self-serving thing; the other half (the professional marketing/communications half) knew that this is what I need to do to promote myself.
The woman who took my book was very kind and flattering, which made me even more embarrassed and, of course, pleased.
I also sent a copy of the book to the Cleveland Public Library. Now, just because I can’t find myself or the book in their online catalogs doesn’t mean the books aren’t there, correct? I wrote, therefore I am, or something like that.
A few nights ago, I went to a reading at the Rocky River Library by a local and best-selling author, Dan Chaon. He is originally from Nebraska but has been in Cleveland for enough years now that he considers himself a native and most of his fiction, stories and novels, is grounded in the area.
He was a fun reader, and his story was captivating (although he only read half of it – great motivation to buy his new book next year!). There were about 25 people in the audience, an older crowd, who had all read his last novel and asked very good questions.
I couldn’t help daydream a bit though, about myself reading to an audience at the library sometime next year after my story collection comes out. Part of me is shy and self-conscious, but that other half knows that self-promotion is what comes after the writing.
While I enjoy the part about “getting my books out there,” it is putting myself out there that makes me nervous. Heck, I blushed head-to-toe reading a children’s book to my daughter’s first-grade class the other day. I can only imagine how self-conscious I will feel reading my own words in front of adult strangers. Harder still to imagine what story of mine would be appropriate to read to an older, Rocky River audience.
* Paul Giamatti also starred in my all-time favorite movie about an artist, “American Splendor,” which was about Harvey Pekar, another Clevelander. Sometimes it seems like destiny that I ended up here.
** In this scene they also discuss John Kennedy O’Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces,” one of my favorite books.