Sunday, 10 June 2012

Collected Works and My Name Up in Chalk

Yesterday I was pleased to appear at the Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeebar at 1242 Wellington Street West in Ottawa to sign copies of Marcie's Murder.

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny Saturday afternoon and the drive into the city was pleasant. I parked on a side street off Wellington and, when I walked around the corner, found the store's slate sandwich board out on the sidewalk letting people know I was the day's headliner, as you can see on the left.

It made me wish I could have whipped out a saxophone and peeled off a few Coltrane riffs as the coffee flowed, the smoke curled to the ceiling, and the patrons murmured quietly in the background.

Alas, though, no saxophone. No smoke either, of course, given the by-laws, and not many murmuring patrons, but there was great-smelling coffee.

One or two people stopped by, thinking I was doing a reading rather than a book signing. An elderly woman and her husband had come around for this very reason. I chatted with her and found out that she didn't actually buy books, since there wasn't room for them in their small apartment, but she downloaded her reading material onto her Kobo. I lowered my voice, since we were in a bookstore, after all, and admitted that my books are available for the Kobo. We talked about what she liked to read, and it seemed she leaned more toward cozy mysteries than police procedurals, which is what I write. Since she'd come down expressly to hear me read, I got her comfortable in a chair on the other side of my table and read her the first few pages of Marcie's Murder.

It was immediately clear that she definitely preferred cozy mysteries to police procedurals. She bid me a polite farewell, collected her husband, and left the store.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I really enjoy meeting the people who find themselves in the bookstore when I'm there and who take the time to stop at my table to chat. Although they might tell me they don't read fiction, or they don't actually buy books, or they don't like crime fiction or violence or bad language, I still enjoy having a chance to get to know them a little bit. Even the people who react badly when I mention I worked for Canada Customs (common enough, actually, since Customs is often more hated than municipal police forces) still give me an opportunity to see the human side of the writing business.

Writing, as John Irving and others have noted, is a very solitary venture. You have to be prepared to spend a lot of time alone, absorbed in your work, if you expect to succeed at it. Writers are, by nature, then, often rather introverted. Appearing in public, facing people and their criticism -- or even, sometimes worse, their complete disinterest -- can be difficult.

Being an author and a writer, you see, are actually two different prongs of the same fork. As an author I arrange for the stores to carry my books, I schedule the events with them, and I show up on time, pens in hand, ready to go to work. The writer, however, gets dragged along behind, trembling and stammering, and is told to be good and stop acting like a child.

But ah, it's the childish curiosity of the writer that finally wins out, so pleased to see new faces and make new acquaintances, however fleeting.

It's the author whose name is on the sandwich board out on the sidewalk, but if you come in and stop by my table, it's the writer you'll have a chance to meet.

As a closing note for those of you in Ottawa who chose to attend Westfest on Richmond Road yesterday rather than buy a book from a trembling writer (I understand that the event can draw as many as 100,000 people altogether), you'll have a great opportunity next week to meet an entire slate of authors at Collected Works during their fantastic Save The Bookstores event, which is happening on June 16, 2012 beginning at 11:00 AM and running through the afternoon. Although I won't be part of the lineup of authors reading from their work I will be there to enjoy the event and would love to meet you. Check out the Collected Works Facebook page for more information.

See you there!


  1. Ah the joys of being a writer! I look forward to the day I see my name on a sandwich board! ;-) It's nice to see what other writers feel. Best of luck with Marcies Murder.

  2. Thanks very much! It's definitely a rollercoaster ride, but there's nothing else I'd rather do! Thanks for your comment.

  3. By the way, a special thank you as well to fellow writer Ken Byars, who stopped in yesterday to say hello. Thanks, Ken!

  4. Nice. Enjoyed your reading. post here:

  5. Pearl, thank you very much. Thanks as well for the great coverage of the Save the Bookstores event. Much appreciated!