Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Very Short Book Tour

I have several friends who are writers and know that usually they need to promote their own books. In the early 1990s I contributed an essay to a collection called “The Book Group Book.” I was paid a very modest fee for my efforts and thought no more about it.

Then one day the editor of the collection called me and asked if I would promote the book at two local book stores. Well, the book stores weren’t so local. I lived in Philadelphia; the bookstores were in the Scranton area. I was bewailing this fact to a friend of mine who then said, “Oh, I can take you to Scranton. We’ll spend the night before with my parents in Elmira.”

I called the owner of one of the bookstores who was delighted to hear I would make the trip.

“Do you have any pictures of yourself you could send?”

“What kind of picture are you talking about?” I asked.

“Well, eight-by-ten glossies are the most effective.”

I started laughing and could not stop. My response to her request did not win me any friends. I have formal portraits of myself as a 17 year old from the three different schools I attended during my junior/senior year of high school, but had only snapshots otherwise. I did have an urge to send a picture of Danielle Steele, but resisted the impulse.

About an hour later the owner of the bookstore where I would actually appear that weekend called.

“I don’t want to oversell this event to you.”

“You don’t expect much of a turnout other than foot traffic, right?”

“As long as you understand,” she said.

I had a great time in Elmira. My friend Clare’s parents were warm and welcoming and acted as if I was the wittiest person they had met in some time. I always feel warmly toward people who laugh at my jokes.

“I know you’re forty, Stephanie, but don’t be surprised if my mother tucks you in.” said Clare.

Sure enough, later that night I woke and found Clare’s mom checking to see if I was warm enough and if I needed anything. Next morning we had my favorite breakfast, Eggs Benedict.

Clare then took her father and me out to Mark Twain’s grave and somewhere I have pictures of the two of us standing in front of the tomb. The Elmira leg of the adventure was the high point.

Clare and I drove to Scranton and went to the book store. The owner could not have been nicer or more welcoming. I munched on cookies and drank punch. Two people showed up to talk to me. One was a woman who thought she could sign up for the book group to which I belonged. She left when I told her the book group met in Philadelphia. The other interested party was an English teacher who came by to chat and Clare took a picture of the store owner, the English teacher and me looking as happy as if we were participating in the literary event of the year. (I do feel naturally elated when I’m around books.)

I got a call later from the lady who wanted the glossies.

“You’ll be coming back up to appear at my branch of the store, right?”

I did then explain to her that while I had had a swell time at her partner’s store, I couldn’t spare the time to do a second trip.

“Well, it’s true you weren’t much of a draw.”

Oh, well. It’s always good to be reintroduced to the concept of humility.

© 2015 Stephanie Patterson


  1. My own experiences in the state of PA involved a couple of very happy summers as a guest counselor at a Girl Scout Camp near Johnstown, where I made many great friends at that time. This was a zillion years ago - but I have such fond memories of the state of PA! I wish you and your husband a very prosperous 2015 and may all your wishes come true! TJS

  2. Thanks, Thelma for the New Year's wishes.
    The truism used to be in PA you had Alabama sandwiched between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. I'm sure there are people who would dispute that.