I had the pleasure of speaking at the Cragin Memorial Library last night as part of the Connecticut Author’s Trail. A group of about 48 women and two men gathered to hear me speak, which I continue to find both humbling and astounding.
Rather than read from my novel, I tell stories about the writing of my most recent novel, the writing of my previous novels, and my life in general. How I became an author. Stupid things that I have done in my life. Lessons learned. My wife joined me for the event last night, which she usually doesn’t do, making it even more fun for me.
A few important observations from the evening:
I made my wife laugh on at least two occasions, and on the way home, she told me that I was “very funny.” Making my wife laugh is one of my primary goals in life, and it’s not easy. If I make her laugh even once in a day, I feel complete.
I always ask for a round of applause for the men in the audience, because there are generally so few. Men suck when it comes to reading fiction. Possibly reading in general. We need to do better in this regard.
I felt great about my talk even though my fly was apparently down for at least the last third of the talk. As soon as I finished speaking, I was surrounded my people who wanted me to sign their books. The first woman said, “Your fly is down. When you stuck your hands in your pockets, it started falling. Slowly.”
I laughed, thankful that this woman, sitting in the front row, was the only one who noticed.
Five other women then proceeded to tell me the same thing. “At least nothing fell out,” one woman said.
Part of my talk is to reward the person in the audience with the most unusual or challenging question (I want to encourage audience members to ask me anything), but for the first time, I failed to keep track of the question that stumped me the most. Last night’s prize was the German edition of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, so I gave it to a man whose son lives in Germany, though I felt as though this decision did not sit well with some people.
“If I had asked you why your fly was down, would that have been good enough to win the prize?” one woman asked.
“Yes,” I said. “You should’ve asked.”
Readers are the best.
I’m often asked about how my students, my friends, and my family feel about my books, and I am forced to explain how completely unimpressed they are with me. My students tend to be unimpressed with me in general, but my friends and family are equally unmoved by my authorial career.
The less you know about me, the more impressed you tend to be.
Last night I told the audience that I texted one of my closest friends last week to tell him to read The Martian by Peter Weir. “An amazing book that I know you’ll love.” He started reading immediately.
I spend more time with this man than almost any other friend. We play golf together. I taught his children. I taught his daughter twice. He is my son’s godfather. I have spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family. We are in a book club together. His home was featured in Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend.
Yet he has not read any of my books.
He’ll begin reading a novel on my recommendation alone, but as for the books written by his friend?
He’s unimpressed. Like everyone else.
I often tell audiences that they should all be writing, and I assign them the homework of writing every day for the rest of their lives. Over the years, a few have accepted my challenge, at least for a time, but not many.
A handful at most.
As a result, I’ve started to say, “But most of you won’t go home and write because it’s hard. You’d rather watch a stupid television show, eat potato chips, and dying forgotten and filled with regret.”
Or something similar.
I chastised my audience last night as well (I think I said that I was sure they wouldn’t complete my homework assignment because they suck), but I’m starting to think this insulting my audiences is not a good idea, even though they always laugh when I do.