|Me. Nervous as all heck.|
Before you proceed, turn on this video from Youtube to have a soundtrack in the background while you read this post:
And imagine the scent of sandalwood incense and bitter Chinese baijiu wine.
And the sounds of people chatting, sharing ideas, laughing, getting caught up with long-lost contacts.
Now you're starting to get the feeling of my book launch event from last night, aka My Little Shanghai Project. Just starting.
Having just moved into Berlin with a toddling 2-year-old and with my life packed in banker's boxes, organizing this event was stressful for my perfectionist self. Honestly -- as ALL my guests know by now -- I still didn't know which excerpts I was going to read aloud from my book, Trixi Pudong and the Greater World, even as people were arriving. This is very rare for me. All my writer life, I have not only prepared my reading list weeks before my events, but I have also rehearsed my readings in front of my writing partners. I'm a planning freak.
So yesterday, I stayed nervous, procrastinated, and mingled with my own friends until one of my closest author buddies (who'd just flown in from LA) arrived, one hour late. She had just stepped foot in the Rote Beete Cafe and I was already grabbing her arm whispering to her, "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO READ YET."
And you know what? She was calm. She smiled. Her words rescued me.
"Just read any passage that you feel good about. It doesn't even have to be in chronological order. I've done readings that jumped around my book, and people still loved it. You don't have to tell the whole story. Read anything that sets up the time and the feeling of the book. "
Got that? The time and the feeling.
She went on: "A book reading usually goes on for 30 or 40 minutes. That isn't too long. Your audience will listen to you for that long."
"But do you think I should read something from each segment of my book?" I asked her. There are four stories in Trixi Pudong.
"No. Just read any passage you feel good about."
Dear blog visitor, I can. not. even. tell you how relieved I was to hear this. She helped me to make a very important last-minute decision at my big event of the year: Just wing it, gosh darnit.
So there I was. I walked up to the front of the bar, turned off the music, took the mic, and announced to my audience that I was totally unprepared to read. That I'd start reading on page 3. Then, see what happens.
How'd it go? FANTASTIC. My friend was right. The audience does get caught up in the story. They do react to the tender spots that felt tender years ago when I first wrote them. They do want to know what happens.
I also discovered that after staring at my own manuscript for seven years, I had lost track of what was good about it. But yesterday, I was completely caught by surprise by my audience's reaction. The layers, they said. The politics, the emotions. So many interesting elements!
Really? My book? You think it's that good?
I don't even know what to say.