My friend Eleanor and I hopped into Panera, knowing we could grab a booth and a nibble for a long-awaited visit. I have a home-made button on my backpack that says “Ask Me About My Book.” It’s been there since my last book, and I never remember until some says, “So tell me about your book.” Which happens not infrequently.
It’s a low-cost marketing strategy that relieves me from approaching people and lets them ask if they’re interested. The guy behind the counter is interested and so I give him a little leaflet about Lillian in Love I keep in my bag. We get our food and settle in, when the guy comes around and says that the whole staff wants to buy a copy together – how much does it cost? He leaves and comes back with $13 and I inscribe it to the “Panera Staff.” When Eleanor goes up to order a cup of coffee, they give it to her on the house.
A minute later a young woman who works in the back comes out and says she wants to buy two copies – one for her and one for her best girlfriend. I run out to the car where I keep some in my trunk. We get to talking: she’s half Brazilian, half Dominican but says her Portuguese isn’t all that good. She says she finds the topic very interesting – and I wonder which topic she means – old lesbians? senior housing? She asks me if I’ve written other books and Eleanor mentions Lillian’s Last Affair. She wants a copy of that too. I get one out of the trunk of my car and when I return she’s got another tenner for me. We hug.
It reminds me of my friend at dance, who’s just in the midst of doing an advanced degree and who is a fantastic dancer, who astonished me one night when I had the thrill of leading her in a dance. She said that having read my book, she feels like she’s dancing with a celebrity. An actual author. I realize that not everyone hangs out, like I do, with a lot of writers. These exchanges all made me feel so good. I’m desperate to feel good because otherwise, with fascism looming, I don’t feel so hot.