Great Expectations and the Death of Common Sense - On the Road #2


This 2nd email from my road trip journal is of the first event I did on a year long booktour roadtrip of telling stories and selling a book out of my rig - the Beast. Looking back, I can't believe my mindset. I really was half cocked and had no idea what I was doing! It is a huge regret of my life that I did not get any pictures from that time. These photos here are much more luxurious than what I had to work with at that time, but they evoke the "vibe" I was going for in setting up my first booth for my first attempt at DIY writer/storyteller glory. Enjoy!

Oh Expectation!

That enemy of common sense, I had a mighty vision of massive book sales dancing in my head as I drove my poor, little, injured Brown Beast to the end of the road - also known as Homer, Alaska. There was a Concert on the Lawn weekend event happening in a town that was known for its artistic hippies. It was my first stop. How could anything go wrong? I pushed my broken Beast to the limit to get there.

The bands were my first clue that my vision and reality were not in alignment. Many of the bands playing were the baby-faced offspring of the artistic hippies. Therefore, most people in the audience

But, I get ahead of myself...

I made a new friend at a coffee shop. Something about living in your rig really makes for fast and furious bonding glue when you meet somebody who's doing the same thing. Ann had arrived in Homer four weeks before from Montana. She's one of those who always needs something to do, so Ann was more than happy to play the role of my lovely assistant in setting up the cheap Wal-Mart special that was my canopy, and lining it with silk tapestries and sarongs, and putting blankets and pillows on the ground, as well as scented candles to make our booth smell nice. The idea was to make our space more appealing to the passerby. Our master plan was that people would be lured in by the atmosphere, would want to come in and sit for a spell while I captivate them with stories about my heart-eating anti-heroine. My mythical audience would be so enthralled they would have to buy the book. Of course, they would. To find out what happens next.

It didn’t exactly work out that way.

One thing I didn’t consider was how loud the music would be blaring into my cozy, seductive, storytelling space. Kind of hard to create a mesmerizing-sit-down-and-chill-so-you-will-buy-my-stories vibe when the background music is the off key screeching of 14-year-old punk rockers. They might have even been twelve.

As the day passed, several people asked how much the sarongs were. Even though there were books displayed with price tags. Many commented on how cozy we looked as they passed by. One guy offered me ten dollars to sit under the booth while Laura Love was playing, if it started to rain. He did end up being my last sale of the day.

But that's not the point.

Three teenage girls came up to the booth and said: "Okay, we're gonna do it. How much for all three of us?" Fortunately, by that time, word came around that everybody thought I was fortune teller reading tarot cards, so at least I wasn't caught off guard. When I told the girls I was a writer selling a book, they sneered and walked off. These kids wanted face paint, exoticism, and angsty teenage punk rock played by kids who had been doted on by their parents.

Enough said.

A red-headed Tinkerbell who came to my booth, declared she had participated in

the love-ins of the 60’s. She said that's what my booth reminded her of. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, but decided to take it as a compliment.

An artist/writer named Nancy said "Eeewww" when I told her what Ella Bandita was about. Her disgust about my character was not enough to repel her away from my booth, however. Nancy proceeded to tell stories from her own life, about how much she had gotten jacked. She took up all the space – physically and psychically – and managed to repel any people who came by and showed some interest in my booth and my book. Possible customers craned their necks around her, but couldn’t seem to fit past the chip on her shoulder. So they moved on. After a few minutes of me saying: “Thanks for stopping by, Nancy. Nice to meet you! And have a great day!” Nancy finally left, after telling me she didn’t like to receive hugs from “strange women.”

I hadn’t been inspired to hug her.

A very sweet Swiss guy named Remo bought a book on CD after buying the collection of stories. He is in Homer, living in his van and staying out on the spit. Really, the fellowship of homeless travelers is pretty gorgeous. The next day, Remo brought me people to buy my book. One dude he roped in didn’t buy anything, but he sold me the “Key to Art” for $50. This Key to Art was mixed with chocolate, so it would even taste better.

Day one. 10 “Ella Bandita and other stories” sold. 2 “Why Roses Have Thorns” and 1 book on CD of “Ella Bandita.” That morning, I had had grand visions of 50 books a day. That evening, I knew that was unrealistic. It’s good to have dreams, I suppose. But it’s not so good to be attached to them.

The 2nd day came with tempered expectations and a more reasonable sense of promise. A guy who had stopped by the booth at the Concert on the Lawn, and had shown interest in the book but didn’t buy it was at the coffee shop that morning. I was there to brush my teeth and recharge my battery with a frothing mocha. His sister prompted him to buy the book before I got the Concert on the Lawn.

Ann and I rearranged the interior to make it more open. People were stopping by for a reading earlier and things were looking up. Around 3pm, I noticed a common trend that much of the interest coming my way was not exactly from my target market. It seemed a lot of interest was from 55 year old men who wanted to know me better. I’m no complaining. At least, not really.

In all, I sold 22 books. One was an exchange with the Reverend Poor Child and his CD of love songs. I didn’t have the heart to say no to a trade. Within hours, somebody told me that the Reverend Poor Child was considered the bad seed in town, and to “stay the f*** away from him.”

Oh gossip! Oh small towns! A friend in Juneau who knew the Reverend Poor Child from Anchorage didn’t go quite that far. But she did say that he was a prick.

This is an adventure. I’m meeting lots of really cool people and having a lot of fun.

Miss y’all.