14 October 2010

Spirituality and place


The word spirituality is kicked around a lot these days, but Bedlam Farm has become a spiritual place for me. It is home. I have lost my ability to withstand cities for too long, as much as I loved them, and as big a part of my life as they were.  People seem hurried, tense, busy. They also often seem happy. I have learned that I do not know how other people should live, or what they should do. Many good friends love the cities they live in, and can't imagine life elsewhere. I could not love long without the beauty of this place, the way the sun hits the trees, the openness of the people. When I borrow a loaner at the car dealer, they don't even make me show them my license. "We know where to find you," they say.

Washington seems as tense a city as New York, the people as narcisstic and frantic and edgy. It has the feeling of an occupied place, the legions of grim security guards almost everywhere. So we were glad to get back. To see the encroaching fall, to worry about ticks, get snow tires. And then to leave for a week in the Midwest, a lot like this place. I never set foot on a farm until I bought Bedlam Farm, and now I can't imagine living anywhere else. That's the other thing i am always learning. Life is just strange.

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Hometown reading. Opening up the book tour

Hometown Reading

Ft. Edward, N.Y.

So good to be back on the farm, although not for long. Got back from a sensational reading with Rita Mae Brown last night in Virginia, and came back for my hometown reading at Red Fox Books (actually at the Crandall Public Library. The store's owners, Susan and Naftali, are good friends and Glens Falls, N.Y. is our adopted town in many ways. Izzy is coming (maybe Lenore) and then we have to scramble to get ready for Ohio. Saturday we are at the Halfmoon Library in Clifton Park, N.Y. at 2 p.m., and then we are setting out for Ohio, looking for  a motel on the way. Kind of sun to set out like that. We will be at the Book Loft in Columbus, Ohio, at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Home town readings are a special part of the book tour, the first chance a writer gets to talk about a book in the place where it was conceived and written, with people who have often witnessed the process. I will be bringing some family farm notecards to sell for $16, to benefit struggling family farms. I'm looking forward to it.

Random House is working with me to experiment a bit with the form of the book tour, a mix of old and new practices. Focusing on events at bookstores and media interviews, but then I am using Facebook, the Ipad,  online reviews and social media and the photography to find new ways of connecting with readers and talking with them. I am sometimes foregoing the TV studio for living rooms and for informal visits to book stores and book clubs to break away from the somewhat rigid structure of the book tour. In Hadley, Mass, I am not going to a TV studio but hopefully to the homes of some book readers to talk about writing and my work, and their own ideas about books. The cameras can follow if they'd like.  I'm trying to open it up a bit, using conventional practices and some new ones. It doesn't have to be one or the other. Readings at bookstores are critical, but publishing is changing and writers and readers need other ways to connect. Reading is alive and well, from what I can see.

New technologies can help writers like me  have a dialogue with readers. I don't want to be engulfed by technology, always a dangerous bride, but I don't to hide from it either. I hope to do an e-book or two next year. Nice to see the dogs. We are having a huge tick problem up here now, and Izzy and Rose are going to be groomed in the morning, so Izzy can look swell for the tour.

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On train 291: opening up the book tour

My publisher is supportive of my trying some different ways to open up
The book tour and break away a bit from TV studios, NPR booths, and mainstream media. So, in several cities I'm foregoing tv cameras for libraries, living rooms, smaller bookstores and other places where I can have a dialogue with readers and the people who buy books. This seems shocking, even unnerving to people who see publishing as strange and remote. Don't know if this will work or not, but I have good feeling about it.
I am using new tools like Facebook and online reader forums and the Ipad but they need, I think, to work with existing ideas and institutions like bookstores and face to face encounters, not to supplant them. I like the of a mix. I'll keep you posted.
Contrary to what you might sometimes hear, I can already report that reading and stories are alive and well.

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Testing photo upload from D.C.

From Washington
Getting ready to get on a train. Raining. Testing the Ipad. Thanks, Izzy, who rejoins the tour Saturday.

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Inside the book tour.

Getting my goat

It's fairy standard for writers to squawk about their publishers, but I can't really complain about mine. They pay me to write about my farm, my dogs and my life and to write novels and short stories, and my publicists are helpful, attentive and creative. I suspect I drive them nuts some of the time, but this promises to be a wild book tour. Got up early, ate breakfast, am fiddling with my Ipad, trying to get photos. I am excited to see the new "Dracula: Stoker Family Edition" e-book from Ibooks next week, which comes complete with songs and the movie "Nosferatu." It's $4.99.

I came across this photo of Murray one of my goats, now living in Vermont. Goats were a mistake for me, a symptom of my confusion between acquiring animals and knowing them. One of the best moves I made, aside from marrying Maria, was to pare down the animals at Bedlam Farm. It was disturbing to have goats, cows, sheep, dogs, chickens and cats. Rita Mae Brown says it's good and important to be emotionally disturbed sometimes, because that's when you grow and allow yourself to feel things. It seemed to me that she was talking about me.

Animals teach one all sorts of things in all sorts of ways. Sometimes you learn as much from what you don't do as from what you do. The book tour is a wonderful conversation between my readers and me.  Writing a novel is good for me, because people talk about  my writing as well as my dogs, and that is important, because it's how I grow as a writer. I learn a lot from the people who read my books, from their smiles and nods, from their photos and stories, from their support and encouragement, from the people who show up with their cameras and talk to me about their photos. I am experimenting on this tour, with new was of reaching people – Facebook, libraries, "guerrilla" appearances. I'm trying to arrange one in Hadley Massachusetts when I go there for my book tour to the Odyssey bookstore. I want to meet with a book club or some readers with Izzy and talk about writing in a small, more intimate setting. Writers need to loosen up, get out there, talk to people, listen. Heading to the train and back to the farm for one day before all Hell breaks loose and we pile Izzy into the truck and head West. I am so grateful that Maria is coming along for this part of the tour. First time as my wife. Interesting to see how so many people want to see her as much or more than me.

And I don't blame them.