October 22, 2010 – Got back to the farm after a rainy, windy drive that began in Colon, Ohio and ended up in Bedlam. About 11 hours. A lot of driving this week, a great tour week, lots of people have come to see us in the last two weeks – close to 1,000 – Izzy was a rock star. Maria sold nearly $1,000 worth of signed Family Farm notecards, to benefit family farms and farm aid groups. The tour was exciting in several ways – great bookstore conversations, visits to book club and private homes, the broadening of the tour to include many people on Facebook, photos (some live) uploaded from the Ipad, once I figured out how to use it. We had a lot of fun experimenting with the form and content of the book, and also talking about dogs, rural life, animal grieving and my new novel, "Rose In A Storm."
The book tour and the interactive online tour continue. No rest till the tour is over. We aren't done.
It was great to have Maria along, and Izzy made an awful lot of friends. Great people, great conversations. I am grateful and humbled by the good words about my work, the blog, the photos. Next week, to S. Hadley, Mass. for a talk at the South Hadley Library Tuesday afternoon (no books sold or signed there) and then a signing and talk at the Odyssey Bookstore at 7 p.m. Books will be sold and signed there.
Mara kept her own sense of self on the tour, sketching, working on her art, selling the Family Farm notecards. It was a powerful experience for the two of us, the first time I've had anyone accompany me on a book tour. A lot of drivng – too much. Put more than 2,000 miles on the truck. I so loved having her with me.
I came to a decision on the way back today. I'm not taking Izzy out on public appearances any more, except to places that can be carefully controlled and supervised. I guess I hadn't quite grasped how much things have changed. The crowds at my events are larger, the events much longer, and Izzy seems to be attracting a lot of increasingly intense attention. At some places, he was just about mobbed by people wanting to touch him, take his picture, and rub or hug him. At one event, he seemed to show his teeth and snap in the direction of a young girl who had accidentally stepped on a foot I didn't realize was injured. Izzy is cute, but he is a dog, and dogs are animals.
Other people grabbed him roughly, rubbed him even though he was getting visibly rattled. There was much more of this on this book tour than I remember seeing before.
Beyond that, it was distracting, for me as a speaker, and for people trying to listen while others were trying to get Izzy's attention, calling to him, offering him food and talking about him. I love the way Izzy is loved, and I surely don't blame people for wanting to see him and get close to him. He's pretty appealing. But I don't want him or anybody else to get hurt. I never blame children when they are threatened or harmed by a dog. Kids will always try and touch an animal they believe is friendly or appealing – as one would be expected to be in a bookstore. We might wish that they would learn to be careful around dogs, and they should, but it is, to me, always the dog owners responsibility to make sure nobody gets hurt, including the dog. And to be honest, some adults were a lot rougher with Izzy than the kids.
I guess I've evolved also. People have always wanted to meet some of the dogs, and I've tried to bring them, but to be honest, the talks are about reading and writing and other issues related to the books. I come as a writer, not a dog handler or trainer or a rescue or political advocate, or as an entertainer. I understand completely if people might find that disappointing, or even not come to the readings. That's up to them. I just want to be up front about it. Between talks, questions, and signing, the readings can go two hours or longer, and that's too much time to worry about a dog, or even to ask one to be angelic while there is constant attention. It was too much all around, and something bad nearly happened, and would certainly happen eventually.
Iz is wonderful, but he is a border collie who spent the first five or six years of his life living outside on a farm. I also want to focus on my talks and the people who come to listen and ask questions, and for conversations. I feel good about that. I am happy to be back on the farm for a day or so.
I so appreciate the many hundreds of people who have come to join me on the book, tour, and who have helped to rethink ways for writers to reach their readers. This is a wonderful experience for me, and I'm enthusiastic about getting back out there.
Mostly, I will be dogless.