24 October 2010

Izzy’s Time: Inside the Book Tour. Revelation.

New event

Just added a new event to the book tour, a signing at Gardenworks, 2 p.m., Saturday, November 27, 2010. 518 854 3250, Salem, N.Y. Since moving to Bedlam Farm, I've done a signing for every book at Gardenworks and Meg Southerland asked me back and I said yes. Random House agrees. Thanksgiving weekends are special there, and it feels right.

I told Meg I wouldn't be bringing Izzy. It's odd how things work. My mind is sort of reeling about Izzy.

Izzy was abandoned on a nearby farm, and when I brought him home – I don't see him as being rescued or abused or feel comfortable with those terms most of the time –  he then led me to hospice work (I am taking a leave from that).

I've always considered book signings his work in the same way that Rose works sheep. Izzy is a remarkable creature. I can bring him anywhere. He loves people, and people love him, and he knows how to work a room and be appropriate. Last week's Ohio/Kentucky swing made me see that I was putting him at risk by bringing him into crowded situations like that, distracting myself and others, and perhaps putting a kid or others at risk too. I mentioned this on the blog and was surprised at the nearly total agreement with the decision, so much so that I am quite bewildered about why I started bringing him to readings in the first place.

Book readings are about books, conversations and questions, and while dog lovers love to see dogs – you can't blame them for that – I was more or less saying that the dog was the point, or at least part of it. People who love dogs want to touch them, children and adults, and you can't blame them for that either. In an unintentional way, I was doing a kind of circus act.

Last week, I saw Izzy snarl and lunge at a lovely child was hugging him and who  accidentally stepped on his foot. Later in the week, I saw people giggling at Izzy, pointing at him and taking out photos during my talk and Q&A's, in some cases talking right over questions and answers. It didn't look right.

I hadn't noticed that before, and perhaps it has been happening for awhile. And I was responsible for it.

But the real point is what I was thinking, and I suspect at one time I thought it necessary to bring a dog in order to get people to come. It didn't hurt, for sure. There's always a fine line for me between presenting myself as a writer, and being seen as a dog writer, or as a dog lover first, and a writer second. I guess that's a change, for me, and if you followed the tour, for some others as well. The questions were very different this time on the tour.

People ask me if I want to write a book on dogs who need rescuing. I don't. Why I chose a life bounded by the love of animals. I didn't. I chose a life writing about animals and the people who love them. I don't write as an animal lover or as an advocate for dogs in trouble. I think most of us know there are dogs in trouble, and that isn't writing, really, it's a kind of politics. Nothing wrong with it, but not what I do. I am a writer, above all, one of the focal points of life. My identity. Perhaps it scared me.

From the first, Izzy entered my life like some sort of spirit guide, drawing me to people, stretching my patience and compassion,  and connecting me to people on the edge of life. I see that I was awakening now, coming to terms with my own age and mortality.  Now he has guided me again.

I am coming to love this idea of dogs as spirit guides who take you places you don't know you are going, until you open up to it. Last week in Columbus, I came to see that it wasn't about Izzy and kids or Izzy and safety. It was about  a dog – in this case Izzy –  once again leading me to see who I am, and to understand my own evolution as a human, an artist and a writer. He just keeps doing that, in the same way Rose had guided me to a deeper understanding of the real nature of dogs. So Izzy: thanks again.

Inside the book tour: Does it work? The Hadley Experiment.

Book tour: Does it work?

Rain, clouds. November weather.

The book tour has been fun, interesting, challenging. But does it work? The test of a book tour is whether or not the book sells. The publisher doesn't really apply any other measure. This time, I've tried some different things – photo uploads, a running photo and journal, visits to alternative places – libraries, homes, book clubs. I've ticked off a few book stores by going to events in their area and driven Random House a little crazy by popping up here and there. I've scared the hell out of several people who found the idea of my visiting them too unnerving and they declined.

My events have been strong with two exceptions. Lots of questions, engagement, lots of books signed, some obviously for Christmas. Was it worth it? Did it work? Don't really know yet. Facebook worked to draw people to my events, I'm sure of that. And the blog and Facebook together brought many more people to the book tour than before. I don't yet know if that worked in terms of sales or marketing. If it didn't, then the new ideas for the tour are dubious. If they did work, than we are breaking some new ground. Tuesday is the Hadley experiment. An alternative event – the Library at 3 p.m, a conversation about writing, and then a traditional reading at Odyssey, one of the great book stores in Massachusetts or anywhere else.

If the first event cannibalizes the  second, that doesn't really work (that's why we aren't selling or signing books there) If it allows people who couldn't make it to Odyssey or want to talk to me in an informal setting to do so, then it's successful. I've got some snazzy new tools, but I'm not sure yet if they really work, or just make more noise.

Signed Bedlam Farm holiday notecards at Redux

Holiday notecards

Bedlam Farm holiday notecards are available for viewing and purchase from the Redux Art Gallery in Dorset, Vt. We are debuting the "doors and windows" cards at the Affordable Art/Christmas show on Saturday, November 13 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Redux, along with paintings from Christine Nemec and fiberart – potholders, quilts, bags – from Maria. Signed notecards – donkeys, dogs, red barns, flowers and light, family farm – can be purchased now or by calling  Redux at 802 867-4211. The idea is they might make useful holiday gifts. Good stuff, cheap.

Speaking truth. Fear and anger

Gathering

Rest Area, Ohio

This weekend is a time to gather myself. I'm working on my spiritual life. On speaking the truth. On shedding fear and anger. On quieting my mind. I'm going to the Redux Gallery to get some more notecards. Then to Northshire Books to get a mystery. Tomorrow, I'll do some writing in the morning. Then get ready to hit the road again for Massachusetts.

More and more I see anger and fear as symptoms, not reality, things to see, and move past. I am speaking more truthfully, saying what I feel. I see this question of voice is so important to people. I am fortunate to have a voice. In my work. My photos. My blog. On the book tour. Listening to so many people for days has changed me, affirmed me, given me so much to think about. I see myself differently. I see myself one way, others another way.

Inside the book tour: Share your carrots

Mid-point

October 23, 2010 – Rainy. Going to Dorset to pick up some "Judy" and autumn notecards (and some donkey cards for Maria). On the book tour, I was struck by:

– the warmth of people.

– the energy and vibrance of bookstores, publishing and story-telling. Reading is alive and well.

– the reach and scope of bedlamfarm.com and the energy and connectivity of Facebook.

– the value of reaching out to new audiences on a book tour, going beyond studios and bookstores to book clubs, libraries and homes.

– the necessity to fight for your identify, always, not in a spirit of combat but of affirmation.

Had some interesting discussions and thoughts on health care, prompted by my friend Dr. Debra Katz's exhorations to get checked up regularly so that I might head off any developing troubles or conditions. I am coming to clarity on this issue. I do believe in doctors and in medicine, much of which is wonderful. I pay attention to my health, to what I eat, the activities I engage in, and how I feel. She and I are still talking about this, and I don't want to bother her this weekend, as she is writing the preface to my book on grieving for animals, "Going Home: Finding Peace When Animals Die," due out next year.

I do not wish a life prolonged by medications, procedures and tests. I believe that health care is being corrupted by money, liability issues and politics. Doctors are no longer free to practice medicine as they might wish, and as I might wish them to. Quality of life is important to me. I want to take control of the process of ageing and death, not surrender it to insurance companies and the things doctors have to do to keep from getting sued. Hospice work has taught me a lot about this and I will write about it more.

Book tour resumes Tuesday in South Hadley, Mass. Talk (no books or signing) at the South Hadley Public Library, 3 p.m. Library Director Joe Rodio will be taping and asking some questions as will, hopefully, some readers and book lovers. This is an experiment to broaden the idea of a book tour and we'll see how it works. Tuesday night, 7 p.m. a talk and signing at Odyssey Books, Hadley, Mass. I'm not bringing Izzy or any other dogs.