It’s Day 4 of my book tour, and I’ve slept in a different bed every night so far. A leaky air mattress on a floor in Mountain View, a couch in Marin, and a comfy spare bedroom in San Francisco. Luckily my other hubs will involve only two or three cities near each airport instead of seven!
My first event was basically a warm-up, a talk over dinner with some Stanford students at a co-op house where 50 students live. Half the students left as soon as they finished their vegan burgers and baked root vegetable “fries” (which were delicious, by the way). Hard to blame them; it's almost finals week. But the ones who stayed were very engaged, asked lots of great questions, and told some of their own stories. Not bad for a warm-up.
The next event was at a high school in Mountain View. I’m used to speaking to a few dozen people at most, so it was something else speaking to three hundred. There was no lectern, just me and a microphone in the middle of a huge gym. I joked that I felt like a motivational speaker.
It’s funny what happens when an audience reaches a certain tipping point. Instead of a group of individuals, it becomes a crowd, and instead of each person’s reaction being visible (and therefore often somewhat muted), the crowd starts to react as one (and therefore the reactions are often amplified).
So instead of chuckles at laugh lines, I got huge rolling laughs. And instead of arched eyebrows and appreciative nods at certain surprising or triumphant moments, I got claps and cheers. It was kind of awesome. I showed a slide show at the end of funny and gorgeous and poignant photos from beautiful Palestine. The kids loved it, and I loved talking with them afterwards at a little table outside the lunch room.
Finally on Saturday I had my first “grown-up” event, a talk at Book Passage in Marin. I was thrilled to see my book displayed all over the store, including in a huge display behind the register. The audience was attentive and asked thoughtful and sometimes challenging but always respectful questions, which is just how I like it. Afterwards I had some nice conversations, and a couple of people said they really enjoyed the readings but gently suggested I slow down a little.
When I read, I tend to have a fear in the back of my mind that I’m going to bore everyone, probably because I’ve read these passages eight million times, and the novelty has long since worn off for me. But I should remember that for most people, this will be the first time they’ve ever heard the passages, and I should take time as I read to actually visualize the scenes instead of just rushing through. (Duh, right?) The memory itself is a fresh and living thing, and I should focus on that instead of the words.
Today, Sunday, was a “free day” on the tour, which actually means about ten hours of work dealing with logistical issues, flake-outs (there’s only been one flaming flake-out so far, and luckily that has mostly been resolved), publicity, social media, my blog and website, and writing this post on SheWrites. (You’re welcome.)
Giving talks is fun and energizing, especially the Q&A. But all the rest gets exhausting after a while. To be honest, I would rather be home with my fiance. If it weren’t a compulsion to share this story with as many people as possible, I would not do it.
But there are golden moments along the way. High schoolers cheering at Palestinian humor. Activists coming together to publicize an event that didn’t have a venue until the last minute. Finding out a Palestinian filmmaker friend is in town doing some of her events at the same time, and feeling proud of how far we’ve both come. Catching up with old friends and meeting many new ones. Someone coming up to you after a talk and telling you how your book affected their lives.
And always the hope that my humble act of telling a story might somehow make a difference in the world.
What about you? What keeps you motivated through all these crazy ups and downs and all this intense and often unsung work?
GIVEAWAY DETAILS: My publisher will send a free copy of Fast Times in Palestine to three commenters chosen at random at the end of this three-part series. (This is the third and final post.)
If you would like to continue following my book tour journey, please feel free to “friend” or “follow” me on Facebook, or subscribe to my blog. My full tour schedule is here, including the official launch party in San Francisco on Thursday at Books Inc on Van Ness, 7pm. I’d love to see you along the way!
Pamela Olson is the author of Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland, a gripping coming-of-age memoir full of beauty, suspense, cruelty, star-crossed romance, and dark humor that was named a Top Ten Travel Book of 2013 by Publishers Weekly.