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  • [SWP: Behind the Book] Cross-Country Whistle Stop Book Tour with Flash Readings, Part II!
[SWP: Behind the Book] Cross-Country Whistle Stop Book Tour with Flash Readings, Part II!
Written by
Tory McCagg
November 2014
Written by
Tory McCagg
November 2014

I am going to paste below the post I put on my blog a couple of days ago because--per usual--we are more rushed than I thought we would be and I don’t have the brain space to create anew. Nor internet connection. Nor ability to upload photos. Ah, the trials and tribulations of being on the road!

But I will say this: I am contemplating our cross-country book tour and realizing I should have done more prep re: promo. I have a twitter account @torymccagg and a hashtag #whistlestopbooktour. I have told family and friends, gone on facebook. But there is a certain je ne sais quoi missing.

Book by book, I remind myself. I am meeting people. Passing out the postcard with my flash tour reading on it. Telling people to go to my website, check out the videos. Spread the word.

Will it make the difference?

I’ll try to post again from Santa Cruz but wanted to get something up. Follow me! Check out my Bittersweet Manor facebook page! Spread the word!

And then get back to writing!!

From the road in Berkeley, CA.



To begin where we are, rather than where we have been: Donner’s Pass. It is snowy. Absolutely beautiful. We are fed and caffeinated, and thinking of those people in 1846. They left 168 years ago, on Oct 31, for their ill-fated trip. Yesterday I read/finished All the Light We Can See by Anthony Doerr, which is based in Europe around World War Two. So my mind is on our species. How we survive. How we live. And how I love snow and want to jump out of the train and leap about, walk about, smell the air, feel the cold. And then return to the warmth and comfort of the train. This trip is reiterating to me what I already know: how incredibly fortunate we are, Carl and I. What an amazing country we live in. How much destruction our species has wrought. And how much beauty we have created. And what of the future?

We are already six days in to our trip. We began with the First Flash Reading at The Toadstool in Peterborough. Before we left the house, we spent 45 minutes looking for Carl’s phone which is the video camera for all things Flash reading. Eureka! The camera was in the truck’s visor. We headed out. Half way to Peterborough we realized we had forgotten the “Happie Amp”, also key to the Flash reading. Back we went to Darwin’s View and then off again, racing to meet the self-imposed deadline of a 4pm Flash Reading. We arrived with two minutes to spare, giggling. Would this be how we would cross the country? Ever late and racing to keep up with ourselves?


First stop: NYC. Two flash readings . . . and, the next morning, I knew we were scheduled to leave at 1 pm. Fortunately, as we were calmly repacking (too much stuff) and preparing to go to my mother’s apartment for a bon voyage chat, I checked the tickets. As the clock chimed 11am, I noted we were booked on the 12pm train out of Penn station. With a rush and a whirly burl we packed, raced to my mother’s for a quick bye! A cab arrived as we approached 6th avenue and deposited us at Penn station without much ado. We went to the check-in booth to ask about Red Caps. (Too much luggage; oh dear.) There was a red cap who took us to the train with minutes to spare.

And so it has gone. D.C.. Chicago.  I should be posting daily because now it is all a blur of activity. The flash readings are not at all honed. The Whistle Stops even less so. I wonder if I am only making a fool of myself, or will these videos get at least one or two people to pause and think about their choices? Because this trip might seem to be about selling Bittersweet Manor. The reality is, it isn’t. Thirty years of writing and unpublished until this year? I’m not in this for the sales and the money. On this trip, I’ve given away one book. A few postcards. But we still have 25 books to lug and I don’t see how we are going to be rid of them. The Flashing of independent bookstores is about the stores, not the book. The Whistle stops are about the importance of mass transit, not Bittersweet Manor.

And the connections. It’s all about connections and connecting and not by computer but in person.

The Flashes: (Videos can be found in past blog posts, or if you go to YouTube and google Tory McCagg.)
1st Flash: Peterborough, NH: The Toadstool, I consider “my” local bookstore. When I go there, the staff recognizes me. I bump into people I know. I attend author events. It is community, familiar, of inestimable value.

2nd and 3rd Flash: New York City, NY: St. Mark’s Bookshop represents the resiliency of community. It had to move from its locale-of-decades due to high rent. But their new place is even better, not just because it’s beautiful (thanks to Cloud Architecture Office’s work) but because it is sustainable, a direct result of crowdfunding from their amazing customer base. And McNally Jackson: with each book curated by the staff and thus adapted to the customers, it has a wonderfully eclectic collection of books and magazines to browse. They even had a copy of mine!

Both these stores have a loyal and fierce following. “Other bookstores are all very well but mine is the best!” List the reasons why...

Whereas in Key West I do take sides regarding their chicken debate (if only to keep peace with Big Red at Darwin’s View), in the NYC debate about bookstores, I stand aside and let the locals decide. For their respective and unique reasons, both bookstores rock.

4th and 5th Flash: Washington, D.C.: Kramerbooks and Afterwords also has a decades long history of providing its customers with myriad books. That’s the beauty of  independent bookstores: they take their customers’ tastes into account. They keep alive a diversity of books and publishers. They stretch the imagination and comfort zone rather then funneling us to what’s expected. Politics and Prose? I fell in love with that bookstore. Its selection of books is exactly to my taste. I stood in its midst, taking photos of the books I wanted to buy but didn’t want to tote across the country, and wanting to remain there in hopes that all that knowledge and creativity might, by osmosis, enter my being.

6th and 7th Flash: Chicago, Il: The Book Cellar. How dense can I be? It didn’t click until I got there that they have wine. What can be said against that? You can buy a book and then sit--as we did--and have a grilled cheese sandwich and a beer or glass of wine. If that isn’t one step away from home, what is? The only difference? At The Book Cellar you have people about you, dropping in to chat, to buy a book, or have a meal. As happens at Women and Children First. A bright and airy expanse full of books and people and conviviality. They were so kind as to have my books there! To sign! How supportive of an unknown author? How cool are they?

Do you note the theme? Community? A neighborhood effect that does not happen when you sign in on-line to buy a book. Or anything for that matter. I have noted in our cross-country discussions people saying “oh, I support my local bookstore. I buy my books locally. But my sneakers? I go on-line.”

It’s not just books we have to buy locally. We have to create the demand so that we can go back to knowing our neighbors because we buy our books and milk and coffee and breads and shoes and clothes and all the stuff we buy from local, creative, artistic, at times inconveniently located but only because we didn’t realize what was happening in these last decades. Or we did but we didn’t think it mattered.

It does matter. It’s time to make our choices matter. Each day. Every day.

Admittedly, I am at risk of Orthorexia. Ever heard of it? It’s when a person gets so into their obsession--like happy eggs--that when she goes on a Cross-Country Whistle Stop Book Tour she can’t order am omelette unless she knows it’s from happy eggs. She has trouble using the small, plastic containers of honey or maple syrup because neither are what they pretend to be and does she really want to support that?

I guess I’m testing my limits. How far will I go to promote my book? To create a platform to stand on for my next book? My next book which is all about choice and responsibility?

Now that I think of it, so is Bittersweet Manor. What were the choices that Emma and Gussie made in their lives, and what were the consequences of those choices?  Did they matter? However small and subtle, did they make the difference?

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  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    Loved reading this book tour travel blog. Yes, selling one's book and supporting others is about community. I know that a community of people with specific books helped shape the book I published in 2010 with a small nonfiction publisher in Florida...and many of those who bought copies of my book were people I have met through community craft fairs and other gatherings...and friends of friends and family members.

    Glad you are having a great time reaching out and traveling. Best of luck on sales, too! ~:0)