The first two things confronting me when I arrived at the Barnes & Noble in Lafayette, Louisiana: 1) a stack of 75 copies of The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival sitting on a table and 2) a woman sitting nearby reading a copy of my book.
I don’t know which made me more nervous.
I’ve been to readings before and I know how light actual turnout tends to be compared to what you’ve been lead to expect from RSVPs and promises. I also figured that even if 60 people showed up for the reading, most of them would have copies of the book already. Then I’d be faced with a slightly humiliating stack of unsold books. Sure, I’d get to sign them, but that wouldn’t necessarily stop them from landing on the clearance table at some point. But such is life. Such is reality.
To be honest I think the woman reading my book made me more nervous. It was the first time I was confronted by a complete stranger caught in the act. (I’ve yet to spot anyone reading it on the subway.) Should I say anything? Should I stand there looking like a snob? I was obviously the author — ever that or a freak just hanging around the pretty books. It occurred to me that she’d been sent by the Church to rail at me (excuse me my paranoia).
I steeled my nerves and approached her.
“Do you like it so far?”
“Oh yeah,” she said. “I just started it.”
So we began talking. Turns out she was a member of the Sibille family. She and a number of Sibilles (or former Sibilles) had read about the book in the newspaper and seen that the protagonist’s last name was Sibille. They wanted to know why I’d chosen that name. Turns out there used to be a priest in Ville Platte by the last name of Sibille, but I only learned that on Saturday. No, the reasoning was a simple as boring as I wanted a Cajun-French name that started with an ‘s’ and wouldn’t be hard for those outside of the state to pronounce.
After meeting the rest of the Sibille clan, my own people started showing up. And by my own people, I mean my family, high-school classmates, more family, grad-school classmates, more family, high-school religion teacher, more family and even my first-grade teacher. To say it was overwhelming would be an understatement.
Did I mention that I wasn’t drinking?
Still, the reading went off without a hitch. I even finished up in time so that the Sibille clan sitting in the front row could get to four o’clock Mass. The signing, though . . . well . . . my hand was a withered up claw by the time all was said and done.
Oh, and we managed to sell over 100 copies of the book.
On Sunday, I made like The Lord and rested. Also, hell froze over when the Saints won the NFC championship to go to the Super Bowl.
On Monday night, I traveled out to Baton Rouge for a reading at a Barnes & Noble there. More high school and grad school friends, more family, and parents of friends. It wasn’t quite the crowd we’d had in Lafayette but I hadn’t been expecting that many people. I did manage to fill up all the seats Barnes & Noble had put out. And a few more.
Tuesday morning, I did a brief interview on 101.1 KBON out in Eunice. Paul Marx had had me on for two or three minutes the week before to promo the readings and I was told by a number of folks at the Lafayette reading they’d heard me on the radio. This was my first in-studio radio show. I’ve done some taped NPR type stuff for work, but this was a totally different ballgame. And much more fun.
And that was it for the Louisiana leg of the book promotion. Well, the first round at any rate. I may be back for more.
Up next: Brooklyn.