Holy Toledo! Our We Came to Say book event was jammed to the rafters. Steven from Third Place Books estimated that there were 90 people, which is an amazing crowd for a book reading on a warm clear night in a city where we only have six warm clear nights in a year’s time.
I’d done book events before (for How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed, Ask Me About My Divorce, and the Modern Love anthology), but I’d never organized an event where nearly 20 of the writers in the collection were going to be present. I was a little perplexed in the early planning stages about how to include everyone. Did everyone want to be included? How many writers would want to read? How many readings could the audience’s attention span allow? And especially–because I have been the teacher to all the writers involved in the anthology–how to be fair?
I decided to do a short introduction, followed by four readings limited to five minutes each and then a Q and A with a randomly selected panel. I used a random number generator to select the four panelists ahead of time (like I said the fair thing always worries at me), and then at the reading I asked audience members to select four names from a glass. The drawback of doing the audience draw was that all the writers had to prepare a five-minute reading ahead of time unless they asked not to be included in the draw, but the pay off was big. The audience liked the drawing and it added a lot of drama and excitement to the event. Natalie Singer, Amber Wong, Laura Hebert and Heather Lee Patrick–all alum of my UW Extension Writing the Memoir course–all read and did a terrific job.
There were a lot of great audience questions for the Q and A panel, composed of Eve M. Tai, Elizabeth Corcoran Murray, Abigail Carter, Amber Wong and myself such as: “Does a story get better when you rewrite it?” (asked by a girl who looked about 11) “Have you started writing more on a daily level since you took the course?” and “How do you inspire novice writers to open up and write about themselves?”
Afterwards, people bought books (quite a few!) and writers signed them. And, it was good.