Preparation: Find a bookstore like Booktowne, where everyone’s friendly and supportive. It’s not a bad thing if the store is on the small side–it doesn’t take much to make a small store feel crowded with friends and family and all kinds of readers.
Prepare a giveaway for the day of the event and deliver it to the store.
Day of: Have your husband surprise you with flowers at the exact moment that you have a Kitchen Aid mixer crisis involving a wedged-in bowl, sugar sprayed all over the floor, and a locking mechanism that won’t unlock. Your husband will, with minimal effort, unwedge the bowl. (You’ll have to clean up the spilled sugar yourself.)
Find something to wear. When you are panicking about your planned-to-wear sleeveless dress on the first autumnal day of the year, peek in your daughter’s closet while she’s in school and be grateful you bought her that short gray sweater.
Bake. If you’re not serving a cake with your book’s cover on it (as I did at my first launch), bake cookies! They’re easy. Use this recipe. Invest in a cookie cutter that matches the title or theme of your book.
Note: If you choose a balloon, be advised there will be smartasses along the way who ask why you chose to shape your cookies like fish. Further note: this is the kind of thought a smartass should keep to himself.
Upon arriving at bookstore, notice that there’s a gorgeous, happy bouquet of (not water) balloons. Think how this is the best bookstore of all time, and then shift to think this is the most thoughtful editor of all time when you realize she had them delivered to the store for your event. (This won’t change your belief that this is the best bookstore of all time.)
Now it gets tricky. If you’re a gamer, go have a real water balloon fight outside. If, however, you don’t want to do your reading and talk and signing with wet hair, and if you really like the dress you’re wearing and don’t want to change into the other one that you brought just in case, go outside and pretend to have a water balloon fight with your kids and some of their friends.
Be advised that because high school boys are involved, this will turn into a real water balloon fight at some point. Be sure to get out of the line of fire. Preserve your dress.
Right around this time, it’s okay to start panicking that not enough people are showing, because it turns out they’re all just a little late. Eat cookies. Drink sparkling cider and lemonade.
Spend some time talking to Rita, the fabulous owner of the fabulous bookstore, and one of the few people in attendance you’re very happy to be photographed with because you’re about the same height. Chat with Maribeth Pelly, Booktowne’s author-event planner, who helped create a perfect launch. (She is much taller and thus not pictured.)
Enjoy the moment, to the best of your ability, when all in attendance lift their glasses (filled with sparkling beverages). You will blush when Rita toasts you with very kind words but maybe people are looking at Rita and not you.
Sit in the rocking chair. Read from your book. Talk a bit about how you came to write it. Answer questions, including the funny one from your son’s friend, wondering if this book, about a thirteen-year-old girl, is, in fact, based on him and your sixteen-year-old son.
When a table appears out of nowhere, sit in the accompanying chair and begin to sign books. You may be astounded to be signing for teachers and the librarian from your daughter’s school, old friends, new friends, beloved writer-friends, parents and siblings of your son’s friends, your daughter’s friends. And people you’ve never seen before.
Here’s the part that might not be easy to pull off. Do this when your daughter’s at an age that allows her to still think you’re something special. You will feel her light radiating all night. You will be reminded of words your friend spoke a year ago, a friend who’s there in the room with you, a friend who also lost her mother. Who made you think about mother-daughter connections as a continuum, the way our relationships with our beloved mothers are sustained through our love for our daughters.
And when it’s time to choose a winner of the prize basket you delivered earlier in the week, selecting from all the names of those in attendance, your daughter will pull the name of one of your son’s friends. Not a shy one. You will appreciate the way he acts as though he won a pageant and the Nobel Peace Prize on the same day.
Be sure to thank everyone for coming. For making it such a special night. Make sure they know you really mean it. Send special thanks to your husband for all of the above, and for taking great pictures, too.