by Maria Schulz
Did you ever get to do something you’d always dreamed of doing? No, I didn’t climb Mount Everest (too cold and too dangerous…I fall a lot), or win the Noble Peace Prize (I could never beat out someone like Mother Theresa), or even do a cooking show on the Food Network (if I was on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, I might get so excited that I’d set the kitchen on fire). For me, that dream was publishing my book and having a book reading.
On TV or in the movies, the author walks into a packed room and the crowd bursts into applause. Everyone adores the author and wants to buy eight million copies of his or her books. The author spends the night feverishly signing books until his/her hand almost falls off. Then he/she walks away a millionaire, back to his/her loft in Brooklyn.
What would my author visit be like? What if NO ONE SHOWED UP? Hold on though…it’s a book about my family! Of course they would show up. But…would anyone else? What if strangers came, and they DIDN’T LAUGH…or what if they threw tomatoes at me?
I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be when the day finally arrived. And then…it began to snow. My phone started buzzing with regrets, and I worried that my worst fears would come true.
“It’s such a terrible night outside,” the library coordinator, Beth, said to me when we arrived. “You’ll be lucky if a couple of people show up, or if you even sell 3 or 4 books.”
My daughter and I went back out to the car to put the extra box of books away.
“You’ll sell more than 4 books!” Paige said.
“Thanks,” I replied, although I wasn’t so sure.
We went back inside and saw my Catholic school friend and her daughter standing at the door.
“Michele! Thank you for coming!”
“I wouldn’t miss it!” she replied, as she introduced her daughter, Emily, to me.
Seeing them made me feel so much better. Up to that point, I felt like a girl standing alone at a party, waiting for someone to ask for a dance. But now, at least 2 people were there, and they wanted to “dance” with me!
My husband and daughters stood with me, greeting people as they arrived. Friends from all walks of my life came through the door, including the wife of my 9th grade English teacher (who took a train and then had her friend drive her all the way to the library just so they could be there); work pals (including Grace, my wonderful book designer); friends from the neighborhood (my book club, religion classes, bowling buddies, and my husband’s best friends); and of course, my father, brothers, sisters-in-law, nephew, niece, and cousin Tom, who got stuck in rush hour traffic for four hours! What was even more amazing was that people I didn’t even know came in, smiling and eager to hear about my book. I felt like George Constanza from Seinfeld. Yes, the worlds were colliding!
At 7:30 p.m,, Beth introduced me. I thanked my husband, girls, family and friends for always supporting me. I also thanked the people who didn’t know me at all for coming on such a snowy night. Then, I said:
“I started writing Tales From A Hungry Life ten years ago to capture all the memories that I shared with my family as the only sister living with 6 brothers. I wrote it after reading memoirs like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. I enjoyed them but I thought: these people are crazy, and not in a good way. I wanted to read about a family that was crazy in a good way…so I wrote about my family. Of course I also included recipes, because food was always a big part of our lives.”
When I was done talking about my book, I invited my cousin Tom, my brothers Chris, Jude, Lou, and Joe, and my father, Lou, up to the stage with me. We each took the scripts I’d prepared and sat down on the edge of the stage as we started to read from my book.
We read about my Uncle Don and his hilarious way of facing life’s pitfalls. We read about our childhood pets, Goldie and Henry. We even read about our mother, and how she always had her favorites. The crowd laughed in all the right places; sometimes, it was the 7 of us up on stage that started laughing. My father jumped up and acted his heart out as he relived certain moments. The crowd was laughing! They were enjoying it! No one threw tomatoes (I was wearing red, just in case) or booed.
When it came to the Q&A part, I passed the mic around. We all answered questions about the book, which stories my brothers thought hit the mark, what was missing, and what I should include in the next book. We even sent the microphone into the crowd so my brother Tony could answer a question too. Then, Jude said:
“Even though this book is about Maria’s life, it gets you thinking about your own childhood. While you’re laughing at her memories, you’re enjoying your own. That’s the best part of it.”
At the end of the evening, I got to sign dozens of books and thank a very enthusiastic, happy crowd. I was fortunate enough to have over 50 people show up, I signed books until I thought my hand would fall off, and we sold 26 copies.
I may not have a loft in Brooklyn, but as my grandmother would have said, I’m a millionaire without a million..
Recipe: Fresh Tomato Recipes
Because tomatoes are for eating, not for throwing! Try this tomato stack and you’ll agree that tomatoes are great year-round.
So Hungry Lifers…did you ever get to do something you always dreamed about? Have you read my book yet? Thanks to everyone who came out on that snowy night and to those who were there in spirit. Let’s do it again real soon!