I'll be in Hyannis this Friday, July 9th at the Cape Code Writers Conference Breakfast with the Authors. The event will be at the Cape Codder Resort in Hyannis starting at 9:30AM. Authors Spencer Quinn and Lynn Kiele Bonasia will be there with me. Please come if you're in the area. Click here for all the details
Labor Day can be a sad time in New England. Summer is over, the kids are back in school. Though fall is our prettiest season, we all realize what is coming. Last winter was a bad one where we live. We had over ninety inches of snow, a record for our coastal city. I don’t know anyone who is looking forward to winter this year.
This Labor Day, I began my book tour for the paperback version of The Lace Reader. By the time I return to New England, summer will be long gone. And, while I hate to leave those last few beach days, I am very excited by the idea of visiting new places and making new friends. So, if we haven’t met, and my tour takes me anywhere near you, please consider coming. The bookstores I’m visiting are some of the best. And we always have a lot of fun at these events.
Our first stop on the tour is Seattle. We arrived this afternoon and were given a brief but informative tour of the city. It was raining hard. While we weren’t surprised (isn’t that what it does in Seattle?) we were told that this was unusual. Mist, yes, full on rain is evidently not as common. An hour later, the rain was gone, and the streets were filled with happy people. This seems an almost perfect city.
The hotel we’re staying at is great. It’s right in the middle of the city, we can walk to just about everything. And you have to love a place that asks you upon arrival if you’d care to have a pet sent to your room. We now have a lovely goldfish named Trixie.
Tonight (Tuesday) at 7 PM, we will be at Village Books in Bellingham. If you are in the area, please stop by. Tomorrow we head to San Francisco.
P.S. The back of Trixie's name card notes that she's able to call room service and order food so there's no need for us to feed her. Smart fish.
The past year was challenging for most of us on so many levels. For me, it was also the realization of a long-held dream with the publication of The Lace Reader and the subsequent book tour that lasted four months and allowed me to meet some wonderful people along the way. It's inspiring to travel around the country and experience the intelligence and kindness of strangers. These person-to-person contacts convince me that there's much that we can accomplish together.
Here's to a 2009 that's better for all of us.
The Lace Reader has been chosen by Barnes and Noble as their January "New Reads" book club pick. I will be on line every day starting on the 5th. If you'd like to join the discussion, click here.
Also, The Lace Reader has been chosen by Book Bloggers as one of the top 10 books of 2008. Below is their contemporary fiction list. To see the books in other categories, click here.
Contemporary Literature All About Lulu by Jonathan Evison Gardens of Water by Alan Drew The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry Matrimony by Joshua Henkin The House at Riverton by Kate Morton Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Tonight and tomorrow night are my last scheduled public book signings in Massachusetts for 2008. We had a wonderful event at the Borders in Peabody last night. It was a large crowd and almost everyone had read the book so it quickly turned into a lively book club meeting where we could discuss everything about "The Lace Reader. If you'd like to join the conversation, please stop by one of the events listed below.
10/29 SALEM, MA/Cornerstone Books/Halloween Event 7pm
10/30 GLOUCESTER, MA/Bookstore of Gloucester/Speaking & Signing 7pm
The first stop on my tour was Los Angeles. Since Gary and I met in LA, and lived there for almost twenty years, it was like visiting our history, a homecoming of sorts. I always tell people that I was raised in Massachusetts but that I grew up in LA. I think that's pretty accurate. In any case, there was a certain feeling of comfort as the plane landed at LAX, and I was thankful for it. Losing my mother has been very difficult, going to LA was a visit to a different part of my history.
We had an author's escort, Cindy, someone who knew the bookstores well and was able to navigate the tangled freeways better than I could have. Our first stops were to sign stock. We went to many of the stores where my appearances had been cancelled due to my mother's illness. They were incredibly understanding and welcoming. At The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood, they have a real jail register that originally came from Sacramento. All of the authors who visit sign the book, and plead their case. They ask why you were arrested. I said it was for stealing sheep. Someone once told me that my family had been kicked out of Ireland for stealing sheep. They ask for your reason. I like sheep. Simple... This is a great bookstore. If you get a chance, go by. I asked for a book to read on the plane, and they recommended a great one, exactly what I had in mind. I am never disappointed when I ask a bookstore to recommend.
The next stop was at Vroman's in Pasadena. This was one of my favorite book stores when I lived in Los Feliz.
I then signed stock at Borders in Pasadena, another favorite haunt. We then left LA and drove down to Orange County to Fullerton to see the Red Hats. For those of you who have not read my book, the Red Hats, though minor characters play a very important role in "The Lace Reader." I had to find a group of women, who would have been both clients at Eva's tearoom and might have also been her friends. I needed a group strong enough to stand up to Cal Boynton and unafraid of the consequences. The Red Hats were perfect. Outrageous, fun loving, yet feisty, they act as a bit of a Greek Chorus in my story.
The event was at the Red Hat Society Store in Fullerton. It was my first public appearance since my mother died, and, frankly, I wasn't certain how I would do when I started to speak. But the store itself has a way of lifting one's spirits: Pink couches, purple boas, red lace gloves. A wild and beautiful place, this was definitely a different world. It drew me in completely.
I was introduced to Sue Ellen Cooper, the founder of the Red Hats and their Exalted Queen Mother. She directed me to sit next to her. She knew about my mother and expressed her condolences. And then something strange happened. In a wonderfully hypnotic reversal, I became almost a character in my own book, and, just as they were able to do with the grieving woman in "The Lace Reader, the Red Hatters surrounded me and made me smile and laugh for the first time in many weeks. I will be forever grateful that my first event after Mom's passing was with these lovely and spirited women.
After Fullerton, it was on to the Borders in Torrance to sign more stock, then a quick stop in Redondo Beach where I met Terry Gilman, one of the owners of Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego. She was great, and I signed some stock for the store. I've made a note to make sure I get to the Mysterious Galaxy when I'm down in San Diego in October.
I have two events in the coming days that I'm very much looking forward to as I haven't visited any portion the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Katrina or the recent hurricanes. If you are in the area, please stop by as I'd love to hear firsthand from residents what life is now like in this storied and unique part of our country. 9/25 NEW ORLEANS, LA/Garden District Bookshop/Speaking & Signing 5 PM
9/26 JACKSON, MS/Lemuria Books/Speaking & Signing 5 PM
My mother, June Welch Barry, passed away Saturday morning. My brother, my husband, and I were all at her bedside. My mother had the misfortune of being diagnosed with severe Rheumatoid Arthritis at the early age of 45. She courageously and uncomplainingly battled the disease for an astonishing 37 years. Eventually, RA took from her the use of her hands, feet, arms, and legs, until she could no longer walk, dress, feed or care for herself. Her specialist deemed it one of the worst cases of RA that they had ever seen. As her daughter, I saw both her distress and her dignity. I was lucky enough to see her almost every day for the last three years of her life and, before that, to act as a part-time caregiver. These last weeks, many of our family held vigil with my mother. Her friends came from all over to sit at her bedside to share stories of their time with June and what it meant to them.
Time can steal those things which are subject to its laws. But it has no sway over the heart. Hers was strong, heroic, silly, and loving. My sadness is broken by the dreams I have of her now, healthy once more. I see her dancing with my father to some old favorite tune, some Fred and Ginger favorite. She is graceful and happy.
One of June's last wishes was for me to return to the book tour as soon as possible. My mother was an inspiration for The Lace Reader, very much like Eva, very much a lady in the old sense but with a special gift for predicting the future. She didn't read lace, but she could often tell the future. She told me early on that this book would do well, and it has.
Though it is difficult, and I'm not sure how to do it, I am heading out tonight confident that my mother's inspiration will guide me.
On the day before I was to head out West, my mother, June, became seriously ill. She is now in hospice care and I am staying with her for the duration. I was so looking forward to meeting everyone in Seattle, Bellingham, and the San Francisco Bay area. I hope that we can see each other sometime in the near future.
So much is uncertain right now that I can't say when things will resume but when more is known, I'll announce it here.
Thanks in advance for understanding.
For the last month, I've logged over 2,000 miles driving around the New England area to bookstores and libraries for events. I've kept a photo diary of these events, click here if you'd like to see it. However, for the next three weeks, I'll take to the air and head out to the West coast.
Here are the first two stops on the West coast tour:
9/7 Seattle, WA at the Seattle Public Library (Secret Garden Bookshop) on Sunday at 2PM
9/8 Bellingham, WA at Village Books on Monday at 7PM
I'll be speaking, signing, and taking questions so please stop by if you can.
After Washington state, I'll be in the San Francisco Bay area and in and around Los Angeles. Then I'm off to Colorado, Arizona, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
I hope to see you soon.
A few days ago, I was in South Hadley, MA at the wonderful Odyssey Bookstore to speak about The Lace Reader and to do a signing. One of the attendees brought in a piece of lace she was making (in the photo, it's attached to her lace maker's pillow.) Having tried and failed to make lace myself, I'm always in awe of anyone who can nimbly toss the stick-like bobbins back and forth and end up with something so beautiful and delicate. Another lace maker in the audience remarked that lace making is not very complex, reducing the process to it's most simple. "You take two threads and you either go over one or go under the other. "
While what she said is absolutely true, my failed attempt tied not only the piece I was working on into knots but my mental state as well. I ended up putting my work (with bobbins still attached) into a hatbox and shoving the whole thing to the back of my closet with all the other treasures I plan to fix or complete.
So I am thrilled when the lace makers come to one of my signings, and even happier when they embrace the book. Lace makers are true artists, and they are all around the country. So if you get a chance to see a demonstration, or even to try lace making yourself, I encourage you do it. Who knows? Like the Whitney women, you might even see a vision in the lace.
My national book tour began a few days ago at the House of the Seven Gables, in the shadow of the masterful Hawthorne. The Lace Reader is set in Salem, and it has been embraced by the city and by the staff of the House of Seven Gables, in particular by Anita Blackaby, the executive director of the famous domicile. After reading my book, Anita emailed and invited me over for a visit. Not only did they want to help to make my book successful, but they also wanted to create a Lace Reader litera-tour so that many of the places in the book could easily be located by readers visiting Salem. And, upon finding out that my second book will be set on the same street as the Gables, Anita offered me writing space in their beautiful gardens. What a delight! I can't thank her enough.
Cornerstone Books in Salem hosted the event which took place in two parts. The first was my reading, a presentation, Q&A, and a signing. Then later, in the gardens, there was a reception to benefit HAWC, a local group that helps abused women and children, a fitting pairing since my fictional story deals with an island shelter for such victims.
The event was sold out, so Cornerstone hosted another, earlier signing. It was warm and muggy plus I was a little nervous. Ben Bruton, my publicist from William Morrow, kept me cool and calm by telling me stories of his visit to Salem, most particularly about his witnessing of a tourist attraction called Cry Innocent which is mentioned in my novel. In this guerilla theater reenactment (which runs several times a day during the summer months), Bridget Bishop (Salem's first of the accused) is literally dragged through the streets, then tried for witchcraft all over again, giving the tourists a chance to act as the jury and perhaps to change the historical outcome. On this afternoon, a particularly hot one, tourists were hard to come by, so another local actor (who was playing a fully costumed giant slurpee for a shop on the corner) tried to help, grabbing Bridget by the arm. The image that Ben created of the giant slurpee dragging Bridget down the street, while the young actress stayed in perfect period character vehemently protesting her innocence, made me laugh out loud. I realized once again why I love this place. These are my people: from Hawthorne, to HAWC, to the giant Slurpee, - what a great city!
To learn more about The House of Seven Gables, click here.
To learn more about HAWC, click here.
Last Saturday night, we hosted a party on The Friendship, a reconstruction of a171-foot three-masted 1797 Salem East Indiaman which is moored at Derby Wharf, in Salem. The most amazing magic trick of the evening was that there was no rain. We felt extremely lucky because the four previous days were what Eva (the original lace reader) would have called "nice weather for ducks." The party was for family, friends, and all those who had championed the book in some way. Some of the local witches actually brought pieces of lace they are learning to read. They spent a good portion of the evening gazing through the lace into people's faces and predicting their futures (this in spite of the fact that I told them that lace reading is something I made up). A group of re-enactors in full 18th century sailor costumes roamed the decks singing sea shanties and spilling grog (mostly Miller Lite). All in all, about a hundred friends and family celebrated a clear and starlit sky, the beautiful evening sea breezes, and the dream that had brought us all together. Tomorrow is July 29th, the day The Lace Reader goes on sale. I feel a bit like Wendy Darling on her last night in the nursery. My national book tour also begins tomorrow and, according to my recent schedule, it will last until mid-November so for the foreseeable future, I'll be writing to you from somewhere on the road.
The press is building, loud enough now for even me to hear a bit of the buzz.
If you haven't seen the book trailer, click here.