When my previous books were published, I did readings and signings at bookstores, coffee shops, and literary events. Beforehand, I was always a bit nervous making sure I had books, bookmarks, credit card payment stuff, signage, and a pen. Once I was there, though, I was in my element. I love the contact with readers, talking about books and writing, reading some of my writing aloud, and answering questions. There’s something wonderful about being enveloped in a world you love. So much of writing is solitary, full of self-doubt, that being in a room full of readers who appreciate that you are there feels great.
These events were more than selling books, although that part was great, too. It was a celebration of the entire process of being an author, like playing the big game after weeks of grueling practice. I remember my son playing football for the first time in high school. The team started weeks before school started, practicing for hours in the blazing sun. Then school started and they practiced for hours after school. He was tired and wanted to give up. I told him he had to wait until game day, when he wore his jersey to school with pride and played in a real game. That’s how author events are to me, the culmination of the agony of drills and scrimmages.
My most recent book, The Aloha Spirit, came out in August of Pandemic Year, 2020. I had planned a magnificent community event at the local square near the library. The usual Movie Night attraction would be Moana, and the adults would be served mai tais and/or pineapple juice. I wanted to order sugar cookies decorated with my book cover picture. I would talk about the book, then do a signing and, of course, sell them. It was going to be a fabulous time!
It didn’t happen.
I quickly became proficient at Zoom, which I had never used before the pandemic. I Zoomed for writer meetings, conferences, and book clubs. I enjoyed seeing everyone, but it wasn’t the same as meeting face to face. There’s something impersonal about being able to leave a meeting with a click instead of actually getting up to leave a room. People pay less attention on Zoom because their real lives surround them. At an event, the event is the top attraction. Having said all that, I am thankful that I was able to meet via Zoom instead of not at all. If anything, a year without in-person interaction has proven to me how important hugs are, and how important interactions with real people are to my wellbeing.
As the world opens back up, I look forward to browsing bookstores again. I hope my local indie bookstores survived and will plan in-person author events. The library will open and my book club will resume real life meetings. There will still be masks and distancing for quite a while, I’m sure, and maybe fewer people until more are vaccinated. After a break from screens, I hope book clubs are willing to meet via Zoom with authors that are far away. I really enjoyed meeting with a book club in Hawaii! I look forward to attending and presenting at conferences in person, but I also hope that conferences offer some kind of virtual experience. That way I can attend and present at more of them.
No one will argue that the world has changed in the last year. I hope, going forward, that we can continue to participate in what was wonderful about Zoom access, even as we gather once more in real life.