How I Survived My First Book Festival: A Long Day in the Life of Short Leash by Janice Gary
I’m standing behind my table at Cincinnati’s Book by the Banks Festival with my little pile of books, my bone-shaped candy and a big smile on my face that says, “I won’t bite. Come on over. Take a look.”
A few people walk by, then a pair of women who are drawn to the cover like flies to honey. “This looks like my dog,” one of them says. “A dog book?”
Well, yes and no, I say. Short Leash has a dog in it – my lovable, difficult Lab-Rottweiler Barney – but it’s a book about how the both of us learned to face our fears and walk out of the past together. It’s a love story in a way, and a tale of a fantastic journey that began as a walk in the park.
I start to tell the story. They smile and walk on. The author next to me is an old hand at book festivals by now. Her book is about recovering from breast cancer, but it has a fun title and lots of pink on the cover. She compliments one woman walking by with a pink ribbon on her sweater, then offers a Hershey’s kiss to the darling little girl holding her hand.
While I stand behind my table watching people pass, I silently thank the book designer for sticking to her guns to keep the dog front and center. A man and a woman slow down before my table. The woman points to the cover and says, “Doesn’t that look just like Max?”
We begin talking dogs before I turn the conversation back to the book. She picks up the cover and studies the quotes on the back. “What’s it about?”
This is the question that both thrills and terrorizes writers. How do you break down what your book is about in a few words? My story is not a simple one. There’s a lot of ground I have to cover to get to the heart of the subject matter. So I begin at the beginning.
“A short leash,” I tell her. “Both the one I had to keep my dog on – and the one I kept myself on.” Now at this point, some people nod politely and drift back off into the aisles. But some, like this woman, lean in closer.
I tell her how the book is about walking out of fear. And finding the courage to leave the past behind. It’s about having faith in yourself and the world again. And yes, it is about a dog. About the special bond I had with a four-legged companion and how both of us leaned on each other to heal.
She tells me a little of her story, too. But only a little before saying, “I’ll take it.” It’s a magic moment, and not just because I’ve made a sale.
So much of the time, I have no idea who my readers are. But standing behind a little table in a big hall, I am beginning to get a sense of these kindred spirits.
A woman walks by and slows down. “A dog book?” she asks. “Well, yes and no,” I say. “It’s about a short leash.” And I begin all over again.
Janice Gary is the recipient of the Christine White Award for Memoir/Personal Essay and the Ames Award for Essay and is a fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. A writing teacher and memoir coach, Gary leads writing workshops throughout the U.S., including Writing the Memoir You’ve Been Dreaming About at the C.G. Jung Institute of New York City. For information: www.janicegary.com
Learn more about order your copy of Short Leash here.
Love / Hate is the spot for raves or rants on any book or reading related topic. Submit yours here.
There's nothing we love more at Shelf Pleasure than a ..
Author and Shelf Pleasure contributor Karen A. Chase on how ..
One of author Mary Miley’s favorite things about being a ..
Author and police psychologist Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D., weighs the pitfalls ..
Little known fact about Shelf Pleasure's Kristen: she's obsessed with ..
Although Debbie De Louise has been a librarian and avid ..