Will Travel For Words: Signings & Stories by Karen A. Chase
I traveled to Portland, Oregon this month to see family and visit an old friend. When I knew we were going to visit, I decided to combine it with a book-signing event–a great way to combine a bit of business with a pleasure trip.
A charming boutique, Oblation Papers & Press, has been carrying my travel memoir among their French-inspired items. They are the first store on the west coast to carry Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log and the owner, Jennifer Rich, wholeheartedly agreed to host a Bonjour Paris Affair event. They included 20% discounts on all things French and I threw in a free French macaron from the local Pearl Bakery with each book. I even bought a new hat in Portland’s Bonnet Boutique for the occasion. How was the book signing? Slow. Although Saturdays are typically busy for the store, it turned out to be an incredibly quiet weekend for everyone in downtown Portland. The area had gorgeous sunny weather after a long bout of cold rain. The sudden 70º weather sent shoppers to outdoor cafés and to the mountains and parks to go hiking and biking. Was I disappointed?
At first, yes, but then something happened.The readers who did visit had gone out of their way to do so. Instead of being rushed to sign a stack of books, we took the time to talk. We shared travel adventures, Paris stories, and our immense longing to return to the City of Lights. Instead of being behind a desk with a pen in hand, we were chatting over cookies. I was hugging readers goodbye. I posed for pictures with two of them, one of whom turned out to be a blogger and writer who I will now follow, too.
In between the visitors, I also discovered more about the ladies of Oblation Papers & Press. Mary and Angie and I talked about places we loved to travel. Angie shared her favorite travel adventure book, The Coat Route, and it now tops my to-read list. Alicia graciously took photos. Miranda and I swooned over the idea of a wild-safari adventure in Africa and camping out under the stars near elephants. Jodi, who lives two blocks from the store, positively glowed as she listed off all the chocolate, bagel, bakery and café places that make her downtown Portland a foodie-travelers dream.
A while back I read that in order for a creative to make a living–author, designer, musician, etc.–you need to acquire 1000 true fans. You don’t have to write the blockbuster novel, you just have to produce solid work, and then find 1000 people who wholeheartedly believe in what you do. Those folks will buy everything you produce, they’ll show up to every event, and they’ll tell everyone about you.
You could say that my stop here in Portland added to that number, but to merely say I added a dozen or so people to my 1000 fans sounds cold to me. What happened in that charming little store, amid the French stationary and macarons on a quiet Saturday afternoon, was warmer than the weather.
I now see how an author can inspire another writer. How two strangers both in love with the same distant city, can speak as if they’ve known one another forever. How building romantic plans of seeing a pride of lions in the wild tomorrow, is just as important for the soul as reading a good book today. I see how building relationships and sharing dreams with my newest readers over a French cookie, is far more important than making fans out of them.
So, now I’ve returned from Portland having spent precious time with family and friends. I have a new hat upon my head, and the city feels more like a home than an away place. With a few stories from new friends tucked in my pocket, I have once again fortunately traveled for words.
Karen A. Chase is a regular contributor to Shelf Pleasure, sharing journeys near and far in the pursuit of stories and novels in her monthly feature, Will Travel for Words. She is the author of Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log, winner of seven Independent Book Publishing Awards for travel and design. She is currently working on an historical novel set during the American Revolution. Find Karen on Facebook, or on Twitter.
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