by Wilfred Bereswill
Well it seems like we have an open day, so I'm going to fly by the seat of my pants and see what comes of it.
Last weekend I attended the Printers Row Literary Festival in downtown Chicago. And by attending, I mean that I wasn't part of the official program, but I did have an hour slot to sign books at Big Sleep Books tent.
Friday night I packed my books, two of my daughters (the third daughter is attending a destination wedding in La Playa, Mexico) and my beautiful wife in the Family Truckster and hit the road. The drive was fairly routine and in-route I used my Blackberry to find a hotel on the outskirts of the City. Of course things were going along too smoothly and 2 1/2 miles before our exit we came to a grinding halt. Yep we could see the hotel, but we were stuck in 45 minutes of traffic for construction lane closures on the overpass of our exit.
We should have figured that was an omen.
Next morning we woke up bright and early, reloaded the Family Truckster and headed downtown. Everything seemed fairly routine, except the $30 we had to lay down for 8 hours of parking. I loaded and drug my box of 25 books (long story, but I had to supply my own books and I'll talk about that on my Monday blog) only to find out that the tent I was signing at had no room to store them. So I drag them back 6 blocks to the car and split with my family so they could go to the Shedd Aquarium. I decided to walk around to see if I could score more signing time with other booksellers. No luck of course, the schedules were set and I had my time from 5 PM to 6 PM that evening.
Through the weekend I did get to chat with a number of authors; Julie Hyzy, Barb D'Amato, Marcus Sakey, Sean Chercover, Laura Bradford, Joe Konrath, Tasha Alexander, Andrew Grant (Lee Child's brother) and a number of others who's names fail me. I always enjoy talking to other authors.
So, now the forshadowing comes into play. I decided to go have lunch with my family and listen to their adventures at the aquarium. They want to go to Navy Pier and walk along Michigan Ave and the Magnificent Mile, so we decided to go back to the car, leave our $30 pariking spot early and check into our hotel, about 1 1/2 miles away. The Residence Inn is right off the Chicago River and is a nice place. But I had to plunk down another $44 for parking (plus tip). Okay, it doesn't take a math major to calculate the $74 in parking and I'm not going to make this trip pay for itself.
The young lady behind the desk tried to convince us to pay for an upgraded room so we can stay on a "high" floor for the view. Against the kid's wishes I politley declined and we headed to our 3rd floor room. Opening the door, we were hit with an unmistakable aroma. The odor of pot, weed, or whatever it's called today. It smelled like someone had just lit up a doobie before we came in. So our next room was on the 23rd floor in the corner with an expansive view.
Remember I'm signing at 5 PM and at 3 PM the predicted cold front moves through, the temperature plummets from the 60s to the 40s and the skys open up. The cold and rain drove a lot of the crowds away while I walked the 1 1/2 miles back to the tent, dodging raindrops with my tiny travel umbrella. Being the grateful author, I dried off the table and chair, sat down with a handful of books, a stack of bookmarks, twirling my pen and watched the few people that remained.
I like watching people. I especially like watching how they react to an event. They know I'm sitting there to sell my books. The guilt kicks in and people handle it in different ways. I watch their eyes. The eyes will tell you what you need to know. Some try desparately not to make eye contact. Others want to look so badly, but they don't want to get trapped into buying a book they might not like. Others don't give a hoot and still others don't feel guilty at all and come right up to chat.
I like the last group. Honestly I know times are bad and I know my trade paperbacks are expensive. I enjoy just chatting. I did well some books and I was invited back by the bookseller to fill in a slot from 11 AM to noon on Sunday. Guess what? It rained from 9 AM until about 10:30 AM. Didn't sell a book the second go around, but that's okay. I got to people watch again and chat with some nice folks.
The ride back was uneventful On Monday I'm going to talk about life with a small publisher. See you then.