Sunday, March 21, 2010

Launch Party for Split

The day finally arrived.  I got up late, trying to get my rest and so was still in my p.j.s when the first of my surprises arrived:  an enormous bouquet of balloon from the loving husband (TLH).  I'm not sure that words will do the size of this justice.  So:

They had to be delivered because they couldn't fit in my SUV.

I spent the rest of the day picking out passages to read and rehearsing them while TLH got errands done, took the kids to a birthday party, and made a lamb stew for when we got home.  Mmmm, the house smelled fantastic while I worried about whether I should read this scene or that, calling a writer friend and asking her advice.

Finally, I had my post-it notes stuck to my book, passages picked out, hair curled, and the sitter had come for the kids.  TLH and I got out of the door around 15 minutes late, but I wasn't really worried, comfortable that the wonderful caterer, The Coffee Gallery, and the stellar Loft staff had everything ready.

And did they ever.

So sophisticated...

I arrived and ran into Francine Tolf, an all around comforting person and elegant writer.  We had spent a year in the same writing program, and Francine recognized in me, a fellow reading-phobic.  She said I looked calm.

I wasn't.  But I wasn't nervous either.  I was so excited that I could not stop smiling.

I went up stairs and was greeted by Brian Malloy, a writer whose work I've admired for some time and who was gracious enough to introduce me.  I signed a book for him and thought about the first time we met when I asked him to sign his book for me.

Then people started coming.  I had asked the Loft to arrange for 30 people, figuring we could add seats.  Brian said that they had set up for 50 and I thought, well, they know this better than I do, newbie that I am.  Turns out, they had to add seats.  It was packed!

Usually, that would make me even more nervous.  Instead, I could feel the energy in the lobby feeding me.

And, then, I got the best surprise of the night.  My college roommate, Jenny, who lives in Chicago, appeared!  She had flown up just for the occasion, which was glorious enough.  But it was also deeply meaningful for me.  Jenny went into social work, interviewing sexual assault victims at the same time that I started working at the domestic violence clinic.  For three years, we walked in step, learning about professional distancing and coping with the stories we were told.  If I had a hard day and needed someone to ground me, she was the person I would call.  It was a powerful moment to have her with me as I stepped into this new career, too.

I got ready.  Brian introduced me and I went up to the podium.

If you follow this blog, you'll know that I had to learn to trick myself into public speaking and then struggled even harder with reading my own material.  So, I decided yesterday that this reading wasn't for me; it was for my readers.

And that became vibrantly evident as I stood at the podium.  So many of the audience members were not only friends, but had been a part of the journey as I wrote Split, providing me with emotional support or manuscript critiques, or acting as a sounding board, or feeding me little lines and moments for my book.  And now, they had come to celebrate with me and it gave me a chance to finally say thank you.

From the first time I read, four years ago, until now, my goal for readings had been simple:  I wanted to enjoy myself.  I reasoned that if the reader ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

And for the first time, I got it.  The reading was easy and fun.  I got some laughs, talked about all the things I wanted to say, forgetting to thank only a few people (and the Loft, of all places).  The Q & A was fantastic, with two of my friends, (Jenny and Kit, who had also worked with Domestic Violence victims) feeding me the best questions.

Post-reading, I signed books -- I have no idea what I wrote to people.  I just hope what I wrote makes sense.  (I have a book that is signed from a debut novel on her launch night that says, Swati, I can't wait to read your swati when it comes out.)

And then the reading was done, but the high was so great, that I could barely sleep, got up a few hours later, still smiling and still too excited to sleep.

Now I know I promised more about the "Split Tour" today.  Forgive me.  It will be up on Tuesday.  This post is long enough on it's own.

But I'll leave you with this:  one of my teachers, Alexs Pate, told me that getting published is like getting married.  Somehow, once those vows are said, you are different and you can never go back and you never even want to.

After last night, I see what he means.


  1. It was a great reading, Swati--just a perfect night. I was so glad to be able to attend!

  2. I love Francine! Congrats on your launch; I'm sorry I couldn't make it.