RJ Julia is to books as Nordstrom’s is to shoes. (My husband gets very nervous whenever I type a sentence like that, but it is true.) It’s filled top to bottom with interesting, intelligent people talking about books you never knew you wanted but suddenly just have to have, and I can never go home with just one. Plus, the store has hosted just about every author whose work I love. Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Hoffman, Audrey Niffeneger….truly, just shopping there is a thrill. Having a book signing there was unbelievable.
We headed to Connecticut the night before the signing to stay with friends. Lovely friends, who have three cats and no children and gifted my son with a very speedy remote control car. Do you see where I am going with this? The cats certainly did, and vanished faster than Jimmy Choos on a sales rack. (Even the three-legged one.)
My friends are also very organized, and put together a wonderful brunch and made people RSVP so that going into the signing we had a much better idea of who would be attending. Even so, there were fabulous surprises — I walked into the store and saw a woman I’d lost touch with three years ago. For a second, I thought it was just some random amazing coincidence — she’d had the urge to shop at the same time I’d been scheduled to be there — but she’d actually come on purpose for the signing. There was the friend from work, a librarian I adore but haven’t seen in years. My old neighbors. “New” neighbors from the beach. Friends who had read drafts of the book. Friends who had listened to me worry about the book. An aunt and an uncle I usually only see at funerals. My sister and her family, who drove down just for the day. Everywhere I looked, there were people I cared about looking back at me.
For me, that’s been the most amazing part of publishing a book. Not just the book itself — although that’s amazingly cool too — but the connecting with people, with family and friends and even a few random strangers who cared enough to come out. For me, that’s what books have always done — connected me with other worlds and other ideas. Being able to share my own book at a place like RJ Julia is beyond a dream come true.
At almost the end of the signing, my son, exhausted by a whole 24 hours of being on his best behavior, crept down the aisle of the packed room, leaned up against me as I stood in front of everyone, and then slumped down my leg. His timing was perfect — I’d just been asked how I balance work and family life. “Just like this,” I said, gesturing to him, which made people laugh. But what I thought, and did not say, is that I couldn’t have done it without all of you.