By Tom Poland
She asked, and I told her. “What’s the writing life like?”
“It’s a sentence to solitary confinement. You work in isolation for long periods, and that’s a good, peaceful day most days.”
However, the day comes when the introvert gives way to the extrovert. As the holidays approach, book events hit the calendar. In the past three days I’ve held an event and added thirty-seven to the calendar. That makes thirty events so far in 2022. Eight are on my 2023 calendar and one on my 2024 calendar. I like book signings, book talks, and festivals that invite groups of writer to meet people and sign books. It’s festive and you meet some wonderful people. It’s rare that a distasteful person attends a book event.
I write of these things because people often ask me, “What’s a day like for a writer?” I sometimes reply, “Everyday is a Monday and every night is a Saturday. No days off.” I tell a lie in a way because book events make for welcome days off. Sure, you may have a drive to make, but it’s almost always worth it.
When you give a talk it helps to do it well. Your name gets passed along. I gave a talk to the Beech Island Agricultural Club (one of America’s older societies) and an Augusta attorney in the audience passed my name along to a lady up in Richmond.
Thus in 2024, I’ll speak to the Tuckahoe Women’s Club in Richmond, Virginia, a club of about 5,000 women. Four hundred to 500 are expected for my talk. “You’ll be in fine company,” she said. “Previous speakers have been Dr. Ben Carson, Nicholas Sparks, and General Norman Schwarzkopf.” It will be a seersucker suit, bow tie type of event.
As I write this column here comes an email from an organization in Greenwood, South Carolina, inviting me to speak this October to the Star Fort Daughters of the American Revolution. This flurry of book event stands in sharp contrast to 2020 when my events dropped to just eight and most were online “Zoom” events, which I detest. I hope never to Zoom again. My zooming days have zoomed away I pray.
Who invites you to speak? I get that question as well. I’ll list a few … Civic groups like Kiwanis and Rotary, museums, colleges, libraries, private organizations such as book clubs, garden clubs, historical societies, Huguenot Societies, the DAR, Sons of Confederate Veterans camps, who are patriotic, history-loving people, Daughters of the American Colonists, and organizations supporting nature and conservation such as the Aiken Land Conservancy.
I have just one rule when I give a talk, “Nothing boring,” and I support my talks with 25 or so photographs of the back roads, Carolina bays, abandoned stores, forgotten cemeteries, and such. It makes for a vicarious journey from the comfort of a chair or banquet table.
In our age of eBooks, digital this, that, and the other, and online events, it’s comforting to know people still enjoy hearing an author discuss a real book—one you can hold in your hands, one where you catch the fragrance of paper and ink. I like to give people the story behind the book for often it’s more memorable than the book itself. And something else proves memorable: the wonderful people you make through book events. More than a few become great friends.
One final thought. A day alone spent writing is generally a good day. At my fingertips lies mankind’s crowning achievement: language.
“What’s the writing life like,” she asked, and now you know.
Visit my website at www.tompoland.net
Email me at [email protected]