Monday, June 8, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

Just break a bottle of champagne over my forehead, will you?

Tonight (Monday evening) is the “official” launch for Cut, Crop & Die, the second book in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series. I’ll be giving a presentation at 7 p.m. at Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid, near downtown St. Louis. We’ll be signing books and serving wine and cheese.

I’m debating on whether to read something out of my book—which I’ll probably do—or do a Blanche DuBois imitation, because that’s a bit more honest. You see, lately, I’ve really been dependent on the kindness of strangers.

It began last Wednesday afternoon, when Joe Fox, the 20-year-old son of our dear friends in Charleston SC drove into town. “Joseph, do you have a place to stay?” I asked.

“No, ma’am. I thought I’d just find a hotel,” he said.

“Okay, come over to our house. David and Michael are on the East Coast. We’ve got plenty of room,” I said. “But I might disappear after dinner because I’m heading for Dallas the next morning.”

After Joe and I had fantastic steaks at Andria’s in Chesterfield, it occurred to me that I had no way to get to the airport without my husband or son being in town. So I asked Joe if he could drop me off. I held my breath because despite being incredibly polite, Joe is, after all, not much more than a teenager. They HATE mornings. But the next a.m., he was up with the birds, pulling my big suitcase to his car before I knew it.

At the airline gate, I noticed a friend of mine, Marilyn, who works for Build-a-Bear. We started chatting and walking onto the plane. But my paper boarding pass didn’t go through. The plane was headed for Seattle and I was bound for Dallas-Fort Worth. Oops. I stepped to one side. Then a pilot who watched this said, “Uh, your plane is boarding RIGHT NOW, next gate over.”

I got to my hotel in Arlington TX with only a slight detour. My driver was new to this country, and he got a bit lost.

I was staring at all the six boxes of books I’d sent ahead when couple of nice ladies noticed me in the foyer. “We’re going over to the scrapbook show. Want a ride?” These sweeties actually helped me load books and drove me over. When my bag of trail mix—my lunch, breakfast and dinner—burst open in their car, they were very nice. They helped me make sure I didn’t have a big raisin glued to my butt.

At the show, Sally Slack, the event goddess, allowed me the perfect spot to set up: Right in front of the ladies’ johns and the food court. My table neighbors—Susie Rushing and her daughter Rebekah of—loaned me a BIG cart when they heard my dilemma. The next morning, a wonderful taxi driver helped me haul five boxes of books (weighing 40 lb each) and my teaching kits (50 lbs) into the convention center. I have no idea how Arlington TX thinks a convention center works because there are lots of stairs and little/no helpers.

At 8 a.m. on Friday, I taught my first class. We had oodles of fun.

I went back to my table and opened the five boxes of books, 36 per box. My pal Terri Thayer counseled me that she usually sells about 200 books at a convention. I sold 108 in 3 hours, by myself, processing both cash and credit card payments. I use a crayon to rub over the numbers. (It’s low tech but it works!)

Over the weekend, I sold 216 books in total. That's a photo of me and Pat Coates, one of the lovely scrappers I met. I taught 2 classes of 20 people each. I revisited some “old” pals from the scrapbook industry. I met some new friends. Folks who read Paper, Scissors, Death dropped by expressly to buy Cut, Crop & Die. The scrapbookers who bought PSD on Thursday started raving in classes and to their roommates, which drove more traffic to my table. Scrapbookers shared meals with me, reminisced with me, gave me rides, encouraged me, and cheered me on. There are no kinder people on earth.

Monday I’ll celebrate with my book-loving friends and family and author pals here in St. Louis. But the glow I'll wear comes directly from my weekend in Dallas.


Terri Thayer said...

Wow, you did great. Processing yourself takes a lot more time. I can just sign, smile and point them to the cash register.

Glad you had such angels in your life just when you needed them. A good reminder for all of us.

Camille Minichino said...

Congratulations, Joanna, and Lucky Dallas!

Betty Hechtman said...

Congratulations on your book coming out, Joanna. How nice that so many people helped you. You certainly sold an impressive amount of books.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Sometimes it was pretty comical. Either I'd forget to take the $$ or forget which book I signed. But everyone was so kind. Honestly, people like to help each other, and I need to be more willing to be helped, as I certainly need it these days.

But Terri, your count was right on, and you were so correct that people love to buy series.