WHEN I GOT OUT has been published, but my work on it – a different kind of work – has just begun. I’ve been spreading the word about my book wherever I can.
I had two book readings/signings over the weekend – at Book Soup in West Hollywood and at the Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada – and they were terrifically successful. I think that people liked the sections I read.
Some of it was from the end of Chapter One --
I woke up in a sweat. Was I ever asleep?
I threw off my covers, staggered to the window, and opened it. It took me a moment to reclaim my senses. I cursed myself: if I’m going to deal with the future, I couldn’t stay stuck in the past.
I took a few deep breaths and recovered my sense of reality. Despite everything that was still spinning in my head, I was lucky, and I knew it. I was out of prison, something I thought might never happen. And whenever I need to, I could open the window—a window without bars!—and look up at the open sky and breathe fresh air, with nothing between the world and me. For years, that was something that was denied to me. Now, anytime I want, night or day, I can look up at the open sky—my sky!— and have a Moment of Grace and Thanks. All I have to do is look up at the sky, and I’m a new man—at least, for the moment—free from my past and ready for the demands of “normal” life in this complicated, stressful, relentless new world.
How could I have known then that, a short time later, from a most unexpected source, my life would again be in jeopardy, just as it had been all those years behind bars?
It was wonderful to read my words out loud, surrounded by my family, friends, neighbors, and the occasional stranger.
The reading at Book Soup was so successful that WHEN I GOT OUT vaulted to the top of its Best Sellers List. It’s amusing to see me listed over Margaret Atwood, but I’ll take it. With a mountain of salt. Hell, she didn’t show up with wine and snacks.
The reading at Flintridge Bookstore was wonderful, too. It was great to see my friends and neighbors come out for me. I’ve been living in the same house, same neighborhood, for thirty years; I’ve been growing some deep roots here, making true friends. And it felt good to read here in La Canada, the place I love so much, where the book was written.
I did an interview on with Tony DuShane for his podcast DRINKS WITH TONY (drinkswithtony.com) which was a total blast. We sat and bull-shat for an hour about books and life on a lovely patio in Los Feliz. We talked about Tolstoy and Michael Jackson, Jehovah’s Witnesses and “disfellowship,” cemeteries and cities, and my book, too. A smart, funny guy.
Today, I talked to Steve Richards on his SPEAKING OF WRITERS show, available on speakaingofwriters.com and on multiple Capitol Region radio stations in the Albany, New York area on Sunday mornings. A shorter interview, but more focused on the book and my writing. Ten, fifteen minutes went by very quickly.
I’ll keep updating about when these interviews will be available. I know that I’ll be interested to hear them, at least for a short while. I’ll probably cringe at the sound of my voice – “I sound like that?” – and turn them off.
It’s been fun, preparing for these interviews, answering potential questions. What is my writing process? … Who are my favorite writers? … Did I plan to write a sequel to WHAT IT WAS LIKE? … What are my feelings about prison reform? … How much research did I do for the book, and what kind?
This preparation forces me to be specific about my actions and desires. Sometimes, writers don’t like to be specific about their work, and let the work speak for itself. I’m half in that camp, but I realize I have to put myself out there and occasionally be specific – even reductive -- to get my book some attention. Eventually, the book will live or die on its own merits, but for now, I have to give it some TLC to get it in front of the public with so many other books and movies/TV shows/podcasts/music/ everyday life competing for attention.
Thank goodness a book like mine has a slow roll-out. It can take months, even years for a book to catch on, but I have to do what I can right now. When the Tiny Goddess was releasing movies, everything was revealed on the first Friday. (In fact, everything depended on the 5:00 show.) I have time to get the word out about WHEN I GOT OUT. It’s a long book; easy to read, but long. And it will take some time for readers to react. It’s OK: I have time.
Thousands of books are published every week, but this one is mine. I put so much time -- and blood, sweat, and tears – into it that I have to give it a chance.
With all this activity, it’s hard to find time to work on my new project … but I do. Which keeps me happy, too.