Saturday, June 09, 2007

Friday night book event

[Books, Etc., A Great Local Bookstore]

I haven’t been to an author’s event in quite some time. When I was finding my way as a writer, I was a regular at these events, hoping some kernel of wisdom would fall from the lips of that night’s author and would launch my sputtering writing career. Over time, I came to realize that success with my writing would only occur by practice, which meant to write at any opportunity I could find.

Once I published my own book, writer’s events became a chance to meet other writers and talk a bit about the craft and spend time with a group of peers, which is an opportunity that doesn’t always present itself.

Recently, I struck up a correspondence with a writer, who grew up in Maine, but now lives in the writing mecca of New York City. Lara Tupper, who hails from Boothbay, was giving a reading at one of Maine’s great local bookstores, Books Etc., on Exchange Street in Portland.

Having become a frequenter of MySpace, primarily to make some contacts and network, I had run across Lara and her book, A Thousand and One Nights, which is a fictional account of a young entertainer, just out of college, who lands a gig as an entertainer on a luxury cruise liner. The Maine connection immediately caught my eye and I inquired about having her endorse RiverVision Press’s latest book. Unfortunately, due to contractual issues, Lara wasn’t able to lend an endorsement for the book’s jacket, but she was gracious enough to offer a blurb on RiverVision’s behalf, to post via our website and/or use on any promotional material.

In a world of wannabes and poseurs, who pull rank and whose 15 minutes seem like an eternity, Lara came across as genuine and approachable, taking the time to call me and explain why she couldn’t endorse the book. This really showed her class and impressed me a great deal. When I received her email, announcing upcoming book events in Maine, I jotted the Friday night event in Portland on my calendar, with a commitment to be there, if at all possible.

In my new job, I find that I rarely get to Portland, after having spent a lot of time there over much of the past 15 years, with work, going out with my wife to movies, or cultural events, as well as being involved in a variety of activist organizations based in town.

It was nice walking around the Old Port, prior to the 7 pm reading, seeing the younger set, juggling and engaged in various performances in Tommy’s Park, listening to guitar players busking on the sidewalks, as well as sensing the palpable energy of the beginning of another Friday night of partying and merrymaking for many.

I arrived at Books Etc., just prior to 7 and chatted a bit with the bookstore staff. Always one of my favorite local bookstores, I had soured a bit on the store when I had some difficulty getting my own book into both the Portland and Falmouth stores. What I found out, only recently, is that I had been going through the wrong channels and all is now well between the store and RiverVision Press.

Lara was chatting with family and friends when I arrived. I introduced myself and she was very friendly and gracious, going out of her way to introduce me to her Mom, as well as other friends. While people occasionally leave Maine and acquire the traits and attitudes of their new home, it was obvious that Lara still possessed the ways of the Pine Tree State.

She spent about 20 minutes, or so, reading from the book, which sounds very interesting and should make for an interesting summer read and could very well end up being reviewed in the not-too-distant future, over at Write in Maine, as one of my summer beach books.

Always a sucker to know more about my favorite musicians, athletes and writers, I welcomed the question and answer time and Lara took a number of questions. One gentleman asked a couple of interesting questions, one in particular, which pertained to place and since she now lives “away,” did this negate her sense of Maine being home for her? Lara talked about people having a need to go away, to see other places, but she said that for her, this didn’t mean she had lost her sense that Maine is home, for her, which proves that you really can go home, again. The time she spent answering questions and talking to those in attendance revealed a very engaging writer, who really connects with her readers.

A Thousand and One Nights is somewhat autobiographical, in that Lara’s first job out of college was as a lounge singer on a cruise ship and she ended up doing this line of work for nearly 10 years. A Wesleyan grad, who did a MFA stint at Warren Wilson College, in North Carolina, she’s currently teaching writing at Rutgers University, in NYC and already planning a follow-up book to her successful debut novel. The new book will be historical fiction and will be based on the life of the wife of Paul Gauguin, which will be remarkably different than her first book and shows her obvious versatility as a writer.

I really enjoyed meeting Lara, hearing her read, as well as getting an autographed copy of One Thousand and One Nights, which is at the top of my “books to read” list for the summer.

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