Monday, June 09, 2008
My Book Party was a Great Success!
Yesterday marked the inaugural event of my Amorous Woman “in the flesh” book tour—a sushi brunch and reading/discussion of the book at my friend Sharon’s beautiful house in the Berkeley hills with a stunning view of the Bay and the famous bridges. I love my little craftsman bungalow, but the lighting is nowhere near as lovely for a book party. So thank you, Sharon, for providing the perfect venue for my book launch. Big huge thanks go to my friend and mentor, Autumn Stephens (author of the Wild Women series and editor of the amusing and thought-provoking anthologies Roar Softly and Carry a Great Lipstick and The Secret Lives of Lawfully Wedded Wives, for organizing the party and encouraging me to celebrate my achievement. I wouldn’t have done it without her!
Twenty guests helped themselves to sushi, New York style mini-bagels with a really nice lox cream cheese, shrimp shumai and vegetable gyoza, a pile of sweet strawberries and melon, rice crackers, mimosa and Japanese teas, hot or iced. Special guests included fellow Japan writers Liza Dalby, author of Geisha, The Tale of Murasaki, and East Wind Melts the Ice, and Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, author of Midori by Moonlight. Liza and I will be reading together at The Booksmith on June 17, so if you missed the brunch, come on down to the Haight for some hot Japan-inspired prose.
I’ll admit I was so busy getting ready for the brunch—dashing off to the Chinese grocery store for the dumplings, ordering the sushi, making sure my dark blue cheong sam was ready to slip into to make a good impression—that I didn’t really have time to prepare my introductory comments. I spent the spare moments the morning of the brunch mumbling to myself about how I would open the talk and fortunately came up with a sort of dumb joke. And so, as noon approached, I called the guests to assemble, took my place before the picture window with the sparkling San Francisco Bay behind me and began to speak.
Yes, there should be pictures, but my sainted husband was too busy steaming dumplings to do the honors. So just imagine—I looked good. I looked very good—sexy, slinky, superb!
I started off by thanking everyone for coming then went on to describe my fantasy of what it would be like before to write a novel before I wrote a novel. I pictured myself slaving away at my computer for months on end, lost in an artist frenzy. Of course I’d have to develop some addiction, to cigarettes or whisky or maybe diet Snapple, which is what actually happened as I was writing Amorous Woman. Then I’d go through the inevitable struggle to find a publisher, but once that happened, things would proceed apace and one wonderful day a box of my books would arrive at my doorstep and I’d hold my newborn baby novel in my hands—the happy ending to my story.
What I didn’t realize of course was that the publication of the book was just the beginning—as birth is just the beginning of parenting. The next part of becoming an author involves promoting the book, which is quite a switch for a person who prefers to sit alone at the computer in my pajamas and make up stories. However, in spite of the challenges selling my book and myself, I also discovered that connecting with readers and other writers, who have been INCREDIBLY supportive, has been so enriching to my spirit. I’ve come to realize that writing isn’t just a solitary endeavor. When someone reads my novel, they are giving me the gift of their time and attention, much more so than when they read a short story—although I’m grateful for that, too, of course! But, to borrow an analogy from the erotica genre, a short story is like a quickie encounter with a stranger. A novel is like an all-out affair.
So, I said some stuff like this, then introduced my book and my inspiration, Ihara Saikaku’s The Life of an Amorous Woman. Then I read one of the only PG-rated passages in the book, where Lydia has a flirty blowfish dinner with a patron of the hostess club where she works in chapter nine. Afterwards we had a very nice discussion about various aspects of the novel, stereotypes of Japan and erotica writers, differing reactions to the cover by men and women and other juicy topics. As a sweet finale, the guests were treated to three different kinds of my homemade cookies, which are pictured above—yin-yangs (half vanilla dough with chocolate chips, half chocolate dough with white chocolate chips), chewy pecan squares (brown sugar caramel with pecans on a shortbread crust) and Finnish spoon cookies (browned butter dough shaped with my grandmother’s wedding spoons from 1919 and sandwiched with raspberry jam). These treats are half of my famed Christmas cookie boxes and were apparently a big hit with the guests. I also signed some books. Many thanks to those who bought a copy or several!
When I published my first book, Child of Darkness: Yoko and Other Stories by Furui Yoshikichi, I gave away a lot of copies to family and friends. Some of the latter didn’t realize I was the translator until much later! But I didn’t do any kind of party or public acknowledgment of the book. Fortunately I had a chance to make up for that with Amorous Woman. And I’m very glad I did!