Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Madness

Left to right in over-exposed stage-lighting: Me, Dr. Keyhill Sheorn, Noah Scalin, Dr. Rashida Gray

March has been a busy month.

With the whole Riyria Revelations series finally and fully released at the end of January, and allowing people time to read, March became the season of public appearances. In a huge turnaround from past experience, people have solicited me. There have been dozens of interviews, and still they trickle in, both written and recorded. Local book clubs have suffered their new members to read the whole series or be disappointed by spoilers. And I’ve been invited to talk at a couple of library events. Most recently however, I was invited to attend The Writing Show presented by the James River Writers Association in Richmond, Virginia. It is described as “Inside the Actor’s Studio meets the New York Times bestseller list.” And of all the events I have been a part of, this was the first that made me feel like a real author.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say that. Kristi Tuck Austin, the Writing Show’s chair, who took Robin and I out to dinner before the event and escorted us to the Pavilion Room of the Children’s Museum of Richmond (where the show was held), introduced me to Dr. Rashida Gray, the event’s moderator, and warned her of my self-deprecation.

“This is the second time,” she told Dr. Gray. “He did the same thing earlier at dinner.” I wasn’t certain if she was warning her as the moderator, or because Gray happens to be an expert in mental health and psychiatric emergencies.  

I tried to explain to Kristi that the ink on my author credentials are still drying, so I feel it is presumptuous to swagger. Whatever feeble argument I presented, Kristi was not having it and continued in her opinion that I was indeed a real author. This blog post, I fear, will mark my third strike with her.

What can I say, authors are inherently both arrogant and insecure. Arrogant to think others would be interested in hearing their thoughts, and insecure in believing all the compliments are polite lies. No one is surprised if a beaten dog flinches when a stranger raises a hand—it’s the same principle.

So what made The Writing Show different?

It was held on a stage with a black curtain, black chairs, stage lights and microphones—one for each of us—that lent an artsy almost late night talk show quality to the evening. There were snacks and wine available, which added to the highbrow atmosphere. But what made the event significant for me was the audience. It was huge. Granted they weren’t all there to see me. The show was entitled Rejection & Resilience — Fueling Creativity on an Empty Tank and I was on stage with Noah Scalin, creator of the Webby award-winning art project Skull-A-Day, and author of Skulls, Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work & in Your Studio, and 365: A Daily Creativity Journal: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!; as well as, Dr. Keyhill Sheorn a psychiatrist and painter, and of course our moderator, Dr. Gray. 

Chatting before the show with Mike, who suggested inviting me based on my "Writer's Wife"  blog posts
When I say huge, I don’t mean stadium huge, or even small theater huge, and most high school pep rallies would dwarf it, but there were more than a hundred people in attendance. At my previous appearance I think there were a total of twelve and that included my wife. When you speak to a gathering of twelve people under classroom style neon it can be as uncomfortable for the audience as for the presenter. While talking, my sight will invariably rest on someone and I’ll see them squirm in that why-are-you-singling-me-out body language usually the purview of teachers with problem students. They might also avoid looking up at all feeling in such an intimate public setting that it’s impolite to stare.

I’d never spoken in front of so large an audience as I found at The Writing Show in Richmond. My initial instinct was that it would be harder, more intimidating. I found the opposite to be true. The stage lights turned the audience into dim shadows and blurred outlines. When I made a joke, it wasn’t one or two people who forgot themselves and blushed from their outburst in a room of pin-dropping acoustics, instead I heard a laugh track imitation as dozens of people responded without concern. And when I personally applauded one of the answers of Dr. Sheorn, the audience followed suit. It was like conducting an orchestra.

This was an audience.

At the intermission and after the show, individuals approached the stage eager to speak to me—a few had actually read my books. I can’t recall ever having gone anywhere other than a book club where strangers had already read my novels. Many also read this blog, and sited individual posts. Some even brought duffle bags of books for me to sign. This was unexpected. This was stunning. This was what it must be like to be a real author.

People wanted to shake my hand and tell me how much they enjoyed meeting Royce and Hadrian, how much they loved the world of Elan, and to thank me for coming and speaking—as if I hadn’t already gotten a dinner out of the deal.

Before leaving, the operator of the local bookstore (who had a table full of books for sale) waved me over and asked if I would sign the remaining copies of my books that he had.

“You might have noticed that this isn’t a fantasy crowd,” he said stacking the books and holding them open for me to sign. “But you sold a lot.”

It seems that the event managed to introduced even more people to the series and helped an independent bookstore at the same time. Can’t complain about that.

So thanks Kristi, Adam, Rashida, and all the rest for a very nice evening and some good therapy for my self-confidence issues. Maybe one day I will agree with you that I am a real boy author.


  1. Posting this for my uncle:

    Michael, Thank you for coming. I'm one of those who'd read your books (and bought more and asked for signatures). You all had good insights. That was a typical crowd for James River Writers. You should come to our annual conference some time. You'd be great in a seminar on creativity and persistence.

    Ron Andrea


    Thanks, Jon

  2. Michael, sounds like it went really well. You need to post more videos of these sort of things. I like to see you in action :)

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