So...when did I become a chick lit protagonist?
You know how the heroine of every chick lit novel has to overcome multiple nerve-wracking and humiliating foibles to reach an ending better than she'd ever hoped?
Um, welcome to my reading.
Let's start with my outfit, shall we? I had gone to New York's den of discounted retail, Century 21, to find the perfect summer dress. It would be light! Airy! It would scream, "I just wrote a super beach read, so go enjoy it!" Note to readers: When trying on a new dress, do not wear your most boob-enhancing bra. Because later, when you try it on at home for the first time--and let's say three hours before your first reading--that dress will not fit the same. It may in fact puff out at the sides as if it's waiting for your chest to fill out. Which, by the way? Will not happen. Because you need a strapless bra, which was not what you were wearing when you initially tried the dress on. This is because you can be surprisingly stupid sometimes.
Luckily, my parents live four blocks away from the Park Slope, Brooklyn Barnes & Noble, my reading location, and so I was able to pick up the phone from Manhattan and whine, "Mommmmm! Can you help me take in my dress boobs?" And thankfully, Mom is a pretty decent seamstress. Although I can't say I got away without some needles stuck in my boobie. Erm, moving on.
I was so nervous for the reading that I only got five hours of sleep the night before, which meant I desperately needed a nap before heading out to Brooklyn. However, in a carefully scheduled day, that nap eclipsed my manicure time. I'd have to do my nails when I got to my parents house. Which actually worked out fine! I got on two coats of baby pale pink and a quick-drying top coat, which set all lickety-split with an hour left to go. Yay!
However, I soon noticed that when I leaned over a wee bit, there was my strapless bra hanging out for all the world to see. And how can you sign books without leaning over a table? Damn you, dress boobs! Damnnnn you. I decided to fix this latest wardrobe malfunction as I do most every tailoring problem: with a safety pin. I dug in there and pinned the dress to my bra so it wouldn't droop down. Victory! For the dress. NOT for my I-thought-they-were-so-set manicure. One whole hand was ruined. Like, nail polish squished to the side of every nail ruined. By this time, we were leaving in about ten minutes. And I just couldn't do my reading with bare nails! I couldn't! So I quickly removed all the polish and threw on just a top coat. Thankfully, it actually DRIED fast this time.
But perhaps all these obstacles weren't so bad after all. At least it kept my mind off the fact that Ohmigod, I've got to read in front of people. People all looking at me. And only me. GAHHHH! There I was with my mom and boyfriend Rob (Dad's always late), walking in the swealtering summer city heat toward the B&N. We're almost there. And then either my mom or Rob (who can remember these things in the grip of terror?) asks: Did you bring your notes? See, I had written out everything I needed to tell the crowd about the passage I'd be reading. Because it wasn't the first chapter, so the listener would need to know some stuff. Stuff that was now at home lying on my parents' kitchen table. Rob to the rescue! He runs back to grab the notes, and now it's just me and Mom, nearing the store. Literally, this is what comes out of my mouth: "I don't want to. I don't want to. Please don't make me go in! I don't want to go in!" It's not that I don't love the book--I adore the book!--but oh God, the public speaking! I felt hot all over. Panicky-hot as well as summer-heat-hot. And I am not a girl who likes, or can even tolerate, the heat.
But then...well...I saw the display on the first floor of the B&N, and it was beeeeautiful! Then two dear friends saw us right away and gave me flowers. Awww! So far, not so horrible, right? We headed downstairs for the event. And...it was kind of hot. Don't these superstores always blast the air conditioner full tilt? It must have been my nerves.
We met Marie, the very nice community relations manager, who told me they'd start a little late to allow for more arrivals. Because...in truth...there weren't very many people there. It was early yet, though, and more friends arrived (with more flowers! and with chocolate!!), but still. So many people had told me they were coming! And the reading was supposed to start in fifteen minutes! I was getting hotter. So I said to Marie, "Um, is there any way to turn up the air conditioning?" But no. I would learn the downstairs air conditioning just went out. As in "out of order." Gone. In globally warmed June. I nearly cried. But instead, I asked calmly, "Do you know when they'll get it back on?"
Marie gave me a look of sheer pity. "It usually takes about twenty-four hours."
Oh holy God.
I looked over and saw my dad grab a book from a shelf and start fanning himself. I had brought promotional postcards, which were now lying on the signing table, and the crowd started grabbing them and fanning themselves too. Marie made some comment about how lucky it was that I brought the postcards. Um, yeah. Super friggin' lucky. But looking around, I noticed there was a crowd. All the seats were full, and pepole were standing in the back and in the aisle. Was this enough people to be considered a successful reading? I really, really hoped so. Also, I willed them all with my mind to buy books. And not just any book! My book!
See that piece of paper I'm holding to the left there? Those are my notes. I'm hoping that if I hide behind them, they'll go all magic invisibility cloak on me. And that's Marie, introducing me and the novel, using big words and sweating.
By the way, I am not that tall. I'm wearing five inch high platform wedge heels. I was scared I wouldn't make it past the top of the podium. And then I'd need to stand on top of phone books. And does Barnes & Noble even sell phone books?
So, in an instant, there I was at the podium, looking out over all the faces. And somehow. Blessed, blessed somehow. All my nervousness just vanished. I didn't even feel so hot anymore. I started by talking about having worked in publishing, and then a bit about how I decided to write my own book. I cracked a few jokes, and people laughed enthusiastically. I have no memory of how I segued from gabbing to reading, but I'm pretty sure it involved me saying something like, "Ok, here's what you need to know about the passage I'm reading. See? I've got notes!"
Right before the reading, my friend Abby--a brilliant romance editor--had said to me, "Always read slower than you think you need to." And I had tried that at home a couple times, reading slowly and surely, and stumbling over every single line. At home, it had sounded lifeless, and that's one of the reasons I was so nervous. But Magic Reading Fairy? I owe you big time. You're getting some new fairy wings from Zoe here. Because as soon as I started reading, it was like the voice in my head as I wrote came out in person for everyone to hear. It was exactly as I would have hoped to read the material. Trust me--it's harder than it sounds! Try reading a book out loud without it either sounding boring as all heck or melodramatic.
People laughed! And not just the people I made promise to laugh beforehand. And then I got asked some questions, and I probably answered too honestly because I haven't got any filter between my brain and my mouth. I told a story about shouting out "cock" in chemistry class. Read the book--you'll get what I mean.
After podium time finished, I got all hot again, but boy was I relieved. After fanning myself with my notes for a minute, it was time to sign books. Each time I saw someone buying the book, I was thrilled to bits. People bought multiple copies! I gave everyone a personal message. I wish I had gotten time to consider my words better, because I probably just wrote stuff like, "I like your shirt! Zoe Rice." I do remember meeting a teenage girl and for some reason (why? why!!?) I clutched my chest and blurted out "Oh, I had to have my boobs taken in." My sweet, adorable publicist laughed so hard she snorted. I think it was kind of an "Ok, let's not do that again" laugh, but bless her heart she didn't say anything.
The store nearly sold out of copies! Marie brought over a small pile and said, "This is it!" before asking me to sign them for future customers. She was beaming, and she told me that turn out was great, even better than when bestselling author Melissa Bank came to read there. So thank you to all my friends and hometown neighbors who showed up to support the novel!
After what seemed like ages (yay!) of signing books, me, Mom, Dad, and Rob started to saunter to the folks' house. But what did we see on our way home? Why, what every dinner table should look like, of course. Some of the publishing professionals and friends who had come to support me were catching a yummy bite at a nearby restaurant. The looks on their faces said, "We're going to rush through our dinner so we can get home and start reading your book!" Either that or "She's right there, look excited!"
I'm going to discuss other reading options with my publicist, and I'm 100% certain if I do another reading, I'll get nervous all over again. But maybe I'll also get more loot out of it. My apartment looked so gorgeous with its gifts of flowers and chocolates!
There may have been more chocolates in there before I took this picture. And there may be none left now. Just maybe...
Update! I can't believe I forgot this part of the story, but it was probably my mind willing me to block out the memory...So I'm wearing my newly tailored dress, right before I shove my hand down there to safety pin it, and I'm looking in the mirror, and I notice that the white lacy panties I had worn specifically so they wouldn't show through the white dress totally show through the white dress. It's like there's this white beacon of light shining from my hooha region. I cannot read with light shining from my hooha. I swing my head to my boyfriend, and I say: "You can see my panties!" He shrugs and says, "I knew that, but they're white, so I thought it doesn't matter." To which I can only say, Boys!
I did my reading in my mother's beige underwear. Granted it was a string bikini only 1 size larger than mine, but still. That's just not cute.