Dorothy meets Alice at IRA

  • April 27, 2010
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McCormick Place: my rabbit hole

When a book is released, a writer goes from a quiet, almost monastic existence to a minor celebrity’s frenetic pace…overnight. Speeches, dinners, signings dramatically change the tenor of life. I often think of Dorothy’s words in The Wizard of Oz, “I’m not in Kansas anymore.”

Yesterday, I signed books at the International Reading Association’s conference at McCormick Place in Chicago, where I felt like another literary character — Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. First, negotiating McCormick Place is a little like falling down a rabbit hole. It is an enormous cavern where one needs a GPS, just to find the exhibit hall. There, thousands of people wander aimlessly through miles of aisles lined with book booths. Large computer screens flash, colorful book titles blur, sales people hawk their wares, all assaulting the senses and giving the place the feel of a carnival on steroids.

It took me an hour just to find my booth. The problem wasn’t just that I have a poor sense of direction. What complicated matters was that my publisher recently merged and no longer goes by the name of the company that signed my book contract. In addition, there’s another publisher with the same new name.

"a carnival on steroids"

After walking aisle after aisle, desperately searching for the publisher or for my book (a real needle in a haystack), I finally found my location. Or I should say…my location found me since one of my publisher’s marketing people recognized me, despite my confused countenance. Though I had never laid eyes on her before, I could have kissed her.

I started to feel at home when I took a seat behind a stack of my books on the signing table. One of my first customers was a woman who said she was from the Guam Council International Reading Association.

“Hello, Fern,” she said, handing me an invitation in a sealed envelope. “I would like to invite you to Guam for a book tour.”

As Alice said, “curiouser and curiouser”… and definitely not in Kansas anymore.

But maybe one day in Guam.

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