The Book Sale was organized by a lovely lady whom I know well, for she did the lay out for Abbey Girls. Christine is a local, a member of the church, and each year she organizes tables in the church grounds where Wisconsin authors can try to sell their books. There were about a dozen of us, sitting at long tables arranged on the sidewalk by the church, opposite the park where the Art Fair was going on. I’d never been to one of these events before, and wasn’t too sure what I should bring. The minimalist in me went for 6 copies of the book and a stand on which I could prop one of them. A neat fan of bookmarks. Oh yes, some dollars and coins for change. The day before when I was in Madison, I sprung for a blow-up of the back of our book, about 14 x 9, mounted on foam board, with its own stand. Good idea (except for when it got windy). Otherwise, I doubt that anyone would have noticed me sitting there!
I got to New Glarus early, helped Christine carry tables and set up sandwich board signs on the sidewalk, and chose my half of a table. Julia, another author, soon joined me. She was a minimalist too, although she had two stands and two different books. She writes mysteries. We were flanked by veritable altars. Table cloths, front drop cloths to hide feet and/or the stacks of boxes of books that were obviously going to sell. The lady beside me was selling at least five different children’s books and had huge piles of them interspersed with cuddly toys. On my left, there was another altar. She had written a book about her quadriplegic brother who recovered through the patience and orthopedic intervention of her father who designed home-made prosthetic devices for the 12-year old. There were photos of the devices, her father, the whole family, the hospital bed... She had little bags of M&Ms with the name of the book printed on the candy. I heard her story at least 25 times in the next four hours and could have delivered it myself. When Julia left early, I was joined by another woman (desperate to leave the guy with whom she was sharing a table, and who was boring her to tears). As she laid out her shrine, two matching cushion covers overlapping artistically, and set up her book pile, the book stand, her name plate, a dish of mini chocolate bars, her business cards, bookmarks, etc., I noticed that she even had a name tag. Then came the coup de grace: the medals she had won, huge things, bigger than the Olympics, on colorful ribbons that matched the cushion covers. What could I say, or do? I gave up any idea of selling and decided to get her life story instead! We had a great chat.
Actually, I got several life stories. It’s fascinating to learn how and why people take up writing, and which genre they choose. Julia, a retired nurse about my age, and married to a farmer, wrote murder mysteries. Susan, the postmistress at a local town, wrote the inspiring story of her brother. Rose, the Italian Catholic, wrote heresy, as she herself admitted. Paranormal, or religious fiction might be a better term, but after she told me the plot, I think her Bishop (for she is still a practicing Catholic) might agree with the heresy thing. In another time she’d have made a great witch.
All of these women were delightful, friendly, encouraging, funny, and made my day. As people passed on the sidewalk, each would try to engage them in conversation. If they walked on, nobody took umbrage. If they stopped, they might take a book mark or a piece of candy, although that seemed to be reserved as a reward for a sale. The conversations with the passers by could be utterly hilarious. One fellow, in the space of five minutes, admitted to being incarcerated in a mental institution at age 23, ‘had written a lot” and could easily throw together a book, but he had retired and was too busy…painting interiors of houses. “Just buy the right equipment and set yourself up. It’s not difficult. The paint just goes on if you have the right brushes.” Then he went into a lengthy description of the magnetic glove he used to hold his brush, where to buy it, and how well it worked on a ladder. By this time, all of us were desperately trying to break eye contact, hoping that he would head for the food, or the church, or anywhere!
I sold a book. Julia had told me to talk – that everyone would love my accent, and that would draw them in. So, I began to say to people walking past: “Any Irish connections?” A few said “No” which shocked me. Everyone in Wisconsin has a little bit of an Irish connection, don’t they? But after all, we were in a Swiss village, so perhaps those pure bloods were particularly proud of their heritage. Some responded to my question by telling me about their last trip to Ireland, or Scotland, or both. Phew! Two different couples claimed that they ‘came’ from County Cavan, so I demonstrated how to actually say it, in my flattest Drogheda accent. Anyone who sounded vaguely interested in listening to my accent were encouraged to check out the audio book which I assured them was perfect entertainment for a six-hour drive. The actual buyer of a paperback was a middle-aged woman with her friend, whose elderly mother was going in to hospital for surgery. They both thought she might enjoy it, assuming she lived! Actually, I think she will enjoy reading it. Her name is Rosemary and she was born in Ireland. The transaction made my day, and the book seller at the table across from me even took my picture, me wearing a shit-eating grin of achievement. She was feeling generous - she had sold at least a dozen books by that time. But then again, she’s from the area, and also a member of the Swiss church congregation.
When I got home, Tim asked would I do another. The answer was swift and clear. NO. But it was a hoot!