I’d moved recently, to a neighborhood where I don’t know anyone I can call to watch my kids on short notice. My parents and in-laws live out of state. Yes, I do hire babysitters sometimes, but I tend to save them for important outings that are worth the money. (Plus, they’re teenagers with busy social lives—unlike me—and tend to require advance notice.)Usually, my RSVP to this invite would be something along the lines of, “Thanks, but I just can’t get away, what with my three kids and it being a weeknight and all…” It’s easy to weasel out of things when you play the Mom Card. People understand that you’re busy and tired and stressed-out. And eventually, they stop inviting you to things, because they assume you can’t go.
But I said yes. I decided to take a chance, to support a fellow writer, to not take the easy way out. I fed my kids microwaved leftovers at 5pm and trekked up to the bookstore in a nearby suburb. I bought muffins at a café (sugary treats being very effective bribes) and sent my children off to a park across the street from the store, with my 11-year-old in charge.
I didn’t know how long I’d be able to stay at the reading. If one of my kids would rush in 30 seconds later, shrieking, with a bloody nose or a skinned knee. But I saw the author smile when I walked in and took a seat in the front row. I remembered how it felt a few months ago when I was the one promoting a book for the first time. The gratitude I felt toward every person who came to hear me talk. I knew the simple act of showing up meant something.
The reading and Q&A afterwards took about an hour. Miraculously, I was able to sit through the whole thing before my kids came into the store and started whining. So even though it ended up being a late night—what with showers, and more food, and brushing teeth, and bedtime stories—it was worth it. I’m glad I went.
I guess my brief night out could be considered networking, although I hate that word. Ever since my book While Beauty Slept was published in February, I’ve felt the pressure of publicity first-hand. I’ve lived through the humiliation of having only two people show up for one of my author talks. (Maybe you’ll get to hear that fun story in a future post!) In a city like Chicago, where I live, there are literary events going on almost every day; I can’t get to them all, and I’d don’t need to. But I’ve realized I need to show my support for writers I care about, and those I knew personally, and those who might someday become Writer Friends. Going to readings is just as important to my career as the books I write.
It’s good for my children to see me out in the world, to understand that “writing” doesn’t just mean holing up in front of a computer. From now on, I’ll be saying yes to as many event invites as I can. Even if it means bribing my kids with muffins for dinner.
We all do what we have to, right?