By Julie Brickman
Spalding MFA Faculty, Fiction
In February, Karen Mann was traveling in Orange County, California, not far from where I live. Not long before, she had published her first novel, The Woman of La Mancha, a rollicking adventure story, launched from the inspiration of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, into an inventive novel on its own.
I’d been mulling over the idea of how we could help each other with the launch of new books in this age of self and small press publishing, when most of the publicity is left to the author. So I decided the best thing to do would be to host a literary gathering in my home. This too was something I’d long been considering since finding an actual physical writing community rather than a virtual one seemed like a good idea in this town, so distant from Louisville and our home base.
When my local bookstore, at my request, had invited writer friends of mine to give a reading, often major and minor names drew audiences smaller than I expected, a lot smaller than in the heyday of the book tour. Another thing I’d noticed: people who came to bookstore readings felt no obligation to buy. What could I do?
I wanted to help Karen. I loved her book.
So when she was here, I hosted a literary gathering in my home, featuring Karen Mann reading from her novel The Woman of La Mancha. I sent out invitations to alums, writers, friends in the area, sent out reminders, pulled together drinks and snacks, laid out Karen’s books, learned how to use Square. And we got a good audience, especially considering it was Super Bowl Sunday (guess who doesn’t follow football). Guests included Spalding alums and students Deidre Woollard (F ’03), Frances Nicholson (P ’04), Cynthia Allar (P ’04), Thea Gavin (P ’05), Julie Jenner (F), Patty Haddad (F), Lindsay Indermill (CNF), as well as writers Susan Dworkin, Randy Kraft, Christina Adams, and Edward Kaufman, and friends who love books and reading. It was a superb afternoon, filled with the lively intelligence of literary minds. Karen Mann gave a riveting reading and talk. We sold a lot of books.
Recently, alumnae Kathrin Seitz (F ’15) hosted me for a master class and two readings in Maine, and the same thing happened.
One of the plus sides of the new era of publishing is that there is a longer time period to publicize a new book, a year, maybe two, though I’m guessing at the time frame. And this is just one thing we can do for each other. I’d love to hear your comments and ideas on the subject: whether you’ve been holding similar events; how to improve the geographical (and sales) range by reaching a virtual audience as well; what time frame you’ve discovered for the launch of new books; ways to create a network of people willing to host home or local events; and other ideas.
Julie Brickman is author of the novel What Birds Can Only Whisper and the story collection Two Deserts. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the North American Review, the Barcelona Review, Fireweed, The Louisville Review, the International Journal of Women’s Studies, Kinesis, Canadian Dimension, as well as other journals and the anthology States of Rage.
When the San Diego Union-Tribune had a Books section, she published thirty-some reviews in it. Julie’s honors include grants from the Canada Council, a Pushcart prize nomination, a writer-in-residence position at the Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon, and finalist status in the San Diego Book Awards. She has served as guest faculty editor of The Louisville Review in both fiction and creative nonfiction. Also a clinical psychologist, Brickman spent seventeen years in private practice before becoming a writer. Raised in New Jersey, she now lives in Laguna Beach, California. Visit her website at http://www.juliebrickman.com.