The baby that took me 13 years to birth is now out in the world.

Bless Porter Square Books, for all they do to keep reading and books alive, and for hosting my book launch. Bless all those who came who knew me and those who did not. It was a night to remember!

Before the reading, I was bone-suckingly anxious. I worried that I’d bore people; that I’d forget what I wanted to say; that my hands and voice would shake; that I’d disappoint myself and everyone else, too.

Did not happen. I was the beneficiary of some great advice from my 16-year old friend, Sebastian. He and his mother, Maggie, had come by, like the troopers and chosen-family they are, to help get things organized before the event. As we were preparing to head over to the bookstore, I turned to Sebastian.

Me: “You’re an actor. A performer. What advice can you give me about pre-performance jitters? I’m wicked nervous.”

Sebastian: “You just have to push through it.” He looked me in the eye. “You got this.” Pause. “You gotthis!”

I held on to his confidence in me, and his wise words, as Larry, my husband drove me and a box of extra books, just in case they were needed, over to the bookstore.

The Scene

Many thanks to John Heymann, professional photographer and friend, who gave me these wonderful photos.

When we arrived, early as requested, there were maybe 20 people there, with a more milling around checking out the store. Friends came up to me for hugs. It was lovely, and I calmed down. You can’t be hugging people and still be a mess. Besides, I had a teenager on my side.

I met Stacey, the women who’d introduce me and we talked a bit about what she’d say. I set my notes and the copy of the book I’d read passages from—an Advanced Reader Copy I hadn’t hesitated to ink out sentences in, draw arrows on, and add a word here and there to clarify a scene for an audience that hadn’t read the book yet—on the podium. I pulled out my water bottle only to discover that Stacey had already set me up with a shiny new red water bottle that said Porter Square Books. I was thrilled.

Then I stood in a side aisle, trying to be unobtrusive, while people spotted me and came over to chat and hug and congratulate me. That was the final push I needed and my nerves disappeared.

The Crowd

Stacey and other staff rushed around, moving yet another bank of books (they’re on rollers) to set up more rows of chairs. The place filled up. They ran out of chairs, and space. It was standing room only, and still folks arrived. Larry counted 112 people in attendance. I just kept breathing. Hugging. Chatting.

I was so grateful that these folks had turned out to support me. Many of them had been asking me for years, “How’s the book going?” I suspect they thought, as I did, that I would never actually finish it.

Our daughter flew up from DC for the launch, but because of Hurricane Florence, her first flight had been cancelled. (When I saw that text, I had to go meditate to avoid outright panic.) She was put on a flight four hours later that was delayed. I kept looking for her, but it turned out she didn’t arrive, straight from the airport, until the Q & A.

Feeling Like An Author

Then, suddenly, it was time. Stacey introduced me and we were off to the races. My voice was calm. Some residue of stress remained because I had to look at my notes a couple of times. Nonetheless, I enjoyed myself! My eyes rested on friendly faces as far as I could see. I spoke to them. They were with me, I could feel it.

The audience laughed. When they were supposed to! They were silent and a bit solemn, when I hoped they’d be. I could see heads nodding.

There were a bunch of questions afterward and I remembered to repeat the question so everyone could hear before I answered them. Answers came to me, thank goodness.

Then it was all over and they applauded. Again!

The line for signing books was so long that Larry went up to the last half of the line and suggested they go over to the after party and get me to sign their books there. That was a good call. I was so happy to see each person, and yes I stood up to hug so many, that I wasn’t particularly efficient at moving the line along.

And I tailored most messages I wrote because I knew these people, and even when I didn’t, I wanted to say something personal to them. Even though I’d prepared a few stock phrases to sign, I rarely used them. People in line were gracious and patient, chatting with those nearest them.

I had a special signing pen, bright green, that my hiking buddy Nancy had given me. Meg, a friend I call “bro” (it’s a long story) wrote down people’s first names so I’d know how to spell everything correctly. I’d been concerned that, in the full flush of the moment, I’d forget people’s names, but thankfully that didn’t happen.

Maggie and Casey went over to Christopher’s Restaurant where the after party was and greeted guests. Larry circulated at the bookstore, talking to folks in line, answering questions, making sure I didn’t forget anything like the box of extra books, the clipboard where people signed up for my newsletter, my folder of notes. Then he headed over to the party.

I kept signing. When I finished the last inscription, I thought I was done. I got up, gathering the flowers and plants, with the help of my friend Apara. Did I mention that Lili brought me a bouquet of flowers; Beth and Laura brought me an orchid plant; and Marilyn gave me a kalanchoe plant that reminded her of mountain flowers? At home, Larry had presented me with a fragrant bunch of Asiatic lilies, and when I went to the podium to begin talking, there lay a single carnation the exact color of the jacket I wore. Not for nothing is my trail name “Flower Queen!”

But there was one more thing to do: sign stock copies. Each of those signatures added to my willingness to believe that I was now, officially, a real author and 48 PEAKS, Hiking and Healing in the White Mountainswas duly launched.

Apara and I headed over to the after party.

I was ready to continue the celebration.