Thursday, November 26, 2009

Crime on a Dime - my first big CWC event

It was my first big event with the Crime Writers of Canada, and it was an adventure, let me tell you!

We advertised the "Crime on a Dime" event through book clubs and writing clubs, through community newspapers, websites, and so forth – and Louise even posted it to her blog, which drew out at least one additional fan. My friend Mady did the flyers, the posters and the community news notifications (plus translations). And I rented a sound system with four mikes, so everyone could talk at once (I hate when you have to share mikes, because then all attention is on the squabble, rather than what’s said). So we were well-prepared.

Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared well enough in advance. We had a turnout of only about 15 people, including the librarian, the janitor, two book sellers and five of my own friends. Michael Blair tried to make me feel better by telling me at one of his own book launches, nobody showed up. (That made me feel great about the event, but a little leary of my own book launches!) Then Louise Penny and Mary Jane Maffini chimed in, telling me the same! How encouraging!

Right before the event, a library tech and I set up the table mikes, the Fender mixer/amplifier and the speakers, and when it came to powering everything up, I discovered there was no power cord for the Fender. I plotzed. Fortunately, the power cord that goes into a Fender is the same power cord you use on most computers or monitors, so he and I ran around the whole library and invaded offices in search of a spare power cord. (Turns out the power cord was hidden in a secret chamber in the Fender case. I learned that the following Monday when the vendor left me an email.)

All three of the authors were great, though. I only had to ask leading questions, and they took it from there. The challenge was for each of them to “sell” me one of their books, because I had put up the money for the sound system and was therefore only able to buy one book from each. They had misunderstood me and thought I could only buy one book, period! Michael picked up one of his books and said “It’s thin and it’s the cheapest on the table!” Mary Jane said, “Well, when money’s a factor, you’ve got to go with quality,” and she held up her own book. Louise looked at the audience, she looked at the other two authors, and then she turned to me and said, “Buy Mary Jane’s book.” They played off each other perfectly.

But during the event, I discovered that writers are immune to my magical middle-management powers. Normally, I can keep a 60 minute meeting to 50 minutes or less. But authors are like train engines. It takes oomph to get them started, and it takes even more oomph to get them to stop! So at quarter to five, I was sweating because out of the corner of my eye I could see itchy hand signals from the librarian, who wanted to close soon. Even after I did my wrap-up comments and thank you’s, Louise Penny, bless her heart, kept asking if there were more questions in the audience, and there always. After hearing all their jokes and a sample of each book, one audience member said, “You guys seem like so much fun, and so well-adjusted! Why do you write about killing people?” Michael sat forward with his hand on the mike stand, and he confided, “Well, you’ve heard what we’ve read, and it really isn’t all that dark!”

At that very moment, all the lights went out.

(It was the fifteen minute warning for the library closing time, but we couldn’t have timed that if we tried.)

So eventually people got up to buy books (the vendor was actually quite impressed – she had more sales that night than she normally did with an audience three times that size), and as I packed, I apologized profusely to all and sundry about the small turn out, and about our lateness getting everything knocked down again.

Then the librarian said, “Oh, you have time. We haven’t closed the library yet. Apparently a little girl was taken from the library and now her mother’s looking for her. We’re waiting for the police to show up.”

“Only during a Crime Writers event,” I thought, “does somebody gets kidnapped from the public library.”

They found the girl a little while later.

Not bad for my first big event, eh?

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