May 082010

Robin Oliveira’s first novel My Name is Mary Sutter is just out. She has a novel web site and a Facebook page, but she has kindly taken up my offer of a place to write her tour diary. Robin will be posting comments below as she explores new territory in her life as a writer. I could say something about book tours here, but possibly it would be more graceful of me to let this develop on its own. I trust the result will enlighten & entertain you–please feel free to comment as the diary develops.

Here are some early review quotes.

“Oliveira’s graceful, assured portrayal of a courageous woman shines through in her outstanding debut novel…this impressive historical epic deserves a large readership.”

A rich debut [with] fine details that set this novel above the gauzier variety of Civil War fiction.”

Spotted in a downtown Seattle bookstore

—Publishers Weekly

“A well-written and compelling debut that will engage all readers of historical fiction.”
—Library Journal

And here is a list of appearances. If any of you are nearby, please join the audience and say hello. Make sure to give Robin the secret Numéro Cinq handshake so she knows you’re one of us.


Seattle, WA
Monday, May 17 – 7:30 PM
Barnes & Noble
2675 NE University Village St, 98105

New York, NY
Wednesday, May 19 – 7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble – Upper East Side
150 E. 86th Street, New York, NY 10028

Memphis, TN
Thursday, May 20 – 5:00 PM
That Bookstore in Blytheville
316 West Main, Blytheville, AR 72315

Atlanta, Georgia
Friday, May 21 – 7:15 PM
Georgia Center For The Book/Dekalb County Library
215 Sycamore Street, Decatur, GA 30030

Raleigh, NC
Saturday, May 22, 11:00 AM
McIntyre’s Fine Books
2000 Fearrington Village Center, Pittsboro, NC 27312

Washington, D.C.
Sunday, May 23 – 5:00 PM
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.
Monday, May 24 – 7:30 PM
5871 Crossroads Center Way, Bailey’s Crossroads, VA 22041

Charlotte, NC
Tuesday, May 25 – 7:00 PM
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
4345 Barclay Downs Dr, Charlotte, NC 28209

Milwaukee, WI
Wednesday, May 26 – 7:00 PM
Next Chapter Bookshop
10976 N. Port Washington Rd., Mequon, WI 53092

Chicago, IL
Thursday, May 27 – 12:00 PM
The Bookstall at Chestnut Court
811 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL 60093

Seattle, WA
Wednesday, June 02 – 7:00 PM
16549 NE 74th St, Redmond, WA 98052

Denver, CO
Thursday, June 03 – 7:30 PM
Tattered Cover Book Store
2526 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, CO 80206

Portland, OR
Friday, June 04 – 7:30 PM
Powell’s Books (Burnside)
1005 West Burnside, Portland, OR 97209

San Francisco, CA
Saturday, June 05, 7:00 PM
2316 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Seattle, WA
Monday, June 07, Time – 7:00 PM
Elliott Bay Book Company
101 S Main St., Seattle, WA 98104

Madison, CT
Wednesday, July 28 – 12:00 PM
Pine Orchard Country Club
2 Club Parkway, Branford, CT
This is a panel event sponsored by R.J. Julia Booksellers with VIKING authors Adrienne McDonnell and Carey Wallace.

San Francisco, CA
Friday, July 30 – 12:00 PM
Literary luncheon sponsored by Book Passage
120 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA 94960
This will be a literary luncheon with Adrienne McDonnell, author of “The Doctor and the Diva.”

Seattle, WA
Wednesday, August 04 – 7:00 PM
17171 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
This will be a joint event with Adrienne McDonnell

San Diego, CA
Thursday, August 05 – 6:00 PM
7812 Girard Ave., La Jolla, CA 92037
This will be a joint event with Adrienne McDonnell

  64 Responses to “My Name is Mary Sutter: Robin Oliveira’s Book Tour Diary”

  1. Go Robin! I’m psyched there is a San Diego event in August. I owe Robin drinks, if she can tear herself away from the teeming mass of fans.

  2. It is now six days before I begin my tour, and even though yesterday friends kept writing to tell me that Amazon had just notified them that their pre-ordered copy of My Name is Mary Sutter had shipped, even though I have in my house two boxes of the hardcover edition that Penguin sent me two weeks ago, and I keep answering interview questions from various publications and blogs, it still doesn’t seem possible that my book is actually coming out. The most tangible evidence seems to be the terror I experience every time I rehearse my book talk. It always seems to end mid-talk with me burying my head in my hands and wondering why why why I have to be a public speaker in addition to being an author. Aren’t these antithetical professions? I keep telling myself that I experienced this same level of dread before I gave my graduating lecture at Vermont College of Fine Arts and I enjoyed that didn’t I?, and that people are wonderful and just want to hear about the book, and that the odd Zen-like calm that always overcomes me once I get in front of a microphone will again reliably appear, BUT, you know, if I were a drinking woman, I might indulge. And, it occurs to me now that maybe I shouldn’t let everyone know the depth of my terror, but there it is. The phrase, “it’s not rocket science” keeps coursing through my brain. Confession: I’m actually kind of shy. Back to rehearsing….

  3. I’ll be there at NYC, Robin, despite my general disdain of B&N. Looks like you got a pretty good list of indie bookstores in the smaller towns, but only Borders/B&N in Seattle, NYC, and DC? And they have you going from Seattle to NYC to Memphis in 3 days – wow, Road Warrior!

    • Oh, John, it will be wonderful to see you there. A friendly, warm face! Thank you!

      • John, Don’t forget to give Robin the mystic sign and the secret NC handshake. This is an important ritual when two members of the Numero Cinq community meet in the “real world.” Ye are all Children of the Craft.

  4. The past two days have been very quiet. After all the buildup for the tour and working with the ever-helpful marketing department at Viking, a calm seems to have come over the entire enterprise. My agent, Marly Rusoff, called me last night with words of support; my wonderful editor, Kathryn Court, sent me an encouraging email this morning. We are all waiting to see what will happen to Mary Sutter when she is introduced to the world. Like letting my children go. (I cried when my children walked into their kindergarten class for the first time.) I am wistful, excited, nervous, hopeful. Waiting.

  5. Robin, I’m really enjoying these book release/book tour updates. I just hope you’ll have time to keep us posted after May 17!

    Love the picture of the book on the shelf in the bookstore!

  6. I am totally living vicariously through you. It has “actually living” beaten backwards and forwards. Can’t wait for the next installment. But I’m waiting to buy the book at my local independent bookstore. Mitchell’s Book Corner on Nantucket. Want to do a signing there? If you come in August, half the CEOs in the country will wander in wearing flip-flops to buy a copy.

    • Excellent idea, Steve. Ask Mitchell’s if they want me to come. We’ve added Albany in late July, (still tentative, but looks good), but I could perhaps fly back mid-August. I’ve never been to the island, even though I grew up in Albany and for a while our family spent our summers on Cape Cod. My mother, who was a private pilot, once flew us for a day to Martha’s Vinyard, where she paid a taxicab driver an exorbitant amount of money when he dropped us at a deserted beach to retrieve us at four in the afternoon. Of course, he never returned, and my forty-five year old mother hitchhiked back to town to get someone to come get us. If you promise the cab drivers are nicer on Nantucket, I’d love to see Nantucket.

  7. A relaxing weekend of exercise, bike-riding, reading, and a last flurry of packing. The sun actually shone for two full days here in Seattle. Now the skies have returned to their usual dismal complaining.

    A couple of weeks ago, I contacted Dolen Parker-Valdez, because I’d run across her wonderful debut novel, WENCH. The book is set in the 1850′s about four women who are slaves. Their masters leave their wives behind each summer to take them north to Ohio to a resort where they act as surrogate wives but are never allowed to forget their true status. The narrative illuminates slavery in a way I’ve never encountered before; the story is palpable, plaintive, and superbly matter-of-fact. You can’t turn away, even if you want to.

    The literary world is delightfully small; today the Seattle Times reviewed our two books in the same article. I’m hoping for more serendipity as the tour unfolds. This lovely convergence bodes well.

  8. I’m about to do my first podcast interview for the blog My Friend Amy. The tour begins!

  9. Having just run the gauntlet of airport security–oh, the indignities: removing the shoes, the disapproving assessment by a security guard about how many grooming products I need–I have a few minutes before my flight boards for NYC. Last night a crowd of friends and well-wishers filled about 130 seats at the Barnes and Noble in University Village. Like that character in Wonder Boys, I had to keep narrating to myself what was happening to believe it. Yes, I am actually at a reading for a book I actually wrote; yes, those are real people in the audience listening to me; yes, I am now signing copies of the book I wrote. People were great. Of course, most of them knew me and loved me, which was fabulous, but still, it was an exceptional experience. My daughter had driven over from Pullman, Washington, and I finally got a chance to thank her in public for all the times I had to go to Vermont College of Fine Arts during her birthday. It was a great way to kick off the tour. My thanks to everyone who came. We had a lot of fun.

    They are calling for the flight now. More from NYC.

  10. Lovely, Robin. Thanks for sharing these moments. When is your daughter’s birthday? I’ve missed my son’s three times now (January 10th).

  11. I’m ensconced in a very comfortable bed in the Warwick Hotel in midtown Manhattan, where Viking has generously put me up for the night, writing this last post before I go to sleep. I’m already tired, and all I did was fly and have dinner with my nephew and his beautiful bride. She is Brazilian, he is from Colorado, and somehow they met and married and are now working together in NYC as a writer/photographer team. Today they had a piece on Williamsburg published in the Brazilian edition of the New York Times.

    I’m also tired because I couldn’t sleep last night. This always happens after a give a talk or a reading. MY brain just can’t shut down. I might be sleepwalking by the time the tour is over.

    I have a story to tell you, but not tonight. A few days have to go by before I can find the proper distance to tell it properly.

  12. Chapters Bookstore in Pittsfield, MA (where I hold upstreet readings and writing workshops), ordered a copy; it sold immediately, and they ordered more. (That’s a very effective cover.) I have now let the owner borrow my copy to consider for the store’s book group, “Chapter by Chapter.”


  13. (Pecked out on my iPhone.) In LaGuardia awaiting the flight to Memphis, hoping the tornadoes ripping across the plains spare Blytheville, Arkansas, where I am to speak tonight at the marvelous That Bookstore in Blytheville. Mary Gay Shipley, the owner, read my book in manuscript form. That she loved it is and will ever be my great good fortune.

    Last night in NYC, I was privileged to speak in front of another lovely crowd that included some wonderful friends. VCFAers filled more than a few seats; so gratifying to see so many friends. My agent Marly Rusoff, her partner in crime Michael Radalescu, and their assistant Julie were there as well as the whole team from Viking, including the editor I still can’t believe I am lucky enough to have–Kathryn Court. And Kaylie Jones’s smile cheered me enormously.

    I’m learning to talk about my book. Having spent so many years weaving together the many subplots, characters, history and research, making it into a whole, it’s a challenge to unravel the strands to describe it for new readers. But I’m learning.

    Wish me a tornado-free visit to Arkansas.

  14. Okay, so the people in Arkansas are the nicest folks in the world. Michael Speltz, who might one day soon win a serious prize for southern charm, picked me up from the Memphis airport and, after making certain I was checked into my hotel and insisting I eat a good meal in the dining room, spirited me seventy miles up to Blytheville, Arkansas to That Bookstore in Blytheville. There, in Mary Gay Shipley’s charming store, where only the luckiest authors get to visit, a lovely crowd filled her wood-slatted chairs and listened to me talk about my book. Perched on a wicker stool, all I could see were smiling, kind faces, while Mary Gay sat next to me in a rocking chair, a beatific presence so calming I thought I might just move to Blytheville just so I can hang out in that store all the time. I had asked Penguin to send me to Mary Gay’s store because before my agent, Marly Rusoff, even sent my manuscript around to editors, she sent it to Mary Gay, whose opinion she highly respects. Mary Gay read the book while was recovering from surgery, and then sent Marly the kindest note that she included with the manuscript on submission, and soon the book was sold. I can’t ever thank her enough.

    It was the loveliest night. And no tornadoes.

    • I don’t think I’ve ever been to Arkansas or heard of Blytheville, but it may be the perfect place for a reading. I’m in cloudy California and the reminder for your reading tonight in Atlanta just popped up. Again, so sorry to miss it and I hope every chair is filled.

  15. Part of touring is that you visit bookstores around each city you visit to sign stock which means darting all over town no matter what the weather. Yesterday in Atlanta, I witnessed at least five near accidents on a day that included more rain that they’d seen in a while. In fact, a nasty weather system has been chasing me from Blytheville to Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham, and though the threats of tornadoes in Arkansas never materialized, the clouds opened yesterday over Atlanta. But today in Raleigh, some weather god decided it was time to remind the girl from Seattle what REAL rain was, and let loose with a torrent so blinding that traffic came to a standstill. And yet, signing girl forged on. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, it didn’t downpour today till I was done, but in Atlanta, I braved a bad hair day to get those copes of my book signed.)
    In Atlanta, we didn’t make it to the hotel until an hour before I had to leave for the event. I wanted to at least rest for a bit, and tidy the rain damaged hair, but, no, not a chance. I was staying at the W Hotel, which, for a hefty fee, will allow a hotel guest to house his or her pet in his or her room This is some democratic, hip ploy based around their Whatever Whenever mantra, which means that there can be dogs, cats, rabbits—you know, whatever!—animal in the room next to yours. Okay, I know that I am on very shaky ground here, after all this is Numero Cinq, whose creator has a thing for dogs, but I’m telling you, some owners had abandoned their very yappy dog in the room next to mine whilst they went out on the town. The poor thing was weeping, beside itself, scratching at the door and utterly committed to persuading me, the next-door neighbor without a key, to let him out. Sigh. I implored the desk twice to please move me to another room, I was in a time crunch and I needed to rest and change and I didn’t want to mess up the room if they were going to move me out. Oh, they were sending Security up. They would take care of the dog. Couldn’t they just move me, I begged? I was running out of time. No, they would take care of the situation. I imagined dog-catchers in riot gear armed with doggie biscuits to tame the unhappy beast and house it until its very bad owners returned home. No. After half an hour they called me to say that they had thoroughly evaluated the situation and they couldn’t move the dog. They would just have to move me.
    Which they did, with no time to spare.
    Bad hair notwithstanding, off I went to the event at the Georgia Center for the Book to speak to the kind audience that had braved their own rain-soaked commute to listen and ask a bunch of excellent questions, all of which I believed the Center pod-casted and which will soon be available on their Web site.
    And today, at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington outside of Raleigh, the loveliest audience listened and asked marvelous questions and said the nicest things about my book. This is primarily a retirement community and they are a book-loving bunch. But who wouldn’t be with such a fabulous bookstore? I took some time to peruse their shelves; the staff of four who run the store and choose the books have impeccable taste. I am so grateful to be included in such excellent company.
    Tomorrow, D.C.

  16. Yesterday I was in D.C., and the guard at the National Archives wouldn’t let me take this picture until it was okayed by a supervisor. The National Archives are where I began my research for this book. While we were waiting for someone with the authority to okay the photograph, the guard asked me about my book, and when she heard my whole story—the years of research, how the book got published and had just come out– she smiled and said, “See? You believed. You saw it and you did it. Good for you.” I can’t tell you how much that pleased me. She was a large woman with cascades of dreadlocks and a preternatural calm that could only come from years of sitting on a perch in a library watching people work. National Archives Reading Room, Photo by Robin A book tour is an emotional rollercoaster; I’ve given up relying to how I feel. Why is one audience larger than another? Why does one group smile the whole time I’m talking and another en masse not evince any clue at all as to what they are thinking? Why am I nervous one night and not another? Why would anyone come out to hear a debut author at all? But they do! Night after night, there they are. It’s amazing to me. I want to drop to my knees in gratitude when someone—anyone—shows up.
    And tonight, in Charlotte, I met my bookstore Waterloo. Maybe the lack of attendance was due to the final night of American Idol? The beautiful weather? The bookstore owner said it was finals week in school. Very kindly, she listed the extensive advertising, her admiration for my book, how much she had wanted me to come. But sometimes, you’re gonna throw a party and no one’s gonna come. She suggested I read from the book over the store’s loudspeaker to draw people in, and I could hardly keep myself from cracking up, because I was reading Mary Sutter into the ethos over the laughter and antics of rampaging children, the clink of silverware in the café, and for a second I thought it might be possible I heard a hush come over the store, but maybe it was hope working. When I finished, I looked up, and one person was standing there with a book, which I gratefully signed. My dear escort, Lindsay, who is my daughter’s age, wore a look of incredulity. I explained that sometimes it happens this way. And then I started laughing.
    I am now in bed back at the hotel with a bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, which the hotel sent up with a card congratulating me on the book. It was worth the trip just for this: piles of pillows, my feet up, strawberries consumed, and the bottle of champagne, waiting.

  17. I am totally with you on the champagne and chocolate, and I’m saving a copy of this post!

  18. Robin's bags

    Oh, Next Chapter Books. How I love you. It’s such a pleasure to tell an audience a story and have everyone listen with rapt faces and then ask endless intelligent questions. Lovely to be in Wisconsin. One more day in Chicago, then home for a few, where I will be happy to be in my own bed, though I have to say, the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee is gorgeous, and I might just camp out for a few more days in this bed, which is about six feet off the floor. If I drop off the face of the earth, I’m marooned on the sixth floor in this beautiful Victorian Hotel, and probably not too unhappy about it.
    The pic is of my bags, all I’ve taken for two weeks on the road. Literary warrior now.

  19. x

    I’m home. In my own house. Exhausted, slightly dizzy, and still grateful to every soul who came out to take a chance on listening to a debut author. I have been in nine states (I think. Did I mention I was exhausted?), one district, nine planes, one train, a subway car or two, and countless automobiles in which I was accompanied by escorts whose job was to help me and keep me comfortable. (Did I need water, food, a rest? What could they do for me? I can’t remember the last time anyone has been this solicitous of me.) I can now talk about my book without having to study notes before an event, have stayed in some incredible hotels, have chatted with a series of taxi drivers who all seem to hail from Ethiopia, including one ebullient one in D.C. who bubbled over about how great the U.S.A. is and how much he loved being here, have been grateful to an army of hotel services people who found my dietary challenges (I have Celiac Disease) no trouble at all, (but as a corollary, have also just sadly realized, upon entering my house, that no one is going to bring me room service anymore), but the best part has been that reader after reader has told me not only how much they loved my book, but how much they love books in general, and reading, and how wonderful it is to have authors come talk to them. So, dizzy? Yes. Grateful to be home? Double, triple, yes. Glad I did it? Like a laboring mother, I know the exhaustion will soon wane and I will voluntarily, even eagerly, get on a plane to go to Denver next Thursday to talk to readers at the Tattered Cover, because doing this is kind of a privilege, you know?

    But this is what my back yard looks like. Home.

    • Yard? This looks like an oasis of serenity. I want one too! Congrats on all your well-merited successes. :-)

  20. After the tour, when you get home, the adrenaline lasts about thirty-six hours, and then you collapse. At least that has been my experience. I’ve been staggering about between long sleeps trying to repay the sleep deficit that comes from sleeping in hotels on your own, while having constant nightmares about whether or not the three alarms you’ve set—the iphone, the wake-up call, and the bedside alarm clock—will actually go off and get you back to the airport for the next leg. If I slipped up on one, my dreaming mind worried, then the whole house of flight/hotel/event cards would come crashing down. But maybe that’s just me and my anxiety speaking. Maybe other authors drift through the odyssey without the fear of Cyclopses, whirlpools, Sirens and other disasters keeping them from their destinations. Maybe. But I kind of doubt it.
    I leave again on Thursday to visit Denver, Portland, and San Francisco. Then I’m home for a while, with some events in the Seattle area, and go out again at the end of July, when I get to go to Albany, where part of the book is set, and read in a bookstore two miles from where I grew up and that I used to visit as a college student home for summers. I have this wonderful sense of a circle, closing. Albany is where I learned to love to read, and the city haunts me the way home haunts everyone. I’m glad to be going back.
    More from the road in a few days.

  21. Robin, it’s fun to read about your adventures! I hope you’re having a good rest.

    • Thanks, Kim. Tonight I’m reading at the BORDERS in Redmond Town Square, about ten miles north of my home. Then, I’m off to Denver for a quick visit, then Portland, and San Francisco, then home for a while. I wish I could pack all my friends into my bag and take everyone with me. That would certainly mitigate the travel-related exhaustion.

  22. Keep posting, Robin. So much fun to read.

  23. In the airport again. I’m a little worried that traveling is beginning to feel more familiar than being at home. “Up in the Air” anyone? The Tattered Cover in Denver tonight, by all reports a great independent bookstore.

  24. Have fun in Denver, Robin! I ordered your book from, and noticed that it will be released in Canada later this year with a different cover, but I’m getting the US one. Can’t wait to read it!

  25. Approx 60 people at Powells last night. Aside from the incredibly awful intro ( a friend of mine works there and she apologized to me in behalf of the store) the crowd was great. It included two people who had never been to a reading before but read about my book in the Sunday paper and decided to come, and a woman who had read the book and grasped my hand and thanked me for writing it. Six of my son’s friends came with a pink and red sign that said “Mary Sutter is hot but Robin Oliveira is on fire.” They stomped and whistled from the back row

    In Denver the people at Tattered Cover not only welcomed me with open arms but gave me an engraved bookmark with my name and the date of the reading.

    This has been fun.

    Headed to SF now to Copperfields.

  26. Home again, where, this being Seattle, it is still raining.

    A few people made it to Copperfields in Santa Rosa (which, who knew, is miles and miles north of San Francisco on Highway 101) for the Saturday night reading. (To anyone reading this blog: Do you go to readings on Saturday summer nights when it’s seventy-five degrees and you have the option of sipping white wine while barbecuing?) But thank goodness, some people do. We circled chairs and talked for an hour. One woman was about to become a Civil War reenactor and wanted to read my book as research because she was contemplating taking the role of a nurse. She bought my book and vowed to take it with her to the reenactment in Sacramento to share with everyone. That Sacramento is neither the South nor the North was a matter I didn’t pursue. Apparently, one can reenact anything anywhere. Another woman loves historical fiction and came to see me on that basis alone. It’s so gratifying to hear people’s stories. She’d been gardening all day and raced out of the house to make it on time.

    I read last night at Elliott Bay, the quintessential independent bookstore formerly in Pioneer Square, now relocated to Capitol Hill next to the former Odd Fellows Hall that is now a great restaurant that looks like a cross between a barn and a school cafeteria, complete with espresso machine and a bar. (Wine may have been involved.) This is beginning to get fun, because as time goes by, people are coming to readings having read the book. It’s so lovely to hear their comments. I had spent ages in my office, writing a story I had no idea whether or not anyone would ever read or love it as much as i did, and now it turns out that yes, some people do.

    I’ve had the chance to do a few radio shows. Yesterday, I was interviewed by a writer, which was a great experience. Today, I chatted with a radio host in Arizona named Jeff Farias, who had a bunch of fabulous questions.

    Let me just say that a cure of shyness seems to be a deep dunk in the world of public speaking. Sometimes, you just have to get over yourself.

    Not that I’m talking about myself at all.

  27. Following your tour, I’m trying to figure the ins and outs of contemporary book promotion. Very interesting itinerary. Who knew there were so many independent bookstores left.

    The photo of the kids at your earlier reading was great. Which one is Miles? I have lost track of what he might look like now.

    Thanks for keeping us up to date.


    • Miles is hiding in the back on the right between the guy in the blue tee shirt holding the sign (Tyler) and the guy with the red hair (Andrew). Miles is wearing a brown hat and a full beard. His face is partially obscured by a photograph of me pirated off the internet from my James Jones announcement. They glued the photos (there are two) to the back of paper plates, which they attached to popsicle sticks so they could wave them in the air, a la foam fingers. All these kids go to Linfield College in Oregon. I have never had a more enthusiastic reception in my life. I think everyone needs college groupies at their readings.

  28. The news is now official. “My Name is Mary Sutter” made Oprah’s What to Read Next: our 26 Favorite Books of the Summer list. July 2010 issue.

  29. Here the link to radio interview Robin just did. Robin appears in the second half of the show.

  30. Don’t forget to check out Robin’s Facebook page for even more tour information and photos.

  31. Yesterday, my friends gave me a welcome home party, at which I was made to feel very loved. Included in the group of friends were some I’ve known since college, people who knew me from my previous life as a nurse, neighbors who’ve become dear friends, fellow writers and my family, who embarrassed me with kind speeches. It was all wonderful, but I have to say, I’m glad to be back to normal life now, because I don’t especially enjoy being the center of attention. You should probably know that normal life for me is defined this way: daily banging my head against the wall, wondering why oh why my characters are being so stubborn about revealing themselves to me. I don’t know why spending my hours doing that is easier than standing at a podium talking about a book that is finished, but it is.

    But what I really wanted to say is that the party was dreamed up back in February by a friend of mine, Sharon Nicol. She had been ill for a decade, but through a combination of exuberance for life and an unfathomable lack of selfishness daily made all of us forget how ill she really was. In April, she died what seemed to all of us suddenly, though she had been living on borrowed time for a decade. My friends Karen, Lynnie and Perri generously took over her hosting duties and we had a great party, though we missed Sharon a lot.

    I wanted to remember Sharon here. Her enthusiasm for my getting to publish a book was truly one of the great things about getting it published. Sometimes, most times maybe, it’s the simple joy of a friend’s happiness that means more than anything.

    For Sharon.

  32. This post finds me in NYC, after a brief but hectic trip to Albany and Schenectady. DG revived these blog posts, and he did come to applaud me, kind soul that he is. Which was nice for a hundred different reasons, but especially since I outed him to the audience at the Book House as one of the faculty members at VCFA. I had to refrain from going on and on about how fabulous a faculty member, writer, and soul he is, for which restraint DG may or may not be grateful. I could have gone on for hours. Well, minutes, at least.

    Wow. Albany. People do love a book rooted in their hometown, and Albany and Schenectady turned out in droves to prove it.

    At the Pruyn House on Niskayuna Road, the intrepid Bebe Morehead invited what seemed like the entire town of Colonie to come hear me talk about the research I had done pertaining to Albany and Colonie, or Ireland’s Corners, as Loudonville was then called (in the 1860′s). It was an overflow crowd, at which I marveled, because it was a beautiful summer day, and in Seattle, where it has felt more like January than July of late, no one would have come inside on a beautiful summer day to a lecture. And what fun it was to be in that gorgeous old house, talking about the area history, my recollections of my childhood, and how all of that worked into the book. I would like to take this moment to say that if you want anything done in the Town of Colonie, or elsewhere, call Bebe. I think she should be in charge of organizing everything.

    At the Book House, in addition to all the readers who came and listened and asked tons of questions, it was an old neighbors, old friends, VCFA fest. Vivian Dorsel introduced me, only fitting since she plucked me from obscurity to become the fiction editor at upstreet. Marsha Koretzky brought her wonderful self and assorted relatives. A friend I went to school with since kindergarten came. (Kindergarten!) The sister of a best friend in high school came and it was so great to see her. And my next door neighbor growing up, who I haven’t seen since she turned eight, was beaming from the back fo the room. Other friends, great readers were there, too. It was a lovely time.

    And on to Schenectady where Karen Bradley, librarian extraordinaire at the Schenectady Public Library, put together a breakfast with the author meeting on five days’ notice, relying on her formidable email lists of her library-based writers programs and book lovers. This morning, when I walked into their great event space, there were 98 people there. 98. All hail librarians. I already loved them, but wow, now I’m in thrall.

    Yesterday morning, I also had the opportunity to chat with Zina Shevchik, a librarian at the Town of Colonie Library for the local Cable Access show, Meet the Author. She couldn’t have been more welcoming or kind. And then, this afternoon just as I got on the train for NYC, a reporter for a show called Schenectady Today hunted me down at the train depot where we chatted in front of a camera for ten minutes before the train arrived.

    I know. I’m gushing. But it was that kind of 26 hours. Yes, I did all that in 26 hours. I hardly believe it myself.

    Sometimes, life exceeds expectations.

    Lucky, lucky me.

  33. Sounds like so much fun–especially the guy just managing to catch you for an interview at the train station!

  34. The reporter was a woman! It was so sunny, we kept our sunglasses on.

  35. The Book House event was a warm and happy event, and very well attended. I enjoyed the talk, the reading, and especially the company. I wish there were more such evenings in my life.

    Good luck on the rest of your tour, Robin!

  36. This morning, a car stopped outside the Warwick Hotel in NYC, where I’m staying. In the back seat was Carey Wallace, the author of the debut novel, The Blind Contessa’s New Machine, a lyrical tale about the invention of the typewriter. I hopped in and the two of us were driven out to Bramford, CT to the Pine Orchard Country Club, where we met Adrienne McDonnell, the debut author of The Doctor and the Diva, an historical novel about an opera singer in Boston at the turn of the 20th Century who has to choose between motherhood, love, and her passion for opera. R.J. Julia, a bookstore in Madison, CT, organized the reading at this stunning location on an ocean inlet. Almost a hundred women came to the luncheon, all o there because of Roxanne Coady, the owner of the store, who charms everyone she meets. We signed afterwards and then were driven back into the city by Joe, an ex-Marine who sure made us feel safe. (FYI, I wish I always had a bodyguard and driver taking care of me. Joe was great.) Carey, Adrienne and I chatted all the way back about writing and getting published. We have so much in common. All three of us are debut authors, all three of us historical fiction writers, and today, all three of us were really happy to have great company in one another. Adrienne and I have three more events together, one in San Francisco, one in Seattle, and one in San Diego. Sadly, we leave Carey behind to her own events in NYC and Michigan, but I wish publicists paired authors up more often. It can get lonely out there. But not for any of us today.

    Tomorrow, San Francisco.

  37. I’m home now. That same photograph of home from above still suffices. It is about fifty-five degrees outside, cloudy, slightly rainy. I’d complain some more, but I’d best not, considering that Russian villages are bursting into flames because of the extreme summer heat. I know that opening any piece of writing about the weather is not the most interesting way to get into a topic, but one winter I studied in Russia and nothing was bursting into flame then.

    Anyway, San Francisco (where it was fifty-five degrees, foggy and misty). The great thing about the second round of the tour is that I feel much more relaxed than on the first go-around, when more seemed at stake. I’m more seasoned, find the public speaking less daunting, and am able to relax and have some fun. Another great thing is that I get to see friends wherever I go. A third is that the author escorts are wonderful, personable souls, and my escort in San Francisco was especially so. And, finally I’ve met some fabulous bookstore owners who love books.

    At Book Passage, all four elements came together. For the luncheon, they set up linen-draped tables in front of the podium instead of chairs and we all ate a meal together. Then Elaine Petrocelli introduced Adrienne and me, and we both talked about our books and read, followed by the usual Q & A. It was intimate and relaxed. I got a lot of time to chat with Julie Barton, dear friend and fellow VCFA-er, and Trish Kelly, who I met poolside in Hawaii when our daughters bonded and whose bonding then catapulted our families into instant friendship. Trish frequents Book Passage all the time. Elaine then gave us both a lovely gift of embossed stationary.

    This book tour thing can be addicting. When it goes well, it feels like there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing.

    This week was like that.

    Next week, I fly to San Diego after one last appearance here in Seattle. Then life will get back to normal.

  38. On Thursday, I made the last official leg of my tour, so, fittingly, the travel was a fraught affair. I was flying to San Diego for an event that evening in La Jolla at six p.m. The plane was delayed by an electrical problem, so, late into San Diego, I had to wait outside the airport for my author escort, who was escorting both me and Adrienne McDonnell, the author of The Doctor and the Diva. Adrienne had arrived earlier and was starving, so they had gone off to lunch. It took them a while to return to the airport to fetch me, so I spent the time enjoying the sunshine, which we haven’t seen this summer in Seattle. Bonus!
    Call me female, but my minimum daily requirement for appearing showered, dressed and fresh is one hour. An hour and a half if I’ve been on an airplane. Two if I want to eat something before the event. The people at Warwicks wanted us at the Wine Bar at 5:30. On our way to our hotels, our escort had us sign books at two bookstores. We dropped Adrienne at her hotel at 4:15. (I’m not certain why we weren’t in the same hotel, but we weren’t.) Mine was fifteen minutes away, according to the escort. Tick tock. But still doable. And then the escort’s borrowed car (hers was in the shop) wouldn’t start. Cranked like a stalled Studebaker. After several minutes of this, I bailed and begged the doorman to find me a cab. Oh, it will be fifteen minutes he said. (This not being NYC, the capital of ready cabs.) The escort was on her phone, calling someone (who?) for help. Adrienne offered her shower, but I declined to invade. When a cab arrived that wouldn’t take a credit card, the doorman offered to lend me money to pay in cash. Somehow, I had left Seattle without a penny. I declined to take advantage. Soon after, however, the requisite cab arrived and off he sped into La Jolla rush hour traffic.
    I made it to my hotel by five-fifteen, and after the fastest airplane de-contaminating ever, to the event at six, (which was not two blocks away as I had been advised, but a half-mile) in my escort’s car, which had inexplicably sprung to life a half hour after it had inexplicably failed.
    The event itself was great, worth all the preceding insanity. Adrienne and I talked and read on a patio at the Burgundy Wine Bar in La Jolla while the restaurant’s guests, who had unknowingly stumbled into a literary event, listened through open windows. I actually could hear the hush. A well-behaved bunch of kids draped themselves out the window, entranced. I wondered whether the topics of infidelity, artificial insemination, and opera singing (Adrienne’s) or amputation, war, minie balls and lost loves (mine) were topics their parents would have chosen for dinner conversation, but no one protested. Warwick’s guests listened on the patio as they nibbled hors d’oeurves and drank glasses of wine as we talked. Afterward, we signed books from table to table. Then we signed a guest book for the bookstore. I signed next to Tori Spelling, who, in her thirties, has lived a life full enough to have published a third memoir.
    Then Rich Farrell, intrepid Numero Cinq poster, dear friend, new non-fiction editor for upstreet, and fellow Glover ex-student, whisked me away to dinner at a restaurant perched above the ocean, where we ate in the bar (neither of us had eaten all day and were not going to wait an hour for a table) and talked until nearly midnight.
    So comes to an end the last official travel for My Name is Mary Sutter. I am deeply grateful that Viking/Penguin took such good care of me when I was traveling. (The lovely hotels alone were worth the time away from writing my new book.) But I am and will forever remain astonished and deeply gratified that the publisher poured so much support into the book.
    I am lucky in many ways. My agent, Marly Rusoff, is lovely and tireless and loyal. My editor, Kathryn Court, publisher and president of Penguin, is the personification of kindness and intelligence. Yen Cheong, publicist at Viking, answered every one of my questions, contacted a hundred people on behalf of the book, and patiently explained the ins and outs of book tours. Friends met me along the way and made my tour less lonely. Thank you, all.
    And now I am home. With the blank screen asking, You remember that new book you were writing?

  39. Thanks for writing the tour up for us Robin. I enjoyed traveling across country vicariously with you. And what a way to end!!!

    • Hi Natasha. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Someday, when I come to Italy, we will have wine and I will tell you more….

      I heard Slovenia was grand.

  40. A gratifyingly successful tour, as you deserved. Now you have a month to rest up before the submissions begin again.

    Welcome home.

  41. [...] First Novel Fellowship and author of the novel My Name is Mary Sutter. See Robin’s amazing book tour diary published earlier on these [...]

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