“[Michael E. Dellert’s reading at Black Dog Books on Saturday 15 July] was an eclectic gathering of eager minds that were totally blown away by Mike’s uncanny imagination. He belongs in the big leagues.”
— Rob Marcazo, singer, songwriter, poet, voice-over actor.
Life is a weird and fickle thing.
Thirty years ago, when I was—wow, younger than I care to admit—I decided that I wanted to be a real, published writer someday.
Today, it’s been a week since my reading from the four volumes of my Matter of Manred Saga at Black Dog Books. It was the first public reading of my work since the late 90’s, when I used to slam poetry in the open mic competition at Bar 13 in Manhattan “back in the day.”
And it was an unspeakable privilege to be able to return to my own personal “Old Country,” the place where I grew up, and re-introduce myself as a writer, now published, just like I said I would be.
It’s also been, in its own way, a very strange week…
It Was an Honor
To appear at Black Dog Books last week was an honor I’ll not soon forget. The owner, Catherine Cassidy, is a tireless champion for literacy, regularly featuring events like “Reading with Kiki” and “Children’s Story Hour” with Deborah Gaurino, author of the Is Your Mama a Llama? children’s board book.
Not to mention the contribution Catherine and Black Dog make to the creative, literary conversation in the land where I grew up, hosting readings by local area authors as varied as Marina Cramer, author of Roads; Manoshi Chitra Neogy, author of Blood Words, A Warrior’s Walk; and myself.
Truly, it was an honor, a privilege, and a great pleasure to read at Black Dog Books, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.
It Was an Unqualified Success
Even if I do say so myself. By every measure I set for myself, from book sales to attendance, everything about the night met and exceeded expectations.
And I’m not ashamed to say, “I marketed the hell out of that reading.”
- I posted a few times about it here on the blog,
- I shared those posts regularly to Facebook, Twitter, and GooglePlus,
- I created both a Facebook and a Goodreads event for it,
- I even took out a Facebook ad targeted at everyone within 200 miles of Black Dog Books;
- I humped up and down the street to enlist local businesses to fly my freak flag in their windows,
- I persuaded The Barrel House restaurant to sponsor drink specials and discounts for my guests, and
- The Mi Rancho Mexican Grill was so kind as to bring over two trays of their delicious tacos for my guests at the event;
- I placed the reading in a local newspaper’s online events calendar,
- I sent out press releases to the two local newspaper chains, and
- One of the newspapers even picked up the story and did a full page spread on the event in their several area papers.
And the hard work and long hours paid off:
- Folks were trickling into Black Dog Books all day, asking about my books and the reading that night.
- The event space was filled to standing room only.
- The audience was engaged and asked great questions. As guest Rob Marcazo later put it: “It was an eclectic gathering of eager minds,” ranging from his 4-year old daughter (who was enthralled the whole night) up to retirees and pensioners.
- People I haven’t seen in twenty years (and longer) came out of the woodwork to see what I’ve been up to.
- And people I’ve only just met recently (and at the event itself) shook my hand, bought my books, and told me, “It’s not usually what I read, but I’m really intrigued now.”
- The owner herself said to me, “You really did a great marketing job. Everywhere I went to do my own marketing, you’d already been there.”
So my greatest fear—that it would be a humiliating night of drowning crickets in a mug of whiskey in front of an empty hall—never came to pass.
And that too makes me proud.
Which is Why This is Now So Weird
Once the event was done, I walked away thinking, “Well, ok then. That’s behind me now. On to the next.”
But that didn’t turn out to be the case. Throughout the last week, I’ve been:
- Receiving feedback from attendees, thanking me for the reading and telling me how much they’re enjoying whichever book they purchased;
- Hearing from old friends who couldn’t be at the event, but want to congratulate me on my creative successes;
- Stopped at the grocery store and asked if I’m “that writer who was reading at Black Dog Books the other day,” and
- Fielding questions from new and old friends alike regarding how they can get signed copies of my books.
Which is all wonderful in and of itself.
But then I received an email from Catherine on Friday: “I am out of Hedge King and only have one (1) Merchants Tale left. Is it possible to restock soon?”
She sold out of Hedge King?!
Like, for real?
But that still wasn’t the weirdest part.
I walked into a dinner party Friday evening. Several guests practically gushed all over me: “Oh my Gaaaawd! I saw the article about you in the newspaper! How was the reading? What’re your books about? Where can we find them?”
Their kids even jumped onto their phones and looked the books up on Amazon right then and there. (“Wow, you’ve really got some great reviews!”)
And everyone wanted to know if I had any copies with me.
(Note to self: start carrying around a handful of Hedge King copies…)
It was weird. It was downright surreal. It was… Well, ok:
It was pretty damn cool.
So thanks to everyone who came out to support me that night.
Thanks to Catherine of Black Dog Books for hosting the reading.
Thanks to Mi Rancho Mexican Grill for feeding us delicious tacos.
And thanks to The Barrel House for getting us drunk afterward and letting us close down the place.
Thanks to all the businesses on Spring Street in Newton who were so supportive and flew my flag in their windows.
Thanks to my daughter for reading aloud with her old man.
Thanks to everyone who bought a signed paperback from the Matter of Manred Saga, both that night and since.
Thanks to everyone who’s offered their encouragement and enthusiasm, whether you could be there or not, whether you’re near or far away.
To express my gratitude, I’m extending the bundle discount available at the Black Dog reading (25% off signed paperback editions of the four Matter of Manred books to date) to everyone on earth, until the end of August. And you can order yours right here.
Thanks so much everyone!!