If I delay this post for one more day I fear I will have to make it a photo essay. My love of words is sandwiched by my love of dance and my love of photographs, and the camera has taken over my life this week! There’s a sample gallery below.
The first three photographs, culled from the gazillion I took on that evening, are from the launch party hosted by Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Palihakkara, at the Consulate in NY. That was an evening to remember. While none of my Sri Lankan family could be present, they seemed to fill the room in the words of the Ambassador as he recalled his association with them, particularly my father, the poet and public servant, and my brother, the poet, activist and journalist. His pride in the achievements of, as he put it, “a compatriot” (first picture), were only matched by his admiration for the social justice work that they have done and continue to do back home in deed and in word. Standing in a room where those closest to the book, my absolutely amazing agent, Julie Barer and my editor, Emily Bestler (second picture in row) in the same space as the best of my friends (third picture) from my many worlds, my family and my countrymen, I felt as though I was at the sort of auspicious gathering that is arranged before any major event in Sri Lanka. It felt like the perfect place from which to toast both an accomplishment and a contribution, to celebrate what had transpired, what might be, and more than all of it, what was in that moment: good people, good thoughts and grace.
The next nine photographs are from the inaugural public reading at the fancy B&N on 86th & Lexington. My first time in the “green room” which was quite posh and lead directly into the lovely spacious events room that was set up by the staff. It was an amazingly successful reading followed by a Q&A. I had thought that being up on a stage, sitting (there went the high-heeled advantage!), with a microphone positioned before me would be strange, but it felt like the most natural thing in the world. I could have stayed there all night. The questions were fantastic – I think everybody in the audience had one! They were thoughtful, appreciative and respectful. I couldn’t have asked for a better kick-off event. Double the wow-factor, of course, with the huge screens that broadcast both reading and discussion throughout the store (mute) and with sound in the cafe. How extraordinarily new-century – I got the wamth of my group and the PR bang of the broadcast. I think it is a new series that B&N is starting and the event should be up on a website near you soon.
Best of all, of course, was the presence, again, of my editor and her assistant and my agent – I tell you these people never rest, and some of my closest friends all of whom hail back to happy times at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. We took many photographs and collared sweet souls coming down the escalators to check out my book in its prime-time spot right near the entrance. Please see pix. of the guy in a white t-shirt checking out the book for evidence of our doings. He was wonderful and bought if for his wife.
We headed out from there to The Campbell Apartments in Grand Central Station only to be told – unfairly – that Charles could not get in because of his open-toed sandals. Even though I had open-toed heels. I supposed we could have switched? We then filed out looking for the Library Hotel and its good looking bar, Bookmarks Lounge. The journey involved walking through the streets outside the hotel where I came upon the beautiful brass plates which contained quotes from various literary luminaries. It bought to mind the essence of NYC which, to me, involves traipsing endlessly looking for a place that might welcome you, and being surprised and delighted by the gems of discovery that are found in unexpected places. It is obvious which photographs are from the bar, I’m sure.
And lastly (orange dress), the first local reading at the Borders in Wynnewood, PA which was enormously successful in that it sold out of books (Borders, Bryn Mawr was a close second two days later!), and which presented the added hilarity of trying to belt out literary fiction (from a foreign context) over the sound of the ice-incinerator right next to – it seemed – my head! I had my first mango something or the other which was cool and sweet and lovely. And my first casual Q&A which was similarly fresh and energizing. It is such a dream to have people who read ask a writer questions that go beyond the mundane. And such an enormous privilege to be able to offer some answers. The after-party at home was just icing on an already fantastic cake.
Bryn Mawr, later that week, where I read with Josh Weil, Lise Funderberg, Rachel Pastan, Elizabeth Mosier and Jim Zervanos, was similarly illuminating and truly enjoyable. We read to a packed group – people ended up perched on tables at the back! – who sat through readings by six authors most of whom were relatively new. How can you top that outside a writing conference? We had great questions, outstanding book sales and the after-reading drinks next door were not to be missed. It is always such a delight to gather together with writers in the aftermath of such things and to listen as lives are revealed, just a little more, and the real stories are told. I hope the rest of the tour unfolds with these kinds of serendipitous occurrences and receptive audiences. It will, won’t it?