We’re home! After seventeen book events plus travel time, I’ve been away three weeks– and have shared ANGEL face to face with approximately two hundred twenty people in a variety of settings. Most of my time was spent going to book club meetings, but there were also store and party signings, libraries, high school English classes and an appearance at a retirement home. I suppose it doesn’t sound like much to the seasoned speaker on the circuit, whose audiences are at least that many in any one appearance. But for me, that’s the beauty of being new—being able to reach out to small, personal groups and bring readers in, one at a time. Having been holed up all these years spending long hours alone with this thing that was ever so gradually making it’s way out of my head and into the world– this has felt like a giant leap!
I think that any of my fiction-writing colleagues would agree with me that the overriding impulse in writing a story that is asking to be told– is to share it. So being invited into groups that have chosen to thoughtfully read and discuss ANGEL in community, to be a witness to personal reactions and interactions to characters, and to be able to consider questions and ideas stemming from the story, feels like both a rare privilege and an immense reward.
The thing I love most about sharing the book in this way, one on one in small groups, is how I can see how it has taken on a life of it’s own. I am often surprised by scenarios set forth by readers about the hidden situations or the outcome to the story that had never occurred to me while writing, and I’m delighted when I can sit back and listen to my readers discuss Angel and her world like they are as real as any of our friends, family and acquaintances and their life situations. It’s wonderful to hear over and over again remarks such as, “I had a ‘Patsy’ in my life,” or “If you grew up in the south, you knew Naomi.” Readers are appreciating the unique flavor of southern Appalachia as a place, and connecting with the seventies nostalgia, the references to food, music, and a culture of innocence and freedom that seems quaint through the eyes of this new century.
I especially appreciate a comment from a woman in her senior years, whose own experience bears little resemblance to the story in time or place–yet she still recognizes the girl on the verge of transformation. “Angel reminds me so much of myself at that time of life,” she said. No matter the age of the reader, I have heard in the reaction of so many how Angel resonates in their hearts. She takes us to the place in ourselves that perhaps we never outgrow, the place that seeks the missing pieces, that wants something more, that holds the vision for our own wholeness. In that way, Angel is very real, and as a writer I am honored to share her, one reader at a time.