Carnivore Dreams – What if you threw a party and nobody came?


Yep, this is the venue and though this part of it contained folks drinking at the distillery, my reading had, I think, four people there, a close friend, and my dad–for a bit.  Looked pretty much like this.

Promotion–for anyone, but particularly for writers–is a drag.  It’s difficult to get people to come to readings if you aren’t a celebrity or if you aren’t in your home town.  It’s up to the writer for the most part to organize events and I’ve either been part of a university, a tour of writers, or had to do it myself if events were in strange towns.  And sometimes when you are in a strange town, very few people come.  It’s part of the drag it is to be a literary writer.

But here is the thing.  My family has been part of Elk Rapids community since about 1850.  My great grandfather ran the last steamboat through the inland waterway here–worked nearly thirty years at the business–from 1880 -1917.  My great aunt lived here most of her life, my father inherited her house and my parents retired here in the early 1990’s.  My mother had an antique shop here and we have many friends here.

The library approached me and asked me if I would read here.  They would make my book the community read.  It was well attended, they said, and would be very nice.  They would have it at the local distillery.  Great, I said.  It was planned months in advance and I thought everyone knew about it–my relatives certainly did.  The event coordinator, though, died of a sudden heart attack at age 49, leaving a 7-year old child.  It was very sad.

I grew a little concerned, though, when I could find no mention of this event or my book on their website or facebook page a few weeks before.  The director assured me it had been posted when it was announced and my reading would be posted again toward the end.  Why it wasn’t listed all the time as an event seems a mystery.

I’m taking care of my 87-year old father with Parkinson’s and I’m exhausted.  I figured I was in my home town and friends and family would tell people.  My brother has lots of friends here.  My father has a few.  At any rate, nobody came, nobody organized anything.  Here, it would have been embarrassing to be the one doing that.  It became obvious in the last week that my friends and family, mostly, would not be there.  Usually they have 30 people at these things, they said, so I hoped that at least would be the case.  But I saw no fliers around town, saw a tiny blurb in the library corner of the local newspaper.  The director admitted to me that she “dropped the ball.”

My friends and family didn’t care.

My father and brother have never once told me they were proud of me for getting my MFA, becoming a professor, a teacher, for being a published writer.  Never said they liked my work, thought I was talented.  NOTHING.  Not a word.  I had to ask them to my book launch, but at least that is something an author sends out announcements, invitations to.

My mother died in 1994 of a massive stroke.  I had had just a couple nostalgia pieces published in national magazines at the time, didn’t even have my undergraduate degree, let alone my masters, and she told everyone she knew about “her daughter the writer.”  My early research notes for my first book (the one I read to four people) were in her hand.

But my mother wasn’t there.

Hasn’t been here for me all these years.

Nick, at Ethanology had three gorgeous cheeseboards for these two people.

It was freaking humiliating.

Here.  Where you’d think I’d have community interest.  Here. Where I’m supposed to have friends and family.  Where I’m not supposed to have to run around and beg people to come.  My one friend who was there said he should have “at least” called another friend and “kicked him in the ass.”

That’s what it takes, I guess.

But at least he was there.

Needless to say, it was devastating.  I was so devastated I ended up saying so to my brother and my father, my kids, and my husband.  (When it was clear they weren’t coming, I told my husband to work on our rental house downstate–no objection, he just did).

I will not do another reading unless my commercial project takes off and some big publisher is in charge.

I suppose I was supposed to tell them all I wanted them to come–I was supposed to do my “usual promotion,” I guess.  Told them I really wanted them to come.  Made them all feel guilty.  And of course, none of them clearly would have wanted to be there.  I would have known that.

My father assures me people love me.  Maybe they do.  I don’t know.  I’m fairly certain the male people in my family (and even my male friends) do not respect me.  My father is 87 and has Parkinson’s and gets confused, but he was always this way.  Women should stay in their place. (Also, he can invite his friends to the Lions games and make it out on his golf cart for dill sauce, so he’s clearly not that impaired yet.)

I don’t know how I’ll work it out in my head.  I don’t want my friends and family to “make it up to me,” I know that.  That can’t be done.  And to do so would be even more humiliating than this was.

The couple people that were there told me they had started reading my book over, or that it was like poetry.  It’s hard to know how many people read it and just didn’t like it.  There’s that as well.

Looking back, I think I had two choices.  Guilt them all into coming, promote myself like usual, or live with the fact nobody really wanted to.

I chose the latter.

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