Monday, January 26, 2009

With A Little Help From My Friends

Originally posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2007.

Okay, sometimes people are so good, so kind, that it's overwhelming. I mean, you can't figure out how to tell them what they've done for you and there's no way to thank them enough. Today, as I'm trying to get out the word about my book, I have several people like that in my life. I owe them so much. And the thing that really gets me is -- in every single instance I almost didn't meet them.

So let me start with the time I was schlepping the Emmy to a book fair. I take the Emmy on the road with me because I've discovered that people like to see one up close and I've always felt I should get some benefit from the damn thing. I was fired three months after I won it, and after that I figured it was cursed, and I refused to have it in my house. I asked my agent to keep it until I wasn't mad at it anymore, and she put it on a shelf in her office. I swear to God this next part of the story is true. A couple of months after she took possession – and I use the term advisedly -- a wrecking ball that was being used in some reconstruction work across the street swung out of control, crashed through the front window of her office, and knocked my Emmy on the floor, denting it smack in the middle of it's golden globe. My agent had worked in that office for decades and nothing larger than a fruit fly had ever come in through her window. Then my Emmy took up residence and… but I digress.

At the point I'm talking about, I had reconciled myself to the Emmy and I was hauling it with me. I carry it in a box full of Styrofoam peanuts, which is huge and awkward but does keep the sucker safe. Until you drop it on the sidewalk because you've gotten lost trying to find the venue where you're supposed to make your speech, and you didn't realize that all the streets around the fair would be cordoned off so you couldn't find a cab, and you were trying to board a trolley without realizing that it only took special tokens, and the conductor wouldn't accept the twenty you were desperately waving at him. So the Emmy hit the ground and rolled around in the gutter for a bit, while I tried to gather up the packing peanuts.

By the time I finally found the place where I was supposed to make my speech I was frazzled. My hair was doing its Portobello mushroom imitation. I usually wear long skirts because I think they're slenderizing, and this one had picked up some unpleasant debris in the gutter—stuff you really don't want to dwell on. I almost ducked out of the speech but I have this show-must-go-on thing which has always gotten me into a lot of trouble, but I can't seem to shake it.

So the end of this story should be I wowed them with my speech, and I sold a thousand books – right? My speech didn't get one laugh – not a giggle, not a chuckle. I didn't sell one book. I thought the whole day was a bust.

But that event was where I heard about Kathy Patrick, the Pulpwood Queen. And my fellow speechmaker – a wonderful author named Robert Dalby -- offered to introduce me to her. And now Kathy Patrick is one of the people in my life that I thank The Universe for on a daily basis. And I want to thank her –even though I'll never be able to do it enough.

Let me tell you about my friend and guardian angel, Kathy Patrick, the Pulpwood Queen (check out her website at Kathy is the owner of a beauty salon/ bookstore in Jefferson Texas. She says -- and I believe her – it's the only one in the world. She is also Head Queen of the Pulpwood Queens who are the probably the biggest book club in the world – it's structured so that there are individual Queens and individual book clubs, but she is the den mother/Queen who makes the monthly book selections and creates a dizzying array of book related events. I don't think it would be going too far to say that Kathy Patrick is single handedly saving the art of reading in America. She wins awards all the time for her work on literacy. But that doesn't begin to describe the warm, generous, unique and incredible woman she is. Think of all the best qualities of all your best girlfriends and that's Kathy. If you want to know more about her and her inspiring personal story she's written a book called The Pulpwood Queen's Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide To Life and I urge you to buy it. It will make you happy to be alive. Kathy has chosen to make my book Family Acts her September Book Selection. She's listed my book on her website and has invited me to come to Texas and Shreveport to meet with her book clubs. How do you thank someone for help like that? I've tried, but she just tells me she loves books and authors and she wants to help. I guess, in the end, you just write a blog and try to express your gratitude even though you know there's no way you can do enough. So, thank you, Kathy.


Okay, there's someone else I almost didn't meet who is now being so generous and kind to me. It all started when my publicist at Ballantine Books told me that I had been selected to go on a cruise to Bermuda. The cruise was sponsored by a group called Gather Inc, and they are fabulous –but I'm not going to tell you about them now, because I'm determined not to digress.

So there was an all expenses paid weeklong cruise for me if I wanted it. A fun vacation for my husband and me. No one in their right mind would turn it down – right? . Now I've got to tell you something about me. It's not pretty and I'm not proud of it. I'm not a fun person. Over the years I've tried to be and it just doesn't work out. I don't know how to make small talk. I don't dance because I have no sense of rhythm and when the other kids my age were listening to Motown I was so clueless I was listening to Rogers and Hammerstein and you really couldn't do all those rock and roll dances – I think one of them was called the Frug -- to If I Loved You.

At parties where everyone is drinking champagne and having a ball, you'll find me hunkered down in a corner with some poor soul and I'll be chatting about world hunger. I'll be sucking on a diet coke. The poor soul – who probably didn't do anything to deserve his punishment except say Hi to me -- will have a desperate, glazed look in his eyes. When I was in high school I belonged to the debate club. I led us to the state championship twice. You could get yourself beaten up for doing that in Woodbridge, Connecticut back in the Fifties.

Not only am I no fun, I don't take vacations. I will say this in my own defense. When I was a young actress on the hustle there was a rule – I think it was somewhere in the Actors Equity Handbook – that said if you left Manhattan or Los Angeles for longer than fifteen minutes, that was when your agent would call you to say you had an audition for the part that would make you into the next Diane Keaton. The rule went on to say that by the time you came back into the city, the role would have gone to Diane Keaton and you would continue your career as a looser and it would serve you right because you weren't properly dedicated to your art.

So I was inclined to say that I couldn't do the Bermuda cruise because it sounded not only like it might be fun but it smacked pretty heavily of the dreaded V word—no, no, no, not that word—vacation. But my husband, who has been married to me for a long time, and knows me well, and does like fun and vacations, pointed out that I was going to be giving a talk on this cruise. I could spend days practicing it in our cabin and going crazy worrying about it, he said. I could obsess about what I was going to wear. I could schlep the Emmy with us and get our baggage inspected at the airport. There was absolutely no reason for me to be afraid I might have a good time, he said.

Of course he lied. We went on the cruise and I actually did have a wonderful time. Gather Inc had booked several authors for the cruise and they all gave speeches and they were brilliant to talk to and amazing speakers and I loved being a part of it. And the people who had booked the cruise so they could hear us all talk were phenomenal. And that brings me to—Julie Rogers.

Julie Rogers won her trip on the cruise. She introduced herself to me on the first day and she was one of those people that you just like right away. She's smart and she understands the problems and the joys of doing what you love for a living. She also gets the jokes. We started talking about books and I went on about how hard it is to promote them these days—little ray of sunshine that I am—and she totally got it. She told me about her website called, which is an outreach to mothers primarily, although it is so comprehensive anyone will find it fascinating. Just check it out. There are sections devoted to all kinds of practical issues – like ways to make extra money and recipes -- and there is a whole section dedicated to books and reading.

Julie offered to help me get out the word about Family Acts on her website, and she also offered to throw a book party for me if my publisher sent me to her neck of the woods.

It's almost a year later, I'm not going to be going to the West Coast which is where Julie lives, but she has posted the first four chapters of my book on her website, she sent the rules of my cake recipe contest to all of her recipe websites, and she has given her huge email list the heads up about Family Acts going on sale at the end of the month. When I try to thank her, she just tells me we all have to stick together and she likes to help. So here's to sticking together and thank you again, Julie.

No comments:

Post a Comment