I hope you had a good week last week. Mine was insanely busy. I’m travelling around these days, and have had some new experiences. I’ve never done book tours for my books, because I have too many children, and write too many books. I wrote my first book at 19, and was already married and had a child by then, and there was no way I could take care of my daughter, and write, and go on tour for the books. So I said right from the beginning that I wouldn’t tour, and my publisher at the time informed me that I would never succeed if I didn’t, but I took the chance and stuck with my decision not to tour. And actually, things turned out pretty well, since here we are and I’m writing to you, and presumably you read my books. Then habit set in, and (many) more kids arrived, I write several books a year, and there was just no way I could tour, keep up with my work, and drive car pool and show up at soccer games, lacrosse, ballet classes with my daughters, and the orthodontist. So I have always stayed close to home with my children around me, or one on my hip, and my nose in my typewriter all night. Nothing much has changed, except the kids have grown up, more or less (I still have one at home, although her life is busier than mine). So recently, I decided to do something different, but which seemed important to me. I told my publisher that I wanted to meet some of the big distributors of my books, notably Walmart, Costco and Amazon. Walmart is more of a challenge since it’s in Arkansas, but Costco and Amazon are in Seattle, and only a short hop by plane from San Francisco when I’m there.
So I set up the meetings, and set out on a new adventure last week. I went to a city I’ve never been before: Seattle, on a very grown up trip, to meet some people at Amazon and Costco. And since I’ve never done anything like it before, it was a little daunting. It seemed a little silly to be knocking on their doors to say “Hi!! I just wanted to thank you for doing such a great job for me!” but essentially, that’s what I did. And as usually happens, when you dare to do something new and different, it totally surprised me, and was unexpectedly terrific, and I’m so happy that I did it. I’m shy, and writing is a great excuse to stay home and not get out in the world much, but I am SOOO happy that I made the trip. Everything about it was perfect.
My first meeting was with a wonderful woman from Costco, who has been there as long as I’ve been writing. She had a busy week, so she very kindly agreed to meet me at my hotel for a drink after work. She was incredibly nice to do that after a long day, and she even had to pick her dogs up at Day Care before she met me. And it was one of those chance encounters when everything clicks. Everything. I felt like I was meeting an old friend, I had heard wonderful things about her from my editor, and several other people, and everything they said was true. It took about 5 minutes to figure out that we were kindred spirits. She stayed for more than two hours, and by the time she left, I had a new friend, and so did she, with hopes and promises to meet again. I had a wonderful time talking to her about the business, which I never get to do. No one at my house knows anything about publishing or selling books, and I don’t see my publishers often either, or even my agent, or editor. Everything happens by email now, so I have very little personal face-to-face contact with anyone in the business, and I live 3,000 miles from the publishing world, in either of my homes. I had THE MOST wonderful time with my new friend from Costco. The whole meeting felt like a gift, and was a reminder to me to take my courage in my hands more often and do something new. It was really terrific, and got my trip to Seattle off to a wonderful start. I can’t begin to tell you how great it was, and what a wonderful person she is!!!! I felt like I had won the lottery when I went back to my room, smiling from ear to ear. (And of course we talked about dogs too. I always take my two little Chihuahuas with me everywhere, but I didn’t for this short trip, and as I left the house, they both looked heartbroken and shocked, and one of them to prove a point got sick as I was walking out the door, and I left feeling severely guilty!! But they’re both okay now.)
I’m not very good at going out on my own, so I didn’t go out to dinner that night, and actually skipped dinner and ate some pretzels and a Kit Kat in my room instead. Seriously healthy food!!! And I’d had a hot dog for lunch.
The next morning, I woke up at 6, nervous about my next meetings. I couldn’t possibly get that lucky again, and this wasn’t going to be just a friendly drink at my hotel. I was going to Amazon (if I could find the right building) for serious, grown up meetings. And indeed Amazon is a complex of buildings in downtown Seattle, but I found the right building (with good directions) more easily than expected. And was met immediately at the entrance by a lovely young woman who was all set to take me upstairs. She had a fascinating history, and had lived in Thailand, the Philippines and Chicago, and totally stunned me when I got upstairs, and had a ‘snack’ waiting for me of Oreo cookies, which she heard I love, and hard boiled eggs, which she had read I eat when I’m writing. We chatted until the woman I was meeting arrived, the head of books who was a lovely person, and generously spent an hour with me, talking about the books, and she did everything to make me feel at home. And it was fascinating being at Amazon. The atmosphere is informal, people are casually dressed, and are even allowed to bring their dogs to work. In some ways, it felt more like a college or a big school than what I had expected. And after an hour, I was escorted upstairs to meet Jeff Bezos, the head of Amazon. And yes, I was nervous!!! I was led through two conference rooms and several ante rooms, and had no idea what to expect, when in walked a friendly, smiling, relaxed man with all the modesty of someone truly important and we sat down and chatted like old friends. I was bowled over that he, and the woman in charge of books had been so generous with their time, and spent so much time with me, getting to know me, so I could thank them for all that they do for me. Mr. Bezos was extraordinarily kind and welcoming, and everyone acted as though they had been waiting years to meet me, and we chatted for nearly an hour, we posed for a photograph together (he looked a lot better than I did), and then I left, a little stunned and dazed by the whole experience and my two days in Seattle. I had met with three very important people in book sales, and the whole experience was amazing. We don’t talk about my work a lot at home, and never have, I don’t go out in the world much or take advantage of my fame, so being somewhere where the whole focus is on me and my work is amazing and unusual for me. (No one at my house is impressed by who I am, and I wouldn’t want them to be!!), so to be center stage for two days was kind of a shock, and with such interesting, impressive people. I have always wanted to meet Jeff Bezos and now I have, and he couldn’t possibly have been nicer or warmer, as well as his entire staff. (I even took the bag of Oreos with me, which turned out to be lunch. I was too nervous and excited to eat, until I finally got home that night and had soup and some kind of carrot soufflé I found in the fridge.)
I had a fantastic time, and it was a great trip. Afterwards I wandered around the shopping district a little. I never got to see much of the city touristically, although my hotel was on the water, and the sky was beautiful. Both days were gray, but there was a soft pearly gray light over the city, which reminded me of Paris. And then I hopped a plane and went home to San Francisco. Mission accomplished!! I actually got to meet some of the people who are so vital to my books, and thank them in person, and now we know each other. It was exactly what I hoped for, and everyone was so wonderful to me. It couldn’t have been better. So a small act of courage going there, and making the time in my writing and travel schedule turned out to be one of the best ideas I’ve had in years. It was a wonderful, wonderful trip, and I was immensely spoiled by everyone. And I had so much fun!!! Going to Seattle to meet those three people turned out to be an incredible gift for me, and I’m truly grateful for their kindness and the experience. Have a wonderful week!!