Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to Play Remember When

I participated in my first author visit the other day. It wasn't my YA book. I have yet to sell a manuscript. Plus, I can't read my work out loud in the presence of an audience without (a) cracking myself up; (b) stressing out and reading too fast; (c) getting so discouraged at the runny poo on the page, I crawl into a hole; or (d) all of the above. So I promoted a published book instead. My personal fav read of last year, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell.

I suppose now's the time to also confess I was at my mom's 70th birthday party rather than a bookstore for my fake author appearance. But I did accomplish the goal of a real author visit. After I read a five page excerpt from Lied, all twenty partygoers exclaimed they couldn't wait to buy the book. But could I tell them the title again? So I smiled and repeated the title and author. And confirmed to one concerned citizen that no, the bookseller ringing up her purchase will not laugh at her purchasing a book about a 15-year old. Even though concerned citizen is 50-years older than the book's main character, Evie. Because that's the beauty of YA. It touches heart, no matter what decade you're from.

Anyway, my mom's party was a no gift soirees. Your presence and a nice card is enough. But I never can do what I'm told. Which is why I started shopping for a little something to mark the occasion above and beyond the required Hallmark greeting.

First, I entertained the idea of buying a DVD that contained news footage, movie gossip, and other notable events for 1939, the year my mom was born. But such an item requires her to operate a DVD player, advanced TV skills beyond her trusty TiVo remote. Plus, she doesn't remember the events of 1939. She was a newborn who spent the majority of her first year sleeping in my grammy's bottom dresser drawer. Because my grandfather Chuck couldn't afford a crib back then. Not after he purchased the family's 2 bedroom 1 bath bungalow for the outrageous sum of $5,000.

No, my mom's stories about the "good old days" of East Marysville span the years 1945 to 1958. A baker's dozen decade where a quarter pound burger at Chuck's Drive-In, my grandfather's restaurant, sold for a mere nickel. And Chuck used real ice cream in his shakes. Oooh, and his fries were served up with a healthy dose of mmmmmmm . . . gravy.

Yeah, I had to add that last bit of history in. This is Drea's Diner and all.

I wonder if the waitresses at Chuck's asked diners if they wanted brown or white gravy with their fries. Now that's a hard core grease shack.

Okay, back to my story. After I rejected the idea of giving the DVD about 1939, I experienced a stroke of brilliance. This party would be all about playing what I like to refer to as Remember When. So I better be ready to play Remember When, too.

Remember When my mom lifeguarded at the old Marysville public pool. And she gave swimming lessons for the Red Cross in the morning before the pool opened. For FREE.

Remember When my mom drove her new Chevy convertible to school every day. Even though she lived across the street from Marysville High School. But she didn't dare walk to school. Her grandfather owned the town's Chevy dealership for goodness sakes. So she played chauffeur to her friends so they, too, can experience the thrill of her new pink Chevy. Because that was advertisement for the dealership at its finest.

Remember When the DDT trucks sprayed down the residential streets to kill the mosquitoes during the hot summer months. And the neighborhood kids ran after the truck, playing in the mist?

So wrong, that last example. Yet so true of the 1950s.

But, see, here's the thing. My mom and her friends spin the stories so muchbetter than me because they were, you know. There. That's why I decided to play my own version of Remember When. Only, I used pages from Lied. The book takes place in 1947, giving me juicy Remember When details. And the story is written in first person, a voice I do rather well.

At the party, I waited until cake and ice cream to do my read aloud. In my mom's circle, dessert is the most important meal of the day so silence at the table prevails. In other words, it was the only time during the entire party this animated group was quiet. And after I shocked my captive audience with the FYI that yes, 1947 is indeed considered Historical Fiction in the publishing world, I enamored them by reading my selected pages. Every sentence I read, my audience nodded their heads. Or pointed their frosting covered forks in the air while blurting gems like, "I used to practice smoking with candy cigarettes, too!" Or "Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce was the best!"

So, thank you Judy Blundell for making my mother's 70th a memorable celebration. Not only did I give my mom and her guests a new taste of the "good old days." But I gave myself a taste of creating exciting vibes otherwise known as Book Buzz. Now, if I can only write my own National Book Award For Young People's Literature winner so that buzz is over my book and not yours . . . . .

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