Thursday, January 29, 2009

Quick Change Artist

By Deborah Sharp

I balanced, pantless, on one leg in the gas station stall. I prayed my undies wouldn't drop into a puddle I hoped was only sloshed water from a filthy mop bucket in the corner. My blouse hung perilously from a hook missing a screw on the back of the door. A rusty faucet dripped, dripped, dripped into a sink with all the porcelain scrubbed off.

A tale of a sordid encounter from my dating years?

No, just a glimpse into the glamorous life of an author on the road.

I've only been doing this a few months, but already I've learned to keep a straight face when someone asks, "So, are they sending you anywhere exciting on your book tour?''

First of all, ''they'' is me. And while I'm grateful for any chance to talk about Mama Does Time, so far my ''tour'' has been less red carpet and luxury hotels, and more arriving in my pickup truck and crashing on the sofa beds of friends.

The gas station served as makeshift changing room as I sped from a book fest in Stuart, Fla., to speak to a book group a couple of hours south. My truck's cab was packed to the roof with clothes, books, and emergency rations. A bag of honey bell oranges I'd picked up at a flea market alongside the Dixie Highway spilled onto the passenger seat. I looked like the Joads heading west in Grapes of Wrath.

Still, once I'd made myself presentable, it was great to be welcomed into the Coral Springs home of Kerry Cerra on Sunday. She combined two book clubs, twisted arms to get them to read Mama, and invited me to stop by for a chat. Not only were the members funny and smart, Kerry dished up Mama's favorites, fried chicken and pie. (Coincidentally, the author's faves, too!) And, I got to drink beer while addressing a gathering of 20-some readers eager to talk about Mama.

Good food, fun gals, and beer? Okay, not glamorous, maybe. But definitely a glimpse into the great life of an author.

How about you? What's the weirdest place you've gotten ready? Ever tried to pull on pantyhose while driving to a book event? (Guys, if you answer yes to that one, not sure I want to hear about it).


Keith Raffel said...

I lead a staid life in the quotidian world. (More exciting as one of my alter egos in the world of fiction.) So no panty hose in my life. But maybe I can work them into a book.

Jess Lourey said...

Pantyhose shmantyhose. That book club event sounds like a hoot, though! Those are always a good time.

Mark Terry said...

Mmmm, trying to change out of a suit and tie and into jeans and a T-shirt for a long airplane flight in the stall of an airport bathroom. Those things are just not designed for a carry-on, one human being and two changes of clothes.

Jess Lourey said...

Larry Craig might disagree, Mark.

Cricket McRae said...

Makes me wonder how Superman managed to change so quickly in phone booths. Especially considering the tights.

Keith Raffel said...

Cricket, I can answer your question. Clark Kent wore his Superman suit underneath his business suit.

See e.g.,

Deborah Sharp said...

Y'all are a funny bunch! Thanks for reading .... Jess, the book club WAS fun, and far less anxiety and preparation and stress than appearing at the prestigious Miami Book Fair (where I sold only half as many books!) More book clubs in my future ....

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Pantyhose??? If I'm required to wear pantyhose, I don't go. It's that simple.

But the wildest thing that's ever happened to me promoting books happened last spring. I was on my way to a big regional library event and my car caught fire -- yes, FIRE! -- just 2 blocks from the event. It was totaled. But I made it to the event with 10 minutes to spare before my panel. When I apologized for being late, they told me not to worry, everyone was late because of some car fire on Harbor Blvd. :)

I still remember sitting on the panel, a finger oozing blood through the hasty bandage the firemen plastered on at the scene, when Patty Smiley leaned over, took a sniff, and said, "You still smell like smoke."