Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Saturday, September 29...panels panels panels

The first event of my day was in the Deadwood Public Library Round Table Room. It was called, "Ask an author" and I was to sit at the round table, presumably with people who had questions, and answer them. I couldn't help but notice that not only was Ivan Doig presenting The Whistling Season for One Book South Dakota, at the same time, but Pete Dexter was reading at the Library in another room and Deb Marquardt as well. Sam came with me and the Festival volunteer led me to the room in which sat one other person. She had a cane, had just had back surgery. We chatted and then my mother and sister arrived. It occurred to me that four out of six of the people in the room were related, the fifth the festival volunteer. The woman with the cane asked, "Are you Ellen Baker?"

I said, "No. I'm sorry. Ellen Baker was here at nine o'clock." She looked crestfallen. I told her that Ivan Doig was reading at the Masonic Temple and Deb Marquardt was right outside the door, and she was going to play the guitar. The woman looked at me, then at her cane, thinking, I imagine, about the difficulty in shifting locations, then said she guessed she'd stay. One would think this situation would be awkward, but it was, all in all, pretty wonderful. My sister started asking questions as if she wasn't my sister at all, and the whole table had a fine discussion about literature and book publishing. We discussed the woman with the cane's book project and when the hour was done she pronounced it must have been fate that she was to be there, and thanked me. Very gratifying.

Next, Louis and I met to present, "Truth and Fiction, writing through History's Lens." It was a full room and, again, a lot of fun. Louis and I took turns reading and talking and there were many questions afterward. I didn't have a watch, and I worried through the whole thing that we were running long. WEAR A WATCH. I promised to get myself one before going to Calgary. The last thing I need is another thing to worry about.

Finally Nyla, Ellen and I did our debut novelists panel. Louis introduced us. We each read a small bit from our books and talked about our journey toward publishing. The night before I had read through Nyla's and Ellen's books and jotted down notes in case the discussion faltered. But it didn't prove necessary.

The panels allowed the authors to meet and talk to people, but I also noticed at the last book signing, many of the people that I had talked to at the panels bought my book and asked me to sign it.

With the last mass book signing, our responsibilities were over. However, though we did not have to appear again, some of the best times were had over drinks, and meals, and chance meetings. I did meet Ivan Doig. He had a room at the Hickock on the same floor. He was charming. I had wonderful conversations with Emily Cook of Milkweed Editions, Terri Jentz, the Webbs, Deb Marquardt, and the chef Lucia Watson (Savouring the Seasons) from Minneapolis. Pete Dexter, Louis and I traded books, and I am in debt to Pete as he handed over his hardback to my paper. Cathie Draine and I talked gardening. It was great seeing Bill Holm again (last we saw him he was sitting in his house in Hofsos, Iceland looking over the bay) and David Romtvedt approached us and asked if we were Sam's parents, Sam having made such an impression on him. My fellow debut novelists were wonderful to meet and share a podium with and we had a great time talking afterwards. Sherry DeBoers was a pleasure, ever positive, helpful and well-spoken. It was a wonderful weekend.

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