Sand at Third Place Books


The drive from Portland to Seattle was pleasantly uneventful. Jennifer Colvin, who wrote “Cultural Exposure,” is from the Olympia area. She had flown up to do the Portland and Seattle events with me since she has family and friends up here. It was good to have her company. She and I have become friends and I don't think I know anyone who is as good at participating in a variety of situations. Whether being outgoing and social at a cocktail party or networking event, or being polite and well mannered among people she doesn’t know, or being calm and collected during turmoil -— I can always count on Jenn to do the right thing. It sounds like I’m creating a rather strange compliment, but trust me, I’ve known people who I have to worry about behaviour-wise, and it’s comforting to start off this tour knowing that Jenn is not one of them. Maybe it’s because we’re friends more than colleagues, but it could be because she’s just that good. Low maintenance. A perfect balance for, ahem, well, you know who.

Andrew Walker, a friend from the BootsnAll community, who I’d met in January when I came up for Rolf’s Seattle events, was ready for my arrival. He’s been so helpful and had directions to our first event ready. We planned to meet at Third Place Books, and Andy alerted us to the fact that the store is in a shopping center next to an open air food court. He said that the events usually take place on a stage in the middle of this food court.

When Jenn and I got there I saw what he meant. We were in a mall and at the top of the escalator was an open bookstore with no doors. All open with the entrance somewhat manned by an information booth. the right side of the building consisted of Honey Bear Bakery, and a variety of international cuisines. In front of the state were rows of large wooden tables. Some, almost farm like. They were sturdy and a man sat at one near the stage tapping away at a laptop. In the corner to the right of the stage were leather sofas and armchairs. This was like a library/community center/cafeteria. Envision a college student center in a shopping mall across the street from Lake Washington and surrounded by a parking lot and you have the gist.

Conducting the reading on stage would be different, but I liked the idea of having all the extra audience members forced to listen to while they ate their meals. I made notes about the intro knowing full well I couldn’t just “wing it” while up at the podium and surrounded by curtains. I had a limited wardrobe and surely didn’t need any meatballs thrown at me.

We checked in with the coordinator, Judith, and were slightly let down to discover that we wouldn’t be reading on stage.

“You’ll be in the The Den,” she said and I looked across the store for a separate room. Not seeing one, she took us over to a little nook between shelves, barely bigger than the SkyCube. There were a few armchairs, and I figured that we were just too small a name to warrant the stage. Going with the flow I asked to see their travel section, and was thoroughly impressed at the long line of shelves dedicated to travel literature. I found a whole stack of A Woman’s Path positioned face out, and exclaimed, “Hey, that’s mine, too.” Judith was pleased to hear it and said she’d add them to the books tonight.

Judith showed us where the books and postcards were positioned up front at the store entry and told us that she’d already sold 17 books leading up to the event. Jenn and I found that the event had been announced in The Stranger though they didn’t have our book cover in their big ad so I have to make sure that’s not what TT was paying for in the coop request.

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Seeing the small area where we’d be reading, and considering we were out in the suburbs, my expectations were lowered. I thought we’d get about twelve to fifteen people. Or at best, the same size as the night before.

As event time approached, Jenn and I changed in the car. I wasn’t feeling particularly pretty but did the ole lipstick trick, and kept my smile. Seeing Andy cheered me up, and I bought an iced coffee for some last minute self induced spunk.

Guess what? I didn’t need it! When we got to the reading area we found fifty seats filled with more piling in to stand around. All in all, sixty five people listened. Suddenly the little nook seemed twice as big and I don’t know how they did that. Magic I suppose. We sold about 25 books, and Judith asked us to sign her remaining stock. Some twenty more. But that’s just some numbers for those of you who are keeping track. The real magic of the night was in the crowd.

These Seattle-folks were ready to laugh. Some had heard of the event from the weeklies, others from the Seattle Times, some form the store, and still others from friends. I started it off with my rock star greeting, “Hello Seattle!” and they surprised me by saying hello back. Few knew much about Travelers’ Tales, so I gave them the run down as well as the info about the tour. Their smiles and giggles were contagious.

Contributor Nancy Bartlett who lives nearby on Whidbey island came over for the event and I soon learned that this was not only her first time reading, but that her story, “Panic in Any Other Language,” was her first published travel piece.

After introducing Jenn and Nancy, I read a short bit, then Nancy read her story. I followed it with “Panties of Prison” by Christie Eckhardt. This was the first time I read this story aloud at an event and they ate it up. Jenn read her story next and I swear the audience was laughing more and more with each story. This was Jenn’s fourth Sand reading and definitely her best delivery. They were loving it and even the men in the audience were howling. I was infected by their enthusiasm and in my own mind seemed to be getting funnier. I even told them that they were the best audience we’d ever had and that this was the best event we’ve had so far. Even better than Easy Going which until now was definitelythe previous best. The events are usually fun for me, but this one was a blast.

And it got even better. When we opened it to Q and A, they were full of questions. Some wanted to submit to Sand II, some wanted to know about the editing process, some wanted to talk travel. Lots wanted to know about the pink car. Afterwards they lined up to get their books signed and I think it was the longest line we’ve seen.

One woman, Linda, even brought us a bra. She didn’t buy a book because she was dead set on winning the backseat BraMobile raffle, but I handed her my dogeared event copy because I was so pleased that we had our first bra! It was hard to tell who was happier, me or her.

After we got done signing all the copies Judith asked the Jenn, Nancy, and I to cram into the black and white photo booth where we took a picture for her author collection. She and her friend Diana joined us for drinks afterwards at a place called Ten Mercer.

Adrenaline kept Jenn and I going till we got in the car to leave shortly before 11:00. At that point we were ready to crash. Damn, what a fun night it had been.