Talking to Writers About Their Pandemic Book Tours
From the WMFA Podcast with Courtney Balestier
Writing can be lonely work; WMFA counters that with conversation. It’s a show about creativity and craft, where writer and host Courtney Balestier talks shop with some of today’s best writers and examines the issues we face when we do creative work. The mission of WMFA is to explore why we writers do what we do, so that we can do it with more intention, and how we do what we do, so that we can do it better.
In the second quarantine call-in episode, writers with new releases share their favorite moments from a very different kind of book tour than they’d expected.
From the episode:
Leah Naomi Green: My name is Leah. I’m calling from Virginia. My book, The More Extravagant Feast, was selected by Li-Young Lee for the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, and it came out from Graywolf Press on April 7, about three weeks into the U.S. experience of COVID-19.
Of course, there has been a lot lost in that timing, but an unforeseen delight with timing has been the book—I think—has become more pressing or at least more useful. I think a lot of writers have been feeling this as people take refuge in literature, and it’s wonderful to see such proof that literature does meet human needs, especially when we’re unmoored or in need of grounding or refocusing.
My book is about human dependence on and intervening with ecological systems. It’s proven important to people right now, especially that there are systems that have not failed, which are greater than any of the systems we’re watching fall apart. It’s important that we’re already a part of these systems, that our role within the greater than human world is both a responsibility and a gift. This, of course, was all in the book before COVID-19, but it has been wonderful to watch these scenes make unexpected connections with people in light of COVID. Honestly, those connections are infinitely more satisfying than the expected launch could ever have been. It’d be nice to see the people’s faces, but I’ll take the connections.
Michael Torres: Hi, this is Michael Torres from Mankato, Minnesota. My first collection, An Incomplete List of Names, is due out this fall. Instead of a tour, or in lieu of a traditional book signing, what I wanted to do—and because a lot of the book focuses on my adolescence as a graffiti artist—I want to not only sign copies, but I want to actually do some graffiti tag on there before I send them out as a way of specializing them.
Deb Olin Unferth: Hi, this is Deb calling from Austin, Texas. The name of my book is Barn 8. I think that my favorite thing about my quarantine book release is at every event practically that I’ve done, some surprise person from my past life has popped up, and it’s always been really funny and exciting and fun. Old students, family members, extended family members who I haven’t talked to in years.
But I think my favorite one was a woman that I met in Managua, Nicaragua, in 1999. She and I had met there and then planned a trip to Cuba together, which we took. Then after that we lost touch and I haven’t seen her all these years… and then lo and behold she popped up in one of these events that I was doing and while I was doing the event she kept holding up her kids to show me. Look, she had kids now and then backing away to show me her house and then holding up her little tiny dog. Look, I have a dog. That was so funny.
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