Today, this afternoon, I saw my books in a shop window for the first time in my life. The experience was so heady, and I was so overwhelmed, I did a very uncool thing and insisted my daughter took a photo of me standing in front of the window. Here it is:
Okay, I tried to look dignified and restrained, but it really was something beyond just euphoric. If I never see this again, I will forever cherish this image.
The reason that all my books were in the window of this shop was that I was giving a talk at the American Book Center in Den Haag and they very kindly promoted not just the books I was talking about (Watery Ways and The Skipper's Child), but my other books as well. The talk centred on the two books with Dutch connections, and I especially hope that given the time of year, The Skipper's Child will gain some interest. It is set at Christmas in 1962 (so it's seasonally topical), and is a kind of 'coming of age' novel in that it tells the story of a 12 year old boy who discovers what it means to be loyal and courageous against some fairly heavy odds; he also learns to stand up for what is just and fair in the face of quite overwhelming opposition. It is a 'period' novel, being set in the early sixties, about a very different way of life on the European waterways, so I hope it will interest enough people to give it a try. I've written another novel since (my Eccentrics, of whom I am very fond), but I still feel Arie Kornet's story is the best of my creative writing so far.
I also talked about Watery Ways, the memoir of my first year on a barge, and the difference between writing fact and fiction. Then we finished up the afternoon with a demonstration of the Express Printing machine they have at ABC. I've featured this in a blog post before, but now I'm going to post a brief film of the machine. I should mention that because they have to be sure the author owns all the rights to the books they print on this machine, I chose to give them African Ways to use as a demo. It's my first book, my first memoir, and the only one I have retained sole rights over. This astonishing machine takes around ten minutes to print, bind, cut and finish a complete book. When it has finished everything it has to do, it delivers a perfect and complete book in a slot on the side of the machine. So, to finish off the afternoon, we held a draw and one of my visitors won a signed copy of African Ways.
Many thanks to Agnes, Jo, Karin, Lilia, and Esther at ABC for their very kind help and also the wonderful Barry who helped make the afternoon such a special event. I hope it will prove to be worth all the trouble for all of you in eventual sales, and I very much hope I can come back another time to talk about my future writing projects.