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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To PA with Love

This past Saturday I went to downtown Harrisburg, PA for the Capital Book Fest held at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. After speaking on a panel with fellow authors including Tinesha Davis and reading a short excerpt from the book, I went to work. I laid my table with my banner and books, then stopped every book lover that passed by with a "Can I tell you a little about my book?"

The college summers I logged as a retail sales assistant came in handy as I stood in my 4 1/2 inch wedge heel platforms for the next six hours pitching passersby. I must have spoken with over 100 people working hard to connect with each person for the few minutes they gave me their attention. By the end of the day, I found that my most successful pitches got to the point quickly (what the book is about); revealed my humanity (why I needed to write it); and made no assumptions about who the story might resonate with based on their look.

Whether they were wearing the modest long sleeved maxi dresses and bonnets of the Mennonite/Amish; tugging children and grandchildren behind them; or boasting tattoo sleeves, I approached every person that passed with my story and they returned the favor. I met a woman who could identify with the "broni" feeling I detail in the book because she had lived in Japan for years; a Finnish man who marveled at the American race problem even as he recounted stories of his school days with a Nigerian mate; an English teacher on the hunt for stories that would boost the self-esteem of her youngsters; a woman wearing impossibly high wedge heels too...

The story was the same on Sunday at my in-store signing at Willow Grove Mall. I spoke at length with a woman who hosted a Ghanaian family and had been in Ghana in August too visiting them. It turns out that her family friends know my Uncle Abeeku (the one I thank at the end of my acknowledgments). I met a man who had traveled across West Africa in the '90s overseeing the maintenance of road works machinery. I signed a book for a professor who teaches a course on chocolate. And I listened as another man shared that he had never thought he would amount to anything -- but he did and he have God the glory for it. I wanted to keep connecting with this generous cross-section of people and ended up staying in Willow Grove two hours longer than I'd planned.

I'm looking forward to my next scheduled Capital Book Fest date in Largo, MD and reading/signing at DC's Presse Bookstore.