It's the Anti-Launch!

It's the Anti-Launch!

Hey! My birthday was last week! And my fella's was the week before. All this celebrating has put me in mind of gal fireworks-258parties past and present, and so I decided to recycle this article, which ran on the Canadian National Post Blog in May. It's about my Dublin 'anti-launch' for Cinnamon Toast one rainy March night. No names have been changed. Here it is:

As soon as I announced that Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World was getting published, friends started talking about a book launch, and so did I. In fact, I dreamed about it as if it were my wedding.

But as I got closer to publication, I realised that this really was just daydreaming.

It's like the times when I remember my actual wedding - I'm usually running a "greatest hits" montage in my head – just cut to the dancing and conveniently skip over the hours when my smile cramped and my back ached as I posed for picture after picture with the sun beating down. In the same way, my launch fantasies were somewhat removed from reality. I wanted hundreds of guests, singers harmonising on a perfect medley of 80s tunes, a dynamic reading with the audience in tears, every literary figure in Ireland raising pom-poms to cheer me and then forming a human pyramid on the lawn beside the bouncy castle. Was it so unreasonable?

Then I remembered the real launches I've attended over the years. The speeches. The readings. The hard squeaky chairs. The guilt over taking too many canapés because I'd delayed dinner to be there on time. And perhaps it's my imagination, but there always seems to be a tinge of anxiety hanging over these gatherings. The audience is trying to be appreciative and like the book. The author is trying to be liked. Even if the whole thing's going spectacularly, there's usually a bit of tallying – is it better than the launch down the street? Than the one here last week? How many are buying res-001and who's just here for the wine?

"Screw it," I thought, "I'm eloping."

So, I started planning my "anti-launch" for Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World. No speeches. No readings. Just pints. I chose Kennedy's Pub on Pearse Street because it was my home away from classes when I took the creative writing programme at Trinity College Dublin. Then I sent out my email invitations. I was a bit nervous. The last party I'd hosted was in 1995 and I don't remember much except that no one got arrested.

On the day itself I got up at six in the morning and made cinnamon cookies. The weather was dismal – cold, endless rain. After work I went back to my apartment to change. What's appropriate author attire for an anti-launch? I decided on gold knee-high boots and a skirt and sparkly top. I'd already arranged for my mother-in-law to bring me the tiara I'd worn at my wedding. Writer-of-serious-literary-merit look: sorted.res-008

I arrived at the pub around six, wiping rain from the cover of my Tupperware container full of cookies. Nobody was at my reserved tables. I took a seat. I ordered some fish and potatoes. I wasn't sure what to do with myself. One guest arrived. Then one more. It was awfully quiet. At least the waitress seemed to like my cinnamon cookies.

A few minutes later, more people arrived, and I was soon busy making introductions and trying to get the fish and potatoes into my face as quickly as possible. Then there was no more time to introduce anyone. By seven the three tables I'd booked were packed and there was a gathering at the bar as well. I was hugging people in dripping wet wool coats, offering cookies, thanking everyone through mouthfuls of fish. There were people I'd known since I arrived in Dublin and people I'd met a few weeks before. Friends from my old writing group, res-005classmates from Trinity, Novel Fair winners, co-workers, people from the Irish Writer's centre, my husband's family all the way from Athlone...I couldn't count them all.

Then, for the first time in my life, I was asked to sign my own book. Momentous! I signed my name, and added a happy face. Of course, all the guests signed my own copy of Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World as well. This was the anti-launch.

I felt like Jimmy Stewart at the end of It's a Wonderful Life. "Who knew," I joked in an email, "that a poor immigrant girl would find so many friends in Ireland?"

And then there was my husband, running out to the bookstore in the rain to buy copies of Cinnamon Toast for a woman who was heading to a book club meeting. "Good thing I invited that guy," I thought.

Most book launches are over in two hours. I arrived at Kennedy's at six and didn't leave until almost midnight, and I wasn't the last. I said goodbye and bundled myself into a taxi, with my flowers, champagne, tiara, launch-hero husband, and my empty Tupperware container. Mission accomplished.

In May I'll be touring Canada to promote my novel. There's a real launch planned for Vancouver, and one for Halifax*. They'll have a lot to live up to.

*Please note that the launches in question were fantastic.

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"...astonishingly good....a juicy coming-of-age story...also an important read." The Globe and Mail

"...poignant...heart-wrenching. This stunning debut will surely appeal to both teenage readers and adults." Quill & Quire, starred review

"Witty, devastating, with a melancholy humour..." Sunday Business Post

"...page-turning, top drawer stuff..." BGE Book Club

"...warm, witty, heartfelt and utterly engaging..." The Irish News

"A stunning debut. I loved it." The Irish Examiner