Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Positive feedback from readers an antidote to tough times

It hasn't been an easy month, to be honest, with a flooded basement, a punch biopsy and a lot of family-related stuff going on.

Not surprisingly, the thing that has kept me going has been the release of the new collection of stories and all the public appearances that go with it. I often complain about the non-writing aspects of writing such as the preparation of press releases, the preparation for public appearances, the review and editing of various promotional items.

If I am truly honest with myself, however, I have to admit that I do enjoy the public appearances themselves.

With the launch this fall of Abigail Massey at McAdam Station, Volume 4, I have faced a packed calendar of events.

Most recently came our first appearance at the Boyce Farmers' Market in Fredericton in support of the new book. The Boyce Market is where Abigail really got launched in 2012. I remember standing outside at the market on a miserable, cold morning (6:30 in the morning, in fact) in 2012, wondering what I had gotten myself into. Then the line-ups started and, 90 books and five hours later, I realized that we were into something special.

Mary and I were back at the Boyce this past Saturday and, although sales weren't quite as strong as on that first day three years ago, we still saw lots of people and signed and sold a goodly number of Volume 4. As I said to Mary at the start of the day, however: the goal is not so much to sell the books as to sell people on the McAdam Railway Station.

That approach has always, for me at least, taken a lot of the pressure off. Instead of trying to "close the deal" every time someone stopped by our booth to talk, we could simply focus on the discussion itself. People response really positively to that kind of low pressure, it's-a-pleasure-just-to-talk approach.

And we hear a lot of wonderful stories that way, from people of all ages and from all across the country, about how the railroad and the McAdam Station impacted their, or their parents and grandparents', lives.

Even more importantly for me during this difficult period, I found my spirits buoyed by many kind, positive comments about the Abigail books themselves.

So many people stopped by, anxious to get the latest in the series, telling us how much they enjoyed reading the first four books (three volumes of stories and the Christmas novella). Among the many kind comments we received, these were the ones that struck me most deeply:

1. One woman bought Volumes 2, 3, 4 and the Christmas novella, all at once: "I've read the first collection of stories several times already," she told me. "I'm thrilled to be able to read the rest of the books now!"

2. Another man came to our stall, never having heard of the Abigail stories. We chatted with him about the Station and the books and his eyes glowed brighter and brighter. Railways are a part of his family history, he told us. He then rushed off to the nearby bank machine to get sufficient money to buy all of the books at once, a gift for his 91-year-old mother who "will love these books, I'm sure!"

3. Finally, a man and his two sisters (I think), all in the 40s or 50s, came around the corner and, when they spotted the posters on our stall, their eyes widened. "I can't believe it," the man said, excitement in his voice. "My brother in Halifax is just crazy about your Abigail books. He called me last night to tell me he had heard there was a new collection of stories out and to demand that I keep my eyes out for them. And here you are! He will be so excited!"

Small things, perhaps. But so kind and so fulfilling for the writer in me. The excitement of these people to have the chance to buy our books and enjoy our stories just fills me with a sense of joy and contentment. As I have written before, writers who self-publish rarely get reviewed in newspapers or other forms of media -- we rely on these kinds of personal interactions to find out what people think of our work.

And, during a difficult period in my life, the very kind feedback we've received from people at all of our events has been incredibly important for me -- a much needed injection of positivity.