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Homecoming (The Part with Photos)

May 11, 2010 at 10:25 pm

I've said a little bit about last month's trip to Minneapolis here (Thursday) and here (Friday).  But Saturday was the big day-- my first solo signing.   I'm happy to say the signing went much better than I'd feared it might (it didn't come close to the nightmare scenarios that gave me a few sleepless nights).

I'm grateful to Richard for photographing the festivities, and to so many friends -- From all over! From years back! -- for coming down to Uncle Hugo's to support a debut author. 

I was glad for a chance to sleep in a little bit on Saturday morning, since we were up late the night before.  (Thanks especially to a rousing game of Wii golf between Richard, Rob, and I.  Ceridwen watched, apparently greatly amused by the trash talking. Final scores don't really matter, since the whole point of the game was to spend time with friends.  But if I were the type to keep track of these things, I'd probably also be the type to point out that the winner of said game has a record of solid performance on the links.  Just saying.)

The weather in Minneapolis had been quite nice for several days before I arrived, apparently,  but of course I brought rain with me.  So my breakfast outing with the Christensen/Mueller clan turned out a bit soggier than we might have liked.  But I ate some yummy bacon, played Legos with Leo, had my ninja princess status reaffirmed by the moppet Astrid, and had just an all-round nice morning.

(Mmmmm.  Bacon.  There's a place here in Santa Fe that makes jalapeño bacon, which tends to make my lips feel as though they've been doused with lighter fluid (salty, delicious lighter fluid) and then ignited.  While that's quite good, it's sometimes nice to eat just regular old bacon without feeling like I've chugged a bottle of napalm.)

After breakfast, it was time to put on some decent clothes.  It seemed the least I could do for my agent was to not look like a hobo for a change.  Then I headed on over to the new (well, new to me) Midtown Global Market.   I'm pretty sure that the city of Minneapolis was still wranging over what to do with the old Sears building when I moved away.  (The full story of the looooong dormant Lake Street Sears building and its subsequent development was a fascinating drama documented over the course of years in Don Blyly's newsletter/catalog for Uncle Hugo's, which I received for many years.  Which I made a point of mentioning to him.)

Kay took me on a walking tour of the new market space before we sat down to lunch.  Actually, I kept an eye out for gifts Kay could pick up for family while she ate lunch.  I was still full from breakfast.  (Bacon, you know.)  I did manage a little bit of shopping myself before the main event of the afternoon.

We walked over to Uncle Hugo's about 20 minutes early, so that I had plenty of time to meet with Don and be certain there were no last-minute crises.  The first person I saw after entering the store was Alex Hatori, whom I hadn't seen in almost two and a half years-- since before he received a kidney transplant!  And he looked fantastic.  There had been some concern about his latest blood labs the previous day, which kept him from coming to the rockin' barbecue that Ceridwen and Richard threw on Friday night.  So it was a joy to know that his blood counts were looking good enough for him to chance a room full of strangers for a couple of hours.  Zoë, Alex's mom, was there, too, looking incredibly hale and healthy for somebody who had had a major organ removed from her body just a few months earlier.  I hadn't seen Zoë since forever, either.  What a great way to start the signing! 

Don Blyly gave me a tour of the store, which I appreciated since I hadn't been to Uncle Hugo's in many, many years (probably close to 20).  I recognized a few faces among the folks perusing the shelves -- Zoë, Alex, Richard, Ceridwen, and Rob had all moved heaven and earth to stack the deck in my favor.  And that was a relief, I can promise you.

Some of the familiar faces included old friends from high school, whom I hadn't seen since 1990 or '91.  My friends Kristie (whom I'veknown since the first day of Introductory Physical Science in ninth grade) and Barb (whom I've known since the days of Future Problem Solving back when I was in seventh grade) had taken time out of their busy lives to come down to the store and support the writing efforts of the doofy guy they went to school with.  It was incredibly kind and generous of them.  And what a pleasure to see them.  It meant a lot to me.

I spent about 2 hours at Uncle Hugo's.  We had a nice, steady stream of customers coming through to buy the book and get it signed.  The stack(s) of Bitter Seeds were dauntingly large when I arrived, but we sold most of them!  Only a few copies remained by the time the last signature request came along.  I have to admit, it was kind of a blast.  I owe the wonderful experience to my terrific friends, who went out of their way to ensure I wouldn't be sitting there alone and humiliated for the course of the signing.

The biggest surprise of the day came when a woman came up to my table, handed me a copy to sign, and asked if I remembered her from high school.   Well, my memory is for crap.  So what do you think I said?  I had to shake my head and admit I had no idea to whom I was speaking.   My jaw almost hit the floor when I realized who she was-- we'd been good friends during my sophomore year in high school (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth).   It blew me away that Edith decided to come to my signing -- hell, that she even knew about it.  What a kind gesture.

I did get cajoled into doing a reading.  People stood amidst the stacks of books, occasionally dodging other customers, while I stood behind the table and read for a few minutes.  Folks seemed to enjoy it.  Richard photographed the entire event.  What a guy!  He even managed to get a couple that didn't make me look like I was having a grand mal seizure. 

The full set of Richard's photos is posted here.

Here's a shot of some of the folks who came through the line:


Another shot.  Different time, different angle:


Here's the author trying to find the scene he wanted to read:


My friend Fred swung by the store while we were wrapping up.  A terrific surprise!  By then the crowd had thinned out, so we had time to chat about the writing business.  Fred, being a successful businessman of great repute, had many sharp and insightful questions for me.   He asked about the size of the print run for Bitter Seeds.  I didn't know the answer to that question, so Don Blyly went online and took a peek at the bookseller's database.  The number he quoted nearly stopped my heart.  I told Fred, "Well, you've heard it here first.  That's pretty much the death of my career." 

(A couple of weeks later, though, I discovered the actual print run was about a factor of 6 smaller.  For which I am deliriously grateful.)

Lois McMaster Bujold came by the store to sign stock of her own books just as I finished signing Uncle Hugo's few remaining copies of Bitter Seeds.  Don introduced me to her.  I'd seen her around at conventions, but it was cool to finally meet her.  She was very kind to me, and supportive of a debut author.  

After the signing, it was time to celebrate.  My agent was greatly pleased with the turnout for the signing (which, again, was thanks to my many terrific friends).  We paid a visit to the lakes (oh how I miss biking the Grand Rounds) and toasted the successful signing with champagne at the Calhoun Beach Club.  After that we took a driving tour of the old stomping grounds, reminiscing about places we knew and missed, and trading stories about our relationship with the city.  We spent a lot of time ogling the beautiful homes around Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, something I haven't done in many years.  Kay introduced me to Mount Curve—one of the tonier parts of Minneapolis, and of which, unsurprisingly, I was completely unaware. 

For dinner, we chose Kikugawa, one of my favorite restaurants in Minneapolis.  It gave us a chance to explore Nicollet Island, which we hadn't done the previous day.  I'd only ever cut across the island on my bike and so had deprived myself of some really cool stuff. 

And the evening with Kay drew to a close before we knew it.  There never seems to be enough time to socialize with her.  I had her back at her hotel in time for a full night's sleep before her flight back to NYC at the crack of dawn.

Back to Ceridwen and Richard's house I went.  (Have I mentioned what awesome hosts they are?)  They had purchased a few copies of my book at Uncle Hugo's, but didn't want to hold up the line at Uncle Hugo's (it wasn't that long!), so they'd opted to have me sign their copies later.  Richard refers to this as the "private" signing.  Sure, some books got signed, but mostly we debated books, music, and punctuation until 2 in the morning.  I wish it could have gone longer-- what a fantastic capoff to an all-round terrific day.


Ceridwen May 12, 2010 at 9:40 am
I missed Bujold! Oh, for the love of beans, I just read her for the first time this month. *grumbling* You're awesome though. Thanks for arguing punctuation with me. :)
ChiaLynn May 12, 2010 at 10:41 am
The signing sounds awesome, but... Jalapeno Bacon? I must know where this delicacy is found. I will take almost excuse for a trip to Santa Fe, and jalapeno bacon sounds like a very good one.
Ian May 12, 2010 at 10:44 am
She came through long after you guys had finally escaped. I did know she's a local writer (local to Mpls, I mean, not down here) but didn't expect to see her at UH's. Thanks for schooling me on punctuation, Batman, and Superman. The photos from our private signing are probably my favorite of the entire weekend. Only problem is that your husband takes all the photos and doesn't appear in any.
Ian May 12, 2010 at 10:49 am
Jalapeno bacon can be enjoyed at Tecolote Cafe, one of SF's best breakfast/lunch places, and which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives some time back. I think they used to do the jalapeno bacon once in a while, but now have it on the regular menu. Or maybe I'm just lucky and always find myself there when they have it. There's a bit of a wait for a table on most weekend mornings, but it's worth it.
The Mad Hatter May 13, 2010 at 9:02 am
You haven't lived until you've tried praline bacon. I first had it at Elizabeth's in New Orleans and it blew my mind.
Ian May 13, 2010 at 10:46 am
Praline bacon? That sounds so wrong it's right.
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