Hanging With My Idol and Reading in My Hometown: A Dispatch From My Latest Book Tour Events

My book has been out for almost six months, and I still can’t believe how fast the time has gone by since I held that first copy in my hands. 2017 has gifted me with two memorable bookstore events that were equally special but in very different ways.

I chose to spend my thirtieth birthday in the desert. I wanted to cross into a new decade in a low key, introspective way. But first, I spent a night in LA eating delicious sushi, dancing at a soul night in a very cool Echo Park bar, and joined LA writer/comedian/skater Tara Jepsen and one of my living writer idols, Michelle Tea, at The Last Bookstore for a night of reading. It was the night before my birthday, so I wanted to go a little big to properly send off my twenties.

I also wanted the reading to feel cathartic, like I was cleansing myself of a few ghosts before crossing the threshold into my thirties. This is why I chose to read the titular story “Siblings and Other Disappointments.” This is the story where I imagined my late brother and me returning to Idaho to hash out some old demons. The circumstances of the characters’ lives are different from the truth, but the desire to reconnect with family and forgive old wounds is real. Of course, I never got this in real life, which is why reading the story is both painful and therapeutic.

Reading alongside one of my heroes was awe-inspiring. I felt like I had received her stamp of approval and anyone who showed up to the event to see her (let’s be honest, everyone showed up to see her) left that night knowing my name and that Michelle likes me enough to spend a Saturday night at a bookstore with me. I can’t think of a better birthday present.

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Before I traveled to the otherworldly landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, I read at a bookstore in bustling downtown LA.

Two states north and almost two months later, I found myself at a different bookstore, Inklings Bookshop–an indie that has survived for years in my small hometown, long after people switched to Amazon and the local Borders closed. The staff at Inklings is phenomenal and truly cares about books. They welcomed me in for my hometown book launch, which was initially scheduled in January, but postponed due to an ice storm, something I find very epic.

The rescheduled event fell the same week as my first half marathon. This felt appropriate since a book takes as much training, dedication, and perseverance as a race. I was joined by my former English teacher, Mr. Burns, who read a Raymond Carver poem to match each excerpt I read from my book. It was an honor to have my words sit side-by-side with Carver’s, and truly special to share my event with the teacher who championed my writing throughout my adolescence.

My parents, best friend, and others from my childhood filled the bookstore. These are people who have listened to me talk about my writing dreams since I was eight years old. It felt truly special to share the night with them. It made the night feel less about me alone or even my book, but about the community that shaped and nurtured me and made it possible for me to be an author.

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My half marathon took me through the Yakima River Canyon, a quiet place for me to reflect on all that my debut book means to me.

Writing is a solitary pursuit, but a book launch is a way to feel like your work is part of something bigger. During my tour, I met book lovers young and old and felt re-energized by their passion, curiosity, and enthusiasm. Thanks to everyone who came to an event–it was great being in conversation with you. Stay in touch.

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