Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cody's Fourth Street, Berkeley

Last night's talk and signing at Cody's Books in Berkeley went very well, I think. My wife and I went early to meet our friend Christina for dinner, then walked to the bookstore for the event. Although I've spent a little time around the U.C. Berkeley campus over the years, I'd never been to this part of the city and enjoyed it a lot.

The staff at Cody's was extremely welcoming and helpful. A few surprises awaited me: my wife's boss and his family came, as did my wife's aunt and uncle. Walking to the podium to unexpectedly find familiar, friendly faces was great albeit a little disorienting. "What are they doing here?" Weird, but in a good way.

I've done a couple of signings before but this was my first real talk before a book crowd. I told my story: how my mother was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, its impact on our family, how and why I decided to write the book, reaction to it both from readers and my family, its publication, Mom's passing, etc. I don't really know what people want or expect to hear: do they want me to talk about cancer? Family dynamics? Comics? Book publishing? A couple of months ago I had coffee with a syndicated cartoonist who said that people who come to book signings only want to know one thing: How to get published themselves and take my place. That might be very true for a cartoonist in his position, but I think the nature of my book draws a different crowd. I tried to strike a balance among all of those topics and left time for audience questions to fill in any gaps.

While I very much appreciated everyone who came, two people I met last night really stood out:

Margo Mercedes Rivera-Weiss is the librarian and art gallery coordinator for the Women's Cancer Resource Center ( of Oakland. The WCRC co-sponsored the event and is very active in community outreach, advocacy, and services. We talked for about 10 minutes before the event and I appreciated the opportunity to meet her and find out more about the center.

Sarah Trejo is the patient services program coordinator for the National Brain Tumor Foundation ( headquartered in San Francisco. Sarah and I had corresponded by e-mail before and discovered we had a link through my publicist at Abrams, whose boyfriend is currently biking from Alaska to Argentina to raise funds for the organization. Sarah is a triathlete who was kind enough to mention my book in her blog and bring her entire family to last night's signing, and I really enjoyed meeting her in person.

Characteristically, I now have a mental list of 20 things I plan to improve next time, but I think my approach worked and I did well. I didn't count but would guess that about 30 people attended, and we probably sold slightly fewer than that many books for the fine folks at Cody's. They said turnout was good and seemed pleased. So was I.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for blogging about the book signing. It makes me feel as if I was there. Wish I could have been at Cody's in person, but I'm willing to wait to see you in L.A.!
Nurse Sis

Lynda said...

Wow, it looks like turnout was terrific! I think you would draw a different crowd also, because cancer touches so many of us.

Your mom would be proud!

Sarah said...

Thanks so much for that! It was definitely the highlight of my evening to meet you, and I was a little grumpy at my family for being late and causing us to miss your talk. Oh well, it's family. What can you do?

Anyway, thank you for being there. No doubt there were a lot of folks there whose lives had been touched by your book, and weren't just there for self-serving purposes.

Let's stay in touch - we'd love to have you come into the NBTF office someday. Take care!