Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Book Signing

Readings, signings, ads in newspapers. These are surely the signs of authorial success, are they not? Sure, but in theory only. And I should know better, because I'm not a theorist, I'm a practitioner. Such was my mindset, however, when I headed off to my first ever book signing/meet the author event.
It happened at the Moscow General Store, in Moscow, Vermont, a little hamlet of Stowe. And it happened because my friend, Peggy Guerra, made it happen. Peggy has been a supporter of mine since the start, always looking for a way to promote my book, and promote her general store. And this time was no different. She put an ad in the local paper: "Come meet Shawn Kerivan, author of Name the Boy. Shawn will be autographing copies of his book. Makes the perfect Father's Day gift!"
I arrived at the Moscow General Store ten minutes before the advertised start time for the event, at 1:50. I brought two cases of books with me: one case of hard covers, another case of soft covers. Inside the store, Peggy and her husband Chris waited for me. Peggy had created a sign, and she brought out some chairs and cleared off a table, around which we sat. Peggy had some pastries, some coffee. My son, Seamus, perched on a stool, and we all got comfortable and waited.
The weather was incredible. Hot and sunny, summery. Bodies lined the local swimming holes on the road leading to the general store. I worried that good weather would keep people away. And yet; but still. A few people trickled in. Peggy pounced on them: "Have you got a Father's Day gift yet? Shawn Kerivan is here autographing copies of his new book, Name the Boy." One crustacean squinted at me, then squinted in the general direction of the book display, then said, "What's the boy's name?"
One of my writing students, from a workshop I led last year, came in. I thought, "Bingo!" We greeted each other, and when Peggy chimed in, "Shawn's signing copies of his book, have you bought a copy yet?", my former student became suddenly busy. "I've got to go, I'm late," she said. For what, I thought, this is Vermont. Nobody's late for anything in this state.
It was the same for the other four people who came in to the store. Peggy did a great job introducing me, but none of the people who came in were there because of the ad in the paper. They were there buying beer, or potato chips, or blueberry muffins. Not books. Not short story collections by crazy introverts like me.
I smiled a lot, introduced myself to three people, shook one guy's hand, and finally sold a book to Peggy, which she was going to give to her husband Chris. The two cases of books stayed in my truck, and my son Seamus even left after an hour to bike home and get some face time with the computer. So what did I learn? The usual stuff: it's easier to publish a book than it is to sell it; don't take the lack of interest in your writing personally; Moscow isn't a literary hotbed.
But you know what? I don't care, because I just had a book signing, and I just had my name in the paper as "author," and I'll get better at this as I go along.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A big, blue hole, into which money is poured

Or, in my case, time.
I'm talking about the pool, and last week it was the big culprit in time theft. And the time it stole was time away from my writing and, more importantly, my class preparation for the fall. Okay, I freely admit that I have a strong bias against the pool. Here, from my innkeeper's point of view, is what I hate about it: 1. It's a pool. Come on, this is Vermont. Pools are for inland suburbia and Florida, California. Not Vermont. It's so un-Vermonty. 2. (See #1) That's to say, it's Vermont, and the pool season lasts 15 minutes up here, from 1:00 to 1:15 pm, July 19. The rest of the time it's too cold to swim. 3. Time. It takes three days to open the pool. Water has to be pumped off the cover, then pumped into the pool, then all the systems have to check out, be sworn at, prayed over, and finally cajoled into operation. 4. Money. Chemicals cost money, PLUS they take time to manage and administer. And how Vermonty is adding chemicals to a vinyl-lined hole in your back yard? 5. Nobody uses it. Ask any pool owner what they spend most of their time doing, and they'll answer in this order: 1. Working on my pool. 2. Begging people to come use it. Pools are way underused, especially our pool, which is down three flights of stairs and in the middle of a field.
But until it implodes, we're stuck with it. My dream is to bulldoze the pool and have a pond installed in its place. Now that's Vermonty. Then, if people wanted to go for a swim, they could go with the frogs and the ducks. And we could skate on it in the winter. Wouldn't that be cool? A pond would solve most of my pool problems. So as long as you see the pool featured on our website, you'll know that there's no peace for me. And if you stop by and can't find anyone upstairs to help you, that's because we're out back, working on the pooll

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Announcing "The Innkeeper's Husband"

That's me!
And I'd like to invite you to check out the new blog that will chronicle the writing of my next book, The Innkeeper's Husband. You can find it by going to:
And don't forget to check out my other websites, and the website for the Auberge de Stowe B&B.

Thanks, and I'll see you there!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Leave me alone, I'm a family man

I did a quick head count of the innkeepers in Stowe recently, and out of nearly 60 inns, motels, lodges, and B&B's, I came up with about a half dozen places staffed by innkeepers with kids. That number is probably shrinking, too, and with good reason. Few people are willing to run an inn at the level needed to devote adequate time to your family and your business. I know that in the seven years we've done this, we've struggled at times, and only within the past couple of years have we been able to choose family over business when we needed to. The big obstacle is timing: when you're kids are available for travel and activities, you're inn is usually at its busiest.
This weekend we closed and went camping. We go every year, to the same park, and it's one of the highlights of our year as a family. We also closed for several days in April to go to Washington, D.C. It's never an easy decision to close. My wife told me we turned away enough business last weekend to half fill the inn, and it's likely we would have been completely full, because we'd pulled our inventory off the Internet a long time ago. Who knows how many potential lodgers found us, only to discover that we weren't open on the weekend they wanted to visit?
One thing is certain: You don't get time back. Once you're kids have grown, they're childhood is over. Many is the man or woman who wakes up in their late forties and discovered that they haven't really lived at all, they've just worked for some imaginary piece of pie in the sky. People become innkeepers for all kinds of reasons, but many of them never realize the amount of work and time it takes to become successful. And then they ask themselves, "What is success?" And if you end up hiring employees to run your inn so that you can have the family time you're craving, is that innkeeping? Or has something been lost in the pursuit of success?
These questions aren't unique to innkeeping, and that might be the biggest surprise at all. For me, having the ability to keep my business at a manageable size allows the kind of flexibility I need to have a family and a job. Is it perfect? Nope, and I don't recommend it for everyone. But when I'm sitting by the campfire getting chomped by black flies while my kids embed memories for a lifetime, I think I'm on the right track.