The First Launch is the Sweetest
I dropped into the launch for Leslie Gavel’s Dropout: One Family’s Story. It was a surprisingly warm evening for Calgary in September. The air was hazy from the smoke of not-so-distant forest fires. So the night was memorable even before I entered the doors of the Memorial Park Library. I climbed the carpeted stairs to the second floor to the auditorium that is now home to Calgary WordFest.
There was a hum as we entered the room and there was Leslie Gavel, flushed and breathless trying to greet all her guests. Between hellos, she flitted like a butterfly in her dress of flowers and tulle. All she needed was wings.
Leslie was introduced by friend and writer Samantha Warwick who guided her through a series of questions designed (Leslie later told me) to help calm her down! By the end of the Q&A, Leslie was visibly relaxed and having fun. A few questions were invited from the audience and Leslie went on to read a short section from her book. Dropout is a deeply personal story about her experience as a parent within a school system that seemed to fail her daughter from grade 7 onward. When Leslie finished, we were on our feet, applauding her memoir journey.
Leslie’s and my paths to publication were similar. Both our books took ten years to write. These were our first books but we had both written for magazines and newspapers. We stuck to our writing roads with hopeful tenacity (despite those occasional detours of doubt) and the support of family, friends, and generous writing guides. We both made the decision to publish our books independently and turned to Page Two Strategies in Vancouver.
I know the importance of that first book launch. As I waited in line for Leslie to sign, I was remembering the launch of Separation Anxiety in Red Deer.
It was a snowy Friday evening, April 24, 2015 at Sunworks, the eclectic gift store and generous supporter of all artists in the community. In fact, I’d written most of Separation Anxiety in a tiny little office I rented above the store. The launch had been planned and promoted for weeks. I had laryngitis, an irony not lost on Sunworks owner and host Paul Harris. “This is where Miji found her voice and tonight, she seems to have lost it!” This launch was memorable for many reasons, but this was the most poignant. My mother had been admitted to hospital in Calgary earlier in the week and by that Friday morning, things were dire. My sisters insisted that Mom would want me to go ahead with the book launch. They kept a vigil by her bedside while I croaked froggily through my readings and Q&As sustained by a crowd of family and friends.
I dedicated my last reading that night to my mother. In the many book events that have followed the first launch, I’ve never managed to get through it without tears. She passed away on April 29, 2015.