FOR STARTERS: What a pleasant surprise to find my book recommended in Stanford Magazine, along with these other dynamic, diverse Stanford alumni! NEW RELEASES THAT INSPIRE US, they wrote, and mailed the magazine to thousands of alums! (I wrote for the Stanford Daily in 1970, covering anti-war marches and sit-ins, and worked one-on-one with Pulitzer-prize-winning Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn, my sophomore year.) Thank you, Stanford!
FIRST LEG OF MY NATIONAL BOOK TOUR WINDS DOWN
Whew! THE MAN WITH EIGHT PAIRS OF LEGS was published 2/1/22. Now, after almost three months living out of a suitcase, I have 22 book events under my belt, reaching 700 people in person and virtually. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed engaging with event planners across the country, all of them the most generous, book-loving people you could ever meet. Gracious friends have hosted me at every port: Brooklyn, Madison, LA, Provincetown, Honolulu, Portland. Dozens of friends have come out to support me.
I may be a wandering bard, but I am satisfied one!
In fact, I’ve experienced countless special moments of heart and adventure. A true romp into my past! Here are a few anecdotes to give you the flavor…
* SKYLIGHT BOOKS, LA: Unbelievable. I reached out to people I knew from 6th-10th grade, boys and girls I hadn’t seen in 55 years!! And they came, including my very first boyfriend. (Back then, when we were 15, he played the electric bass. Now he plays bass with the LA Philharmonic.)
One classmate drove to LA from Arizona just to be there! A precocious six-year-old girl browsing the store with her father came up to me, curious, and loved the title. “The Man with Eight Pairs of Legs?” she asked, “I really want to read that book!” My students came, elementary school friends came, people I knew from Stanford, and even from my time in Florence, Italy! Flush after signing books, we bust open the champagne at the French Bistro next door. A dear friend surprised me with swag she’d designed: 100 of the coolest book marks ever!! The whole experience was amazing!
* MYSTERY TO ME BOOKS, Madison, WI: Michelle Wildgen, once the Executive Editor of Tin House, bowled me over with her introduction, which you can read here, and imagine you were there:
This is my first in-person reading in about 2 years, and if anyone or anything could drag me out of pandemic hiding, it would be the fever-dream strangeness and singular, fully persuasive characters created by Leslie Kirk Campbell…I first encountered these stories several years ago at the Tin House Writers Conference, and I knew immediately that this was the real deal. Leslie’s writing announces itself as hers and only hers, her work immerses you in a rich and tangible world that looks like ours but is often touched with the surreal. Her characters feel things, intensely, destructively, unexpectedly, whether it is a woman desirous of prosthetic legs, or a man fixated on the ramshackle house and its squatter next door. She made me appreciate setting in a way I don’t think I ever did—all those shared living spaces pulsing with emotion, the hazardous dry heat of a desert, the vulnerable plains as a thunder storm rolls in. Leslie Kirk Campbell does what is so hard to do as a writer—she finds pockets of peculiarity and humanity, darkness and beauty, and dives all the way in.
I was wearing red shoes. After that generous introduction, my cheeks matched them!
(Every one of my conversation partners during my tour has been incredible: effusive praise, totally engaged, armed with a slew of provocative questions.🙏)
* MAGERS & QUINN, Minneapolis: Only a handful of people showed up to this one, but Kawai Strong Washburn, a writer whose debut novel, Sharks in the Time of Saviors, I greatly admire, was one of them. After the Q & A, a young woman in the audience surprised me when she lauded me for my forthright, personal answers to the questions. “You’re like a breath of fresh air,” she said, “We Midwesterners tend to be very private. Thank you for speaking so honestly and directly.”
* Trying to sleep on the train from Philly to Chicago as it moans repeatedly through the black night at every crossing. Got two hours of zzzzz that night in fits and starts.
* ROUNDABOUT BOOKS, Bend, OR: It was very special to dedicate this reading to one of my closest friends from Punahou, Robin Koma Puakea Gyorgyfalvy, who passed away 2 ½ years ago. I choked up. An excerpt follows:
Some of Robin’s friends, as well as her long-time husband, are here tonight. We all miss her terribly. There is no replacement for that wit and grace, for that generous heart. I was especially touched when, knowing she would not live much longer, she asked to read the manuscript of my book, which had not yet found a publisher. She loved the stories, though by then she could barely talk. That meant the world to me, that she carried my characters with her in her last days. A true heart to heart.
* POWELL’S BOOKS, Portland, OR: OMG!! I walked into their huge store in Beaverton and was treated like a celebrity, which of course I am not. A team of three escorted me to the large reading room, pampering me, taking photos of me reading and signing books, caring for me until I left. A young woman I had never met stopped to have her book signed and told me how much my reading meant to her now, feeling lost, with her father dying. “I feel so inspired,” she said through tears. It is precisely these little unexpected moments that make it all worth it. Then there was the surprise attendance of Tin House Editor, Meg Storey, who, in 2016, was the first person to ever see my menagerie of stories as a potentially cohesive collection!
* CENTER FOR FICTION, Brooklyn, NY: Pitchers of margaritas and banter with dear old friends in a parklet (still winter) across from the Brooklyn Academy of music after the reading.
* PROVINCETOWN LIBRARY, Cape Cod: The entire extended family of my deceased ex-lover and soul sister, Carmen Vazquez, came to my reading. I fell in love with them. The next day our hearts broke and our spirits soared as we scattered her ashes into the sea.
* NATIVE BOOKS, Honolulu, HI: My best friend from high school, my conversation partner. My husband, the bartender. So many old friends! Me, laden with leis and aloha. My daughter-in-law, after the reading, telling me, “All these years, I’ve never known all of who you really are. How wonderful to see this side of you.” Yes. In fact, back in high school, I was known as a song leader and a ‘pretty face.’ How wonderful to come out as an artist and to have my art so well received.
I could go on…
POST-TOUR, MY HEART IS A LITTLE SAD. YOU KNOW THAT AFTER-THE-PARTY’S-OVER FEELING WHEN THE HELIUM BALLOONS SLOWLY SINK TO THE FLOOR? BUT MY HEART IS FULL. SO MUCH GENEROSITY, LOVE, AND GOOD WILL THESE PAST FEW MONTHS. PLUS, SARABANDE TELLS ME, SALES ARE “SPECTACULAR.”
HEY! IT’S NATIONAL SHORT STORY MONTH!!
TIME TO WRITE THOSE SHORT-STORY-COLLECTION BOOK REVIEWS. Here is a link to instructions for posting a book review on Amazon.
And a link to post a Goodreads review.
ARE YOU PART OF A BOOK CLUB?: If so, recommend THE MAN WITH EIGHT PAIRS OF LEGS to your book group, then impress your friends by inviting the author to come (virtually) to your meeting!! I have three scheduled thus far. It is enchanting to hear a group of book afficionados asking me writing-related questions and excitedly discussing my book! If you are part of a book group, or your library or local bookstore hosts one, contact me by replying to this post.
* As a debut author, I was flattered to be invited to be on a fiction panel at the Bay Area Book Festival with Sarah Moss (The Fell) and Molly Giles (Wife with a Knife), moderated by Irish, but now local author Ethel Rohan (In the Event of Contact). The well-attended panel was called “Keep Calm & Go Quietly Mad,” a theme that runs through women characters in all of our books.
* I have long held a dream that one day, rather than run my own creative writing school, which I have done for 30 years (as director, teacher, PR person, marketing person, janitor, and accountant), I would publish a book and get invited to be a guest faculty at universities and just show up!! Well, my dream came true last month when the Director of the MFA Writing program at Western Connecticut State University, messaged me to tell me he loved my book and would like to fly me out January 2023 to give a reading and a craft lecture to their MFA students!!
LITERARY AWARDS: I start with the Serenity prayer. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Sarabande has submitted my collection to a dozen literary awards given annually to books of fiction published in 2022. A few awards, like the Whiting, are nominated by their own awards committees, so if I am lucky, someone will notice my book and nominate it. We are unlikely to hear anything before the end of the year. My goal is to forget about it so I don’t agonize (or lose sleep or bite my nails). But cross your fingers!!
UPCOMING BOOK EVENTS:
Gallery Bookshop (Mendocino): Thursday, May 26, 6pm, virtual
Mrs. Dalloway’s Books (Berkeley): Wednesday, July 6, 7pm, in person
Native Books (Honolulu): Book signing, Thursday, June 30, 4-6pm. Drop by.
* Putting out feelers for a second leg of my tour: San Diego, Seattle, Port Townsend, Denver, Salt Lake City, St. Louis. Perhaps a podcast or two. I will let you know as a schedule solidifies.
* Meanwhile, this summer, I will be applying to writing residencies for 2023 and getting back to working on my next collection, Free Radicals. I have over 120 pages in draft form. Here are a few titles to whet the appetite: “Am I Talking too Fast for You?”, “Agor y Ffordd” (Welsh), “Motherlode,” “Dark to Themselves,” “Dinner with the Mortician.”
ENJOY YOUR SUMMER!!
My recommendations for your summer reading:
The Man with Eight Pairs of Legs (of course)
The Private Lives of Church Women: Stories, Deesha Philyaw
Confessions of Copeland Cane, Keenan Norris
Sharks in the Time of Saviors, Kawai Strong Washburn
Hurricane Season, Fernanda Melchor
The Tiger’s Wife, Tea Obrecht
Shuffie Bain, Douglas Stuart
Last of Her Name: Stories, Mimi Lok
Forbidden City, Vanessa Hua