I had my very first reading at Books & Books, Miami’s great independent bookstore. I was running late, speeding down I-95 at 80 mph, driving right into storm clouds and drizzle. Fortunately, the heavy rains had already passed, leaving only the humidity behind.
I had invited my friend Hannah Lasky, who is a wonderfully talented artist, if she wanted to bring some paintings over to serve as a backdrop for the reading, so I met up with her in the alley behind the store and started dragging the paintings and the wire display wall in through the back door.
I brought my own props, too—an inflatable palm tree, an ALOHA banner, and a plate of coconut macadamia nut chocolate chip cookies. When I walked in, it didn’t look like there was much of a crowd, but by the time we got everything set up, all twenty seats were filled and there were a couple of other people standing around.
Of course, I knew all but a couple of those people—but I was still delighted to see them. Classmates (and a professor) from my writing program at FIU, members of my writers’ group, and friends—it was so nice to have such a supportive group. I talked for a bit about how I came to write Mahu, and about the Hawaiian spelling and symbols I used in the book, and then I read.
I read the first page of the book, as Kimo’s moving toward a drug bust, and then jumped to the last section of chapter one, beginning as Kimo leaves the bar where he has been hanging out with his cop buddies to go to the Rod and Reel Club, the gay bar where lots of the action of the book takes place.
Then I answered questions, including “When will the book be translated into Hawaiian?” It gave me an opportunity to talk about writing in general, about the research that I did for the book. Overall, it was a fabulous experience—and I was equally excited to sign about ten books afterwards, as well as signing a half dozen stock copies. There was even one ordered by a collector.
I generally wrote “Mahalo nui loa” which means “Thank you very much” and then tried to add something personal, since I knew everyone who bought a book. Overall, I don’t think I could have asked for a better first reading experience.