VIEW FROM THE PORCH - Hawking own book proves tough, thankless task

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I've been out hawking my new book. It's tough work.

I spent the entire month of June in shameless self-promotion. I wore out my welcome in 12 cities across the South. Everywhere I went, I met people who asked penetrating questions.

"Did you write this?" the gray-haired lady asked, holding up a copy of my book. She'd caught me just inside the front door of the bookshop where I was giving a talk. She peered at me from the other side of thick lenses while repositioning her dentures with her tongue.

"Yes'm, I did," I said.

"Is it any good?"

"Yes'm, it is. It's really good. It's my favorite book."

"What's it about?"

"It's about my childhood -- growing up Southern, my family, the old neighborhood, kids' adventures, quirky characters, strange doings, conflict, reconciliation, love, hate, envy, greed, war, peace, poverty, wealth, deviled eggs, and the meaning of life ..."

"Lotsa people written books like that," she interrupted.

"Yes'm, they have. This is just my take on things."

"Well, what's it like?"

"Fair question," I said. "You ever listen to Garrison Keillor on the radio?"

"Oh, I love Garrison Keillor. I listen to him every Saturday."

"Well, I think you might like this book then, because these stories are sort of like his, except they're about a real place."

"You trying to put yourself up there with Garrison?" she asked.

"No ma'am," I said. "I'm just saying these stories are sort of like his."

"Interesting," she said.

"You ever watch Paula Deen cook Southern food on television?" I asked.

"Sure. I watch her all the time. That woman's a hoot."

"Well, you might like this book, because there's a lot about Southern food in it."

"You ain't claiming to be Paula Deen, are you?"

"No ma'am."

"Well good, 'cause you clearly ain't no Paula Deen."

She opened the book and thumbed the pages -- a positive sign.

"You ever watch the Little Rascals on TV?" I asked.

I was working hard, moving along toward closing the sale. She nodded her head.

"I loved the Little Rascals when I was a kid."

I had her right where I wanted her.

"Well, I think you'll like this book. It'll remind you of the Little Rascals. Want me to autograph that book for you?"

"Hmmm," she said. "Let me think on it. I read a book about kids once."

She handed me the book, turned, and wandered off.

Undeterred, I walked toward the back of the bookstore where a small group of people had gathered. They were drinking white wine from plastic cups and eating watermelon. I met Charlotte the events coordinator.

"We've got you set up right here, Mr. McLeod. And you've got a nice crowd," she said pleasantly.

Life was looking up. I had a glass of wine and chatted with the assembled for a while before Charlotte announced it was time for my talk and people should find their seats.

Several folks bolted down their wine and made mumbling noises about why they couldn't stay. An elderly couple sat down in the front row. So did Charlotte, trying to encourage others to join us. Two more ladies sat down in the back row. They whispered to each other for a while before they got back up, waved to me sheepishly, and hurried to the door.

I started my talk, trying to make eye contact with the audience -- all three of them. The old man in the front row closed his eyes and snored peacefully.

I stopped talking and looked at him.

"He's old," his wife said. "It's not you. He sleeps through every book talk we go to."

That's when he started humming "Silent Night."

If you'd like to read more of Sam's musings or buy a copy of his new book, BIG APPETITE, visit his website at www.sammcleod.net or visit the BIG APPETITE page on Facebook.

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