I have a longstanding relationship with bookstores, but this was my first visit to a bookstore from the other side of the publishing market. To introduce myself as a local author, to ask for a partnership in promoting books: this is the ultimate 'friend request.'
I prayed in the car as I sat in the parking lot.
God, show me where to go, who to talk to. Go before me. Show me what to say and how to do this. You got me into this thing… show me what to do next.
I headed straight to the information desk at the Tattered Cover, as if I just had any old question at all. The woman behind the counter is soft and gray; she wears red glasses on a chain around her neck and she has a streak of pink through her silver hair. Her name is Jinx. And she adds, "But I'm not one."
Note to self: I might want to be her when I am in my seventies.
"Good morning, my name is Tricia and I'm a local author. I just wanted to stop by and share an advanced copy with you, to see if you might like to carry it on your shelves."
Jinx was as friendly and interested as if I were a first grader on her front porch selling chocolate bars for my school fundraiser. "Well, look at you! Let's see what you have here."
I handed her a copy of And Life Comes Back. She lifted her red glasses to her face and tipped her head back to read through her bifocals. She read the title, and then she lowered her glasses just as quickly and looked straight at me. The look on her face was a blend of recognition, instant friendship, sadness.
"Oh, honey. You lost your husband? My husband just died six weeks ago." She reached across the counter and placed her hand on mine. She leaned in close. "Tell me, honey… am I going to make it?"
Our eyes mirrored each other. I placed my other hand over top of hers. "You will. You'll make it. Even when you don't want to, you'll make it."
She told me how she has just returned to work, how that has been the best thing for her. She told me that her husband was 81, and she had taken him to the ER because he was dehydrated. In the sea of tests, they found a blockage in his intestines that turned out to be a rare and agressive cancer, and he never came home again. Jinx just bought new living room furniture, petite and feminine to replace his overstuffed recliner, so she can somehow enter the living room again.
"You're doing a beautiful job, Jinx. Look at all that strength," I said, still holding her hands.
I would have applauded her if she had told me a very different journey of progress, one of sleeping all day and missing meals. I would have said, "And look at all that strength." Because that's what it is: it is strength to grieve and feel and live and sleep and eat and be.
She began writing down phone numbers for me, people I could call to talk about book orders, signings, and readings. She called to the other woman behind the counter, "Margaret, who handles our orders from Waterbrook?"
"Well, I do!" Margaret joined us at the counter and shook my hand. She wiggled the mouse on the computer and said, "Let's see what we have here. And Life Comes Back… Yep. I've got it. I've placed orders for all three bookstores, and we can't wait to get them in."
(All three locations of the Tattered Cover, my favorite chain of bookstores in Denver, are already expecting my book and waiting for the order to arrive. Pinch me.)
"Oh, and Tricia, let me ask you this: would you say your book is more along the lines of grief and recovery and self help, or is it more of a Christian book study? The reason I ask is because - I mean, it's okay if you talk about God in it - but sometimes people buy a book about chemotherapy, and they get home and discover it has a dozen Bible verses for them to look up. And that's just not the book they thought they were buying. So I need to be careful to put Bible studies in the Christian/Religion section. You know?"
"I do know - I'm so glad you asked. It's a memoir of grief and hope. It tells a story. God's all over it, but it's not a Bible study."
"Oh, that's good to know. Okay. Let me just change that here in that computer…" (click, click, click, type, type, type) "and there we go. I've changed it in the computer, and we can market it more broadly for you."
Jinx told me to who I should call to schedule a reading at any of the locations, and then she said, "When you call Charles, tell him you met me. He'll know how important that is to me. And please, ask him to let me be your hostess on the night when you come here. I would just love that. I mean, anyone will do a wonderful job hosting you, but I just really want to be the one. Can I hug you before you go?"
You can, Jinx. And you're definitely not one.
God had led me straight to the woman who will host a reading, the buyer who orders books from my publisher, and a widow who is finding the ground beneath her feet. He even clarified and broadened my market as a cherry on top.
He arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.