Every book related event seems to be as different from another as are the books themselves. At least the four or five events I have been involved in seem to belong to entirely different genres. They have ranged from a theatricalized production during the book release party for Kofe-Inn, my first Russian-language collection, to the game show format last week in Moscow.
This one today, in Bookvoed in St. Petersburg, most closely resembled a typical book reading that I've seen in the US. And still, I didn't simply read from my book, but first talked for about twenty minutes with one of my editors, Galina, about the evolution of the book, about my path as a writer, about my editing work, etc. Only then did I read one of my stories. And afterward took some questions and signed copies. I was on stage for about an hour altogether, talking for most of the time. This is probably the largest amount of public speaking I've done as an adult. It was stressful, but also invigorating. There were many friends and family members in the crowd -- and there was a small crowd -- and this helped to make my talk very warm and personal, despite the fact that this wasn't really a talk. Since I'm so inexperienced as a public speaker, I chose to read most of what I had to say -- I had good notes, and I had practiced reading them a number of times so I could react to Galina's questions by skipping a paragraph here and there or by changing the order of things.
As a huge bonus to this event, I've met some new exciting people. Two of them are planning to be in San Francisco in the next month or so: an artist who is going to have a gallery show, and a journalist who is going to California to write about Fort Ross, but might also be around for part of Litquake. I've even got to talk German today for about five or so minutes! My old country-house friend Masha who now lives in Germany happened to be in town today with her German friend Ron -- and we got a bit of a chance to talk after the presentation.
Now comes the sad part. I'm packing. The trip is effectively over -- I'm leaving at noon tomorrow morning. I've said good-bye to all of my friends, promising many to write letters or call on skype. I should know better by now: back to San Francisco, I don't make time to write letters or talk on the phone anymore. I can even disappear from email for months at a time. I guess, what I can do is write more stories. This is what I do these days: part of the reason I write is to keep up connections with the people I love. Writing and calling is good too.