This past weekend I had the opportunity to promote Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken at Scranton, Pennsylvania's 3rd annual "Pages and Places" festival. Located amid a beautiful courthouse square, this event featured workshops, promotional tents, and live author readings.
My reading began soon after lunch. Poor readers before me spoke to a slim crowd. Some even spoke to no one but the tents set up before them. As my time approached, I made it a point to gather listeners up and down the row. One group of boys that seemed to be the age of my reading audience happened to walk toward the square with their father. I said, "Hey guys, I'm doing a reading here in a minute from my book, Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken. I think you'll like it. The two boys laughed and agreed they'd come. One even called to me, "Will there be real mice there?"
The crowd grew and I shared my two excerpts, complete with a visual of a fake mouse dangled above my mouth. Afterward, the two boys (whose names I've learned are Gavin and Alec) approached me with excitement. "Can we have your autograph?" they asked. I told them to come down to my table and I'd do just that.
After I provided my autograph on a large bookmark, I stepped aside of them for a moment to hand another bookmark to some passing children. Alec, who wore a "I'd Rather Be Reading Bukowski" t-shirt, asked me, "Do you want me to help you pass these out?" I, of course, agreed and he rushed to the sidewalk to hand one to all passersby.
Both boys left with enormous smiles and an excitement about the book's release. I'll never forget these boys. Not because they wanted my autograph or anything self-absorbed like that. I'll remember them because they are the audience I seek to reach with Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken. The young boys who are often the reluctant readers. The ones who struggle to pick up a book and sustain enjoyment.
I once had an agent tell me that books to young, male reluctant readers is not of interest to the publishing industry. Maybe the numbers say so, but the look in the eyes of Gavin and Alec tell another story.
"Live, Learn, Teach"