Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Carlsberg don't do book launches...

If the publication of Flying Tips left me feeling sad because I was going to miss the characters, the launch party was the complete opposite. I can honestly say I’ve never been to a more upbeat event in my life! Probably the experience was different for me than for anyone else in the room (to me it was a mad blur) but in the words of the people who were there it was ‘Joyous’, ‘Super fun and cool’, ‘just gorgeous’, ‘fantastic’, ‘wonderful’, ‘the most colourful book launch EVER’ and the Crescent Arts Centre have publicly decreed: ‘From now on, book launches in the Crescent have to come with a ukulele band!’ (It was on Twitter, that’s legally binding).

I basically use my blog (and the internet generally) as an external brain to record the important stuff in my life so I don’t forget it, but it might also be useful if you’re planning a launch yourself, so here’s how you do it –

1. Have a wee sister (any close relative will do) who happens to be a super talented makeup artist.

My sister is possibly the most useful person I know. And the complete opposite of me. She came round my house on Sunday afternoon armed with more makeup than I’ve ever seen in my life, laughed at all of mine (because it fits in one tiny makeup bag), and then proceeded to re-enact that scene from Miss Congeniality where they transform Sandra Bullock from a take-out ordering slob into a beauty queen.

Seriously, there were eyelash tweezers and something called ‘primer’. She looked a little bit horrified when she asked for my hairbrush and I said I wasn’t sure I owned one.

2. Have a themed ‘Circus Concessions’ stand with free red noses, popcorn, circus ribbons, pinwheels, sweets, shortbread (made by your mum), wine, juice and a CIRCUS CAKE!!! (made by your mum and sister as a surprise that you didn’t know about until they arrived!)

Can't believe they did this!

The circus stuff was mostly my sister’s idea too (seriously, is there anything my sister can't do?) I was going for low-key; she was having none of it.


3. Have a fantastic local bookstore set up a stand to sell your books!

So pretty!
Courtesy of No Alibis

4. Have a Buster Keaton movie projected on the wall to a soundtrack of everyone’s favourite teenage tracks as people arrive.

I love Buster Keaton! We played One Week, which is one of my favourites because it closely resembles the two years since we moved into our new house. Go watch it here.

Honestly, this makes me laugh.
I definitely have a thing about clowns.

But at this point everyone was arriving and I was basically hugging people and then running away to hug more people. I wish I’d had more time to talk to everyone, especially people I hadn’t seen in a while (there were people I hadn’t seen since HIGH SCHOOL! and I was so touched that they came). But you don’t get to say more than a couple of words to people, and all of those words are about you, not them. I feel bad about that but it couldn’t be helped.

5. Have an old suitcase full of circus toys for the kids (and big kids) to play with.

Because there is no situation in life that can’t be turned into an opportunity to promote joining the circus. These were loaned to me by a very kind friend who brought them to give to me in the carpark of a hospital as she was on her way in to have her baby induced. This is the definition of generosity.

This kid is so good!

6. Realise you have vastly underestimated the awesomeness of the people in your life, and that the room you’ve hired is quickly running out of seats, space and wine glasses!

Luckily the Crescent Arts Centre staff are seasoned professionals (and saints) and they uncomplainingly rushed in some more seats and glasses for us. Some people had to stand, but others just came and sat on the floor at the front which was very decent of them!

7. Start the proceedings by having someone techie put up a projection of the book cover on the wall.

My husband said this was his favourite bit of the night because when the cover went up the whole audience spontaneously cheered! I’ve been thanking people for their support for days, and all that support felt very real at the launch. People told me they were in nerves for me all day because they knew I’d be nervous. And they’re almost as pleased as I am to see this book published, because they’ve been rooting for me all along.

8. Have one of the most talented writers in Belfast introduce you like you’re on This is Your Life with details that make you sound way more awesome than you actually are.

Jan Carson doing her thang

She had Show and Tell props that included a knitted hot water bottle, a ukulele, a bottle of Shloer and candles in the shape of cactuses. In a weird way, this does kind of sum up my life.

9. Make a speech thanking a long list of people and read a little bit from your book.

I am a nervous public speaker (I even went to a public speaking class – Rosie Pelan at the Crescent, I highly recommend – because I was so bad at this!) and this was my largest audience ever but it actually went well! 

I liked having a podium to hide behind.
Maybe that makes all the difference.

10. Play a few songs with a group of 30+ ukulele enthusiasts while the audience sing along.

I look ridiculously happy

I think this was the highlight of the night for everyone! The thing is, you could play that Anne Hathaway song from Les Mis on a ukulele and it would sound chirpy. 

We could rock this

There’s just no way to be sad with a tiny 4-stringed guitar in the room. The wonderful Belfast Ukulele Jam played ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, ‘I’ll Fly Away’, and ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ and it was an absolute blast. I love these guys so much! I play with them on Tuesday nights at the Sunflower Bar (all welcome, bring your uke) and they offered to play at the launch just to support me. They’re the nicest, maddest, sunniest people in Belfast and you couldn’t ask for better friends.

11. Have the Ukulele Jam play on while people drink more wine and have books signed and your 4 year old nephew dances like a lunatic at the front of the room to every song.

I had a serious case of signature-anxiety because I’m left handed and am well known for my appalling handwriting but this went OK. My fav moment was when a kid from the Belfast Circus School came up to get one signed and I was totally star-struck! These people are my heroes.

12. Throw everything in the back of the car and go to the pub!

Truly surprising moments are rare in life but this was one. I’ve spent the last couple of months feeling awkward about asking people to take a Sunday night out of their lives to make a fuss and a flap over my book. It’s not like I go to celebratory events every time they do a great presentation in a meeting or make a big sale in work. I honestly felt weird about making a big deal of it, like who would really be interested? (TBH I felt the same about asking people to come to my wedding – it could be this is just me)

But, much like my wedding, I spent the whole night just feeling overwhelmed by the love in the room. I was amazed by how many people turned up and how happy they were for me. You only do a first book launch once and I’m so pleased with the memories I’ll be taking away from mine. I was truly touched and I came home feeling very grateful and very blessed and very very happy.

Wow, this got mushy.

So basically what I’m saying is, if you’re going to have a book launch, you can throw as much wine and circus prop-ery at it as you like, but all you really need is the people you love there (and a ukulele band, obvs).

(Thanks to all the people who took photos, since I managed to forget to take any! I so wish I'd got one from the front of the room with everyone wearing their red noses but hey, next time I write a circus-themed novel... In the meantime, here are few people sent me and you'll find videos of the music on my facebook page)

These are some presents people gave me at the launch.
That white envelope has 'Antirrhinum Circus Clowns' seeds!
Possibly the most appropriate present ever bought. 

Some brilliant red nose photos:

My fav of the night, I think - Me and Lynsey


1 comment:

Adam McAteer said...

Awesome, looks great.. Glad it went well..