Last week, I had the honour of going to Candlewick Press’s Canadian sales conference at Random House of Canada’s Mississauga office. This involved:
– coming up with an Author Outfit that was not pyjamas with a pilled sweater on top
– getting the bus (oh, the glamour!) to the airport strip (and architectural beauty!)
– avoiding arrest outside Terminal 3 (I was early, so paced up and down outside inhaling diesel fumes and second-hand smoke, looking pretty tense)
Things turned fantastic once I arrived at the Random House offices (Candlewick books are distributed by RHC in Canada), and not because of me. The Candlewick team of Elise Supovitz, Jeanne Emanuel and John Mendelson were utterly charming, and seemed to specialize in putting nervous outsiders at ease. We had lunch (pizza and profiteroles – an alliterative menu!) with the Random House sales team, headed by Linda Chisholm and Duncan Shields. I met a lot of people, many of whom I didn’t get a chance to really talk to (but some of whom I did – hello Jennifer, and Lahring, and Tan, and Robin!). I also met “my” publicist, Nicola Makoway, and bombarded her with questions. Ahem.
Everybody was so energetic and enthusiastic and clearly passionate about books. I learned a bit about different sales territories (there’s one dedicated to Toronto indie bookstores alone; by contrast, another person handles national accounts for Wal-Mart and Shoppers Drug Mart) and a bit of terminology (“inside sales” – someone who works within the office, instead of on the road) – lots of things I hadn’t really thought about until that lunch meeting. I also learned about a very cool-sounding social-networking site for Canadian teen readers, Bookurious; I’m not allowed in, as an adult, but it looks great. And I shook hands with a man who’s shaken Anne Perry’s hand. What does that MEAN, oh cosmos?
After lunch, I talked to the assembled group (including some on conference call) about the story behind The Agency and how I came to be a writer. It was a strange, surreal, yet hyper-real ten minutes in time. It was so peculiar to do something deeply familiar – address a group of people – but in a completely new context (conference room of a publishing house). I wish I could play it back accurately in my head, but it was all a blur of politely nodding heads and me wondering, after the fact, did I talk way too fast? I mean, there’s a reason one of my undergrad classes nicknamed me “the Auctioneer”…
And then, suddenly, it was over. I was the privileged outsider who went downtown to meet up with a dear friend, while everyone else was still hard at work. I walked along Queen St, thinking, “I’m an author. All those people think I’m an author.”
And I’m not sure I believe it myself.