Until recently, I never had much of an understanding of, let alone an appreciation for, book signings. I kinda lumped them into the same category as store parties, a convention of society that I found alluring in my youth, but not so much in recent years. That is, until... I mean- free drinks and maybe a cheese puff? In my 20s and 30s, who could resist? In my 40s, I found myself throwing store parties rather than attending them, since I actually had stores. We had marvelous ones- new store openings were always a reason to celebrate- and I'll never forget the opening party for my postage stamp of a store in Beverly Hills. My cousins Elaine and Kevyn Wynn surprised me-the fashion icon James Galanos came- and the party spilled out onto the sidewalk of North Camden Drive.
I also loved the one we threw for C.Z. Guest in Southampton- in honor of her new scented candle and, believe it or not, an insect repellent that she had developed. C.Z. arrived early, in the shortest white shorts and a stretched-out tee shirt, with a garment bag over her shoulder. She had driven herself out to the Hamptons from her home on the North Shore of Long Island- and asked if she could change in our bathroom. I showed her to the store's miserable little shopkeeper's loo by the back door- barely a broom closet with a toilet and a sink- but she didn't complain in the least.
A few minutes later, she emerged, resplendent in a pink silk jumpsuit and white heels, with matching pink lipstick. At this point, the caterers had arrived and begun to load in their glasses and trays, so we moved to the front of the store, which I had shut down a bit early in anticipation of the party. It was just me and C.Z. at that point, so I attempted small talk.
"What restaurants do you like in Palm Beach?" I asked.
"Oh, for gawds sake," she snapped back. "We never eat in a PUBLIC restaurant... we eat AT HOME! Or the food at the club is so good."
I guess she told me.
Now that I have written a few books, I have a new appreciation for the book signing party. You see, authors do not own their books- the publishers do. So any activity that builds awareness and promotes sales for a new release is a good thing- not only for the book in question, but also for the author-publisher relationship, which is even more meaningful. Now I say, "Just put a Sharpie in my hand and I'm good to go!"
This past weekend, the wonderful San Francisco-based tabletop shop, Hudson Grace, hosted the first signing for my newest book, "The Serial Entertainer's Passion for Parties," at their East Hampton summer pop-up located within the Serena & Lily Beach Market. Where my first "Serial" was about entertaining at home, this one moves beyond that, and showcases the many large-scale events that I have had a hand in over the years, almost always as a volunteer. For me, it was a nostalgic trip down Memory Lane. For the reader, I hope that it will take some of the anxiety out of having to plan a wedding or birthday celebration or a charity gala. In order to make the book even more useful and relevant, we took the decorative elements and menus and downsized them for home use, too. It's hardly a great literary masterpiece; I write these books to answer so many of the questions that I am asked constantly. Too, the rule of thumb is to "write what you know," and one thing I do know about is how to throw a party. Or at least I think so.
In the coming months, there will be signings in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Palm Beach and who knows where else? Without fail, at every single signing thus far, some well-meaning, "aren't I witty" person has come up to me and asked, "Doesn't your hand get tired from signing all those books?"
Not on your life.