Saturday, January 10, 2009

the inaugural

Linda, the events coordinator at Northshire, said about 60 people came for the event last night, which absolutely blows me away. (I was expecting maybe twenty.) I promised myself I wouldn't get nervous, but when I looked around and realized it wasn't just co-workers and people from Storey... I started to feel my hands clam up. Then, to relax myself, I started talking to people sitting in the front row. This was a mistake. They told me they drove two hours to hear me talk about wool and chickens. Which just upped the anti from nervous to slightly terrified. Here we go.

I had nothing prepared except talking a little, then reading a little, and then I had some music planned thanks to my friend Dave. I called Dave two hours before the show started to see what he was doing and if he wanted to play some mandolin at a bookstore? He promptly ended his laundromat adventures and came-a-running. I was so happy and relieved to see another mountain musician before I went up on stage. Watching him walk through the crowd was like a scared wolf seeing another mangy (but not at all scared) wolf walking through a thick herd of deer - together they could set down their music cases and figure out how to work with the crowd, make the task ahead seem less daunting.* Him walking in with a gig bag and an old flannel shirt instantly calmed me down. He was one of my people, and two wolves are always better than one. Dave would be my insurance policiy, because even if I tanked these people would hear some decent playing from him.

This was my inaugural event. I had never been "Jenna, the author" anywhere like this. Sure I went to bookseller conferences, but those were signings for people who hadn't read the book yet, they knew nothing about me. At Northshire it was all people who knew me, or read about my life online - a very different crowd. The more I thought about it, the less confident I felt. While Linda read an introduction to myself (a very weird thing to hear) all I could think of was how horribly ill-prepared I was for this. When I walked up to start talking, I choked something out about how this book was about three things I love - food, music and animals. And then, trying to be funny, I told everyone in a lower voice if they were with someone who didn't love food, music and animals they better get out, and quick. Because I over think everything, I was instantly worried I just insulted some nice people who happened to be allergic to cats or hated cooking - worried my foot was already shoved down my throat. I scrambled on.

My hands were shaking the whole time, which you couldn't see behind the podium, but you could easily hear when I played some fiddle tunes. I played awful, off the nerves. All twangy and soft and skittering around the bow like a 6 year old. I was secretly grateful my boss from work didn't show up because he's a pretty talented guy music-wise and hearing his employee falter through a small set like that may be horrible poor career move. But I got through a version of Wayfaring Stranger and Cluck Old Hen without messing up even if it sounded crappy. I realized then I never played for people before, only with people. There is apparently a huge divide between those two in my mind. I need to get over this. Hopefully by the events down in Albany, I will have. If not, be prepared for the shakiest renditions of old songs you ever heard...

So okay, I started out pretty shaky, but after the reading got some laughs (and my bad music got some smiles) I relaxed. Then things got easier. I felt more comfortable answering questions because it was more like a conversation than anything else. It all wound down at the signing table. There I met a CAF reader or two, like Jeff from Pawlet, who was kind enough to come. And I ran into a new couple who just moved to Vermont two weeks ago, who heard me on the radio and came to check it out, which made me happy to be someone's Friday night date.

A couple co-workers showed up! Including the three guys from the production area where I work. The same guys who helped build my sheep shed this summer and I drink coffee with everyday. I beamed at the sight of them, and everyone from work who decided to spend their time off the clock with me some more. Bless their patient hearts.

Thank you to everyone who came out on a 6 degree Vermont night. Thank you to everyone who wished me good luck via comments or emails. And thanks in advance to anyone planning on putting up with me in Albany on the events on the 24th. It means a lot to a girl in the middle of the woods.

Okay, coffee is done on the stove and I need to get these animals ready for next week's deep freeze. New straw, plenty of food, and fresh water hauling - here I come. Well, after the coffee. I'm not made of stone people.

*Sorry about the wolf metaphor, but this is how I see everything in social situations - like events happening in the animal kingdom. All the people I meet instantly remind me of an animal and they stay that animal in my head. I'm sure there were some wolves in the audience, but they came in deer costumes you see. So I'd have to meet them to know. If you can follow this, you have been reading my blog too long.


Blogger Morgen said...

Congratulations! You made it through swimmingly Im sure, and anyone coming to see you wants the real Jenna anyway, the one we know and love from this blog! Depending on the weather we might come to the Albany date. And I totally get the animal comparison. Ive known a few animal types in my time too!

January 10, 2009 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger laura said...

I commented a while back when your book was first published. I work in a local Boise, ID bookstore, and to make a long story short, we are interested in featuring you as an author at the Green Expo in Boise. If you're interested, we can work out the details with you/Storey.

You can reach me directly at . I hope to hear from you, I adore your work.

January 10, 2009 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Hey, I freaked out playing a new song to two friends the other night, I can't imagine being in front of a crowd of 60 without passing out completely! I'm sure you did great!

January 10, 2009 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

yeh, I do the animal thing to. I always though of myself as a beaver, or if I am feeling particularly badass, a bear.

October 26, 2009 at 5:58 AM  

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