Monday, November 13, 2006
So-called Poster Girls
"I tried to come to see you at Busboys & Poets last night," said the voicemail from our friend Yolanda Saturday morning. "But I got turned away. What I'd like to know is: was that a concert or a book reading?"
It was easy to see how one might be confused. We took the stage at the artsy/intellectual D.C. hotspot (see some of the crowd that did get in at the picture to the right) with a spotlight on us at the table covered in white linens. Outside the restaurant/cafe/bookstore's Langston Room, a no-nonsense bouncer blocked dozens of people at the door, providing increasingly testy explanations of fire code regulations to an increasingly irate crowd, including one cameraman who was to film the event, Nat. H's husband Rudy, separating him from the kids, and one salty customer who came all the way from New York to see us. Inside, we had no idea about the commotion outside, and had a blast. The audience laughed at all our jokes, clapped after we finished reading the 2 excerpts, and followed up with a lively Q&A session afterward. A long line of people spread across the room for autographed books, which the store ran out of before we even finished reading.
It was a lot to take in for two little colored girls from the Midwest. We thought of all the rejections from publishers, agents, newsroom tyrants and other kinds of haters. We cued Mike Jones as we recalled writer Amy Sohn's description of her own rise from "pathetic nobody to poster girl for the urban literati."
Tyrone hasn't been out a month yet but all of our hard work and hustling has begun to pay off! The dams hath broken! First Busboys, next, world domination! We called up the owners of Karibu Books, where we were to appear the next day, and blew up their phone with text messages and voicemails urging them to make sure they were well-stocked at the Pentagon City store where we would be appearing, stat!!!
We arrived at Karibu around 2 p.m. the next day and posted up at the front of the store at a table. A slow trickle of folks come into the store, mostly our friends who got locked out of Busboys. After about 2 hours, at the gentle, but firm urging of the store clerk who needed to make way for the next author, we called it quits. All told, we made a fistful of DT sales that we weren't expecting. If we were still wondering about our place in the literary galaxy on Saturday afternoon, we got it on our way out, when Nat. M went to the Karibu cash register to buy 2 gifts. Nat M. handed her credit card to the clerk, who stood in front of a stack of unsold copies of DT. The clerk eyed the credit card, looked up at Nat M and said: "Can I see some ID?"