April 21, 2022
I began the WE ARE THE LIGHT book tour in September of 2022 with a panic attack outside of the Norfolk airport. The paranoid part of me wanted to bail on the whole adventure, but, eventually, the heroic me found a way to go inside, have a curative laugh with a kind woman in the TSA line, board an airplane, and then go on to speak at many events in thirteen different states over the next six months.
I did my last Avid Reader Press-related gig in Powder Springs, Georgia on April 11th with the fantastic Book Worm Bookstore. No panic attack at the airport this time around. It was an outdoor live interview on a heavenly spring evening with warm-hearted folks who welcomed me into their community and made me remember why I started sending out words in the first place—to connect with others. All of the many events in between that first-step panic attack and my time in Powder Springs were life-affirming in their own ways. The whole tour was exceptionally good for me and my mental health. I'm so glad I said yes to life. And I think it's important to let people know that it's not only okay to—but actually imperative that—we find ways to participate while we struggle through mental health issues.
It's also important to let others know that they are not alone.
At several of these literary festivals and events, I spent time with a wide range of authors: first-time and self-published all the way up to bestsellers, an Oprah pick, a National Book Award finalist, and more. At cocktail parties, strolling through rain under umbrellas, in green rooms, seated at palm-tree-shaded hotel breakfast tables, in the backseats of transportation vehicles, and even on beach chairs, we all had conversations about modern publishing and the strange realities of "being a writer."
For the most part, novelists are lovely people. And no matter how accomplished we writers become, there will be little tells about our confidence levels: nervous talking before walking out onto a stage, sweating, drinking too much during an event, foot tapping, compulsively checking phones, hijacking conversations, awkwardly giving the sales pitch before it is actually time to give the sales pitch, etc. Regardless of how polished we may present to our readers, writers are generally a neurotic bunch, which means we understand a thing or two about discomfort.
When experienced writers gather face-to-face in the real world—in spite of our neuroses—we usually try to make each other feel better. There is almost always a supportive—even caretaking—vibe. When one of us does our best to honestly answer a question on a panel, we can usually count on a nod or a smile or a kind word from a fellow author. I've witnessed this instant camaraderie again and again over the past few months.