"I can't believe this book is true." A Knoxville Hadassah member declared as she strode into the room for a pre-book talk discussion."I know it seems unbelievable but we couldn't make this stuff up. And that, is one of the reasons my sister and I knew this as a story worth telling."
I could have assured her that Leslie and I researched, interviewed, cross-checked and fact checked Vera and Alla's stories. There were some stories we didn't include because we couldn't verify them and they strained our credulity even after months of interviewing Vera and Alla. Instead of launching into a defense of our methodology, I simply sat down in the easy chair with the Hadassah book group and they began to ask questions, offer comments, and engage in discussion.At the end of our meeting, the woman approached me, smiled, and said, "Okay, now I can believe it."
I think she believed our "true story of friendship, deception, and risky business" after the discussion for the same reason I reserved the new Marlon James book, A Brief History of Seven Killings. I began reading a James novel a few years ago, but returned it unread to the library.When I heard he won the Booker Prize, I was even more convinced his writing was beyond my comprehension.But, once I heard him speak, I was enchanted and convinced I have to read his newest book and I want to struggle through it. I changed my attitude because he connected with us, his audience so completely.
In the past five years I've heard many authors speak. Some simply read from their books and anchor the readings with a prologue.Some read from a prepared talk that sounds stale.And some authors draw the audience into their sphere leaving the listener ready to dash for their books.
When our first copy of Jewish Luck arrived at my doorstep and I pulled the book from the box, I was ecstatic.Could it get any better than seeing three years' work in print just as you'd imagined? We discovered, yes, it could get better. Speaking to audiences large and small across the U.S. and in Israel.We labored over each presentation debating how to involve the audience and draw out their questions and their experiences. It turns out that speaking is only one aspect of an author's appearance.Listening and encouraging discussion enrich the experience. Like the Hadassah member, we have heard some amazing tales from audience members that rival Vera and Alla's own life stories.Connecting with people allows us to suspend our skepticism and our disbelief.
Despite the fact, I'm writing this blog with a whopper of a case of laryngitis from so much talking during my last book trip, it's worth it. Leslie and I have been lucky to meet so many of our readers We always leave a talk reminiscing about the people we've met and the stories we heard.Knoxville was memorable for me because it was one of those times, when I was lucky enough to revive a friendship dormant for fifty years and develop a new friendship with my host, Anne, who feels like a lifelong friend.