Monday, August 25, 2008

Guest Blogger: Kerry Madden


“Introduce yourself! I gotta eat lunch,” barked the entertainment director at GHOST TOWN IN THE SKY hunkered over his burger and fries. I stood on the stage warming up with my sister-in-law, Tomi Lunsford, a Nashville singer-songwriter, who sings the songs in my Maggie Valley Trilogy (Gentle’s Holler, Louisiana’s Song, and Jessie’s Mountain). It was mid-July, and we had been on the road together for several days in Tennessee and North Carolina on a kind of “O Brother Where Art Thou” family book tour of five adults and four kids caravanning through the mountains.

When I am on a book tour, I always set up each event through independent bookstores, because they hand-sell my books and talk to local teachers to generate school visits. I also like going to the heart of Appalachia, because that’s where my books are set, and I love meeting kids and talking to them about their stories.
Besides independent bookstores like Davis-Kidd in Nashville, Spellbound Books and Malaprops in Asheville, and City Lights in Sylva, we performed at Joey’s Pancake House and at the Storytelling Festival at the Stomping Ground in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. Osondu Booksellers of Waynesville supplied the books at the different Maggie Valley locations, which meant Margaret and Scott Osondu also had to make sure to get six boxes of books up the mountain to GHOST TOWN IN THE SKY.

To understand the geography of GHOST TOWN, an amusement park on top of Buck Mountain in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, you have to picture yourself riding a chairlift up a mountain, which is the only way to get to the top except for the winding back access road where you meet yourself coming.

The PR folks at GHOST TOWN IN THE SKY had invited me to come to do a reading since parts of my children’s books are set there. Emmett, the big brother in my book, dreams of becoming a gunslinger at GHOST TOWN IN THE SKY- instead of working the lowly merry-go-round. The gunslingers of GHOST TOWN are the real deal.

So on this Saturday afternoon, I was reading sections from JESSIE’S MOUNTAIN, the third book in the trilogy, that led straight into the songs Tomi was singing. Her nieces, Emily and Norah (my daughter) joined her for three songs: “Fairy Rocks,” “Maggie Valley Christmas,” and “Enka-Stinka Savings & Loan.”

Emily’s big brother, Ellis, milled through the sparse crowd promoting the CDs, and Uncle Silas (my brother-in-law) was filming everything as he had the whole tour. My daughter, Lucy, was taking pictures on crutches due to an impulsive summer injury involving a very high jump into water (and a pack of encouraging friends “You know you want to!!!”) My other sister-in-law, Eppie, (visiting from Turkey with her children, Ellis and Emily) was passing out bookmarks and talking up my books to strangers eating their snow cones and cotton candy. My husband, Kiffen, had helped me set everything up – a table of fairy rocks, pictures, notebooks – things for the kids to explore.

When the music director decided to eat his lunch instead of introduce us, I asked Kiffen to do the honors and jazz it up, since the crowd was already looking wary. People don’t go to amusement parks to get read to, but he’s an actor, so it was easy for him to make us sound pretty good, except for three things:

1. The stage was right next to the cafeteria and folks were coming in loud and hungry from watching the gunslingers duke it out and riding the Geronimo Drop Tower and The Undertaker.
2. The Wolf Man didn’t show. He’s the man who does the “live wolves show with his pet wolves” and draws a crowd. He didn’t come because according the entertainment director, the Wolf Man was “off in the mountains in a skirt doing something Scottish but don’t think for a minute we’re ever gonna let him forget he wore a skirt!”
3. The CARE BEARS were in town. (I think that’s why the Wolf Man didn’t show. He knew better. Don’t ever try to compete with the Care Bears.)

If you don’t believe me just click on this link, which explains the day from the POV of the Haywood County News: Care Bears, Author to appear at Ghost Town

I didn’t even know the CARE BEARS were still around, but around they were. While I was getting ready to read, two pink spongy ones came bouncing in to flirt with the two-year-olds who were giggling and hiding behind their mamas’ legs.

I went into the bathroom where a woman was holding her red-haired grandbaby, and while waiting for my daughter, I asked her the baby’s name, and she proudly said, “Caroline!” And without thinking, I blurted out, “I have a character named Caroline in my Maggie Valley Trilogy. She’s the one who loves fairies. I’ll be out there reading in just a minute.” Suffice to say I am pretty sure that I shamed the poor woman into buying the trilogy, and it was the only one I sold at GHOST TOWN IN THE SKY.

Was this the lowest I’d sunk in book-hawking? I ignored the Care Bears as I joined my sister-in-law on stage to the clink of silverware, soda machines, and “Mama, Mama, the Care Bears are here!”

Check back on Thursday to see if Kerry finds her promotional Zen in Appalachia!

Kerry Madden is the author of the Maggie Valley Trilogy: GENTLE'S HOLLER, LOUISIANA'S SONG, and JESSIE'S MOUNTAIN (Viking Children's Books). Her biography of Harper Lee will be published by Viking's Up Close Series. She has also written for the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Salon Magazine.


Anonymous said...

Great post Kerry!

eppie said...

wonderful tale of Ghost town writers on the storm of Care Bears! well done, Kerry!

tanita✿davis said...

UGH. I would be IN HELL. Care Bears!? And they came into your area?! Oh, no, no, no...

Anonymous said...

Oh, don't get me started on the Care Bears. Now, if it had been the muppets, Grover would have sat down in that crowd and started shushing people. Okay, he'd have shush'd loudly, but still...

That woman is going to love your books and save them all for her granddaughter!

Melissa Walker said...

We all have those moments, right? I didn't realize you have such a great marketing blog--thanks for this. I'll be back often.

Mary Hershey said...

Kerry, thanks so much for sharing this with all of us.
Looking forward to Part II!!

And, welcome, Melissa! Please do come on back.

Mary Hershey

Kerry Madden-Lunsford said...

Thank you so much for all these comments. I've heard from so many authors who have basically said "we are not alone!" Thank you, Mary and Robin, for hosting a blog that gives us a place to share our stories.

All best
Kerry Madden