6.15 The Walking Man Event Highlights
A few months ago, I launched my first book, The Walking Man. You might remember this, since I talked endlessly about it for a few months. Probably talked about it too much. I gave everyone a break. So, I’m back and wanted to quickly bring everyone up to speed. Let’s review. This whole thing started almost a year ago when I embarked on the whole crowdfunding campaign. Seems like forever ago. This also started me on the first of many ‘firsts’. I’d never done a crowdfunding campaign before and to be honest, was a bit wary. I wondered if people would be interested enough in what I was attempting to put out there to buy in to this process. The campaign was successful, actually, more than successful, and we raised over 100% of the original goal.
Then it was time to get to work on the actual book. Sure, I had been through multiple drafts by then and spent a few years on it, but we needed to get it into publishable shape. The editorial process was one that I had been looking forward to and I couldn’t of found a better editor to work with than Kate Unrau. She somehow made the writing better and kept intact my voice. She made me sound even more like me.
One of the reasons that I decided to go with Iguana Books as my publisher, was that they encouraged their authors to be involved with the entire process. With all the films I’ve made and most things I’ve put out there, I learned how to be a designer, learned what my tastes were and how to represent them properly. At the beginning of my career, being involved with the entire process was more of a necessity, but I quickly realized that I enjoyed having a hand in every small part that goes into a project.
Next came the cover. I trolled bookstores for hours over a number of weeks, writing down covers that jumped out at me. When I’m doing this kind of thing, an image or style usually pops in my head. This time around, I kept thinking of movie posters from the 1970s, specifically, European films where the posters were more like works of art. Often they would get famous artists to paint or draw the poster and were more inspired by the film rather than attempting to directly represent it. The amazing graphic designer Ellen Yu, from Guerrilla Rabbit, set out to take what was in my head and make it real. She not only did an amazing job on the cover, but created bookmarks, business cards and collector character cards.
With the book edited and the cover and other promotional materials complete, next was the marketing of the book. Unfortunately, as the climate of the publishing world changes and there is less money to go around, the first thing that is cut from the budget is generally the marketing. But, if no one knows that your book exists, how are you going to get it into their hands? I made a decision to work with PR expert Emily Niedoba. I knew that I needed to put myself out there like never before. This made me very uncomfortable and still makes me uncomfortable. Emily was able to set up television, radio and print interviews, as well as getting the book reviewed by some very prominent literary magazines. I think I did alright in these interviews, I don’t know.
When you release a book, there’s usually a launch party. I’ve been to my share of these launches and honestly, have very seldom been impressed with them. There might be a reading by the author, maybe a speech or two, some food (maybe) and drinks (most likely). I went to one book launch where the author seemed so put out by having to read some of his poems, that right after he was finished, he left the stage and stormed out of the party.
Since I’ve started performing in storytelling events, I’ve developed a huge respect for the audience. They are giving you their time and sometimes their money. I wanted to create an experience - entertain them, make them laugh and hopefully make them think. I set out to build a night that encompassed all of my skills - storytelling, writing, design and video. In addition, I wanted to include music to break up the performance. These elements would all work together to showcase the narrative behind the book. Not just the story of the book, but how the book came about.
I’m very interested in mixing fiction and non-fiction. The documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog has openly discussed that he stages some of the scenes. He refers to this style as an ecstatic truth, meaning that he combines many different techniques to get at a deeper truth at a more philosophical or metaphorical level. I wasn’t so much interested in a ‘meta’ presentation, more of inviting the audience into the creative process and almost make them a part of the performance. Stage a show where we are aware of the space we’re in - we know we’re at a live show, that they are sitting there, that I am standing on stage - but attempt to create this sense of an ecstatic truth and perhaps suspend some beliefs along the way.
The main centre piece became a treadmill. I don’t know, it was just another one of those things that popped into my head. Since the book was called The Walking Man, I wanted to actually walk during the entire performance. The script was developed, integrating the songs of the amazing singer/songwriter Arlene Paculan. We enlisted the help from Brian G. Smith who handled all the sound and video. I think the performance went well.
The entire thirty minute performance will be released next week on my YouTube channel, but for now, here is a six minute highlight of the event. And if you’re so inclined to purchase a copy of the book, the easiest way is through AMAZON or click on this BLOG POST to find a bookseller near you. If you need any further motivation, Jonathan Valelly from Quill & Quire wrote: “The Walking Man flirts with being a confessional chronicle, but, at its best moments, it becomes a globetrotting tale that imagines new ways to get at what’s really going on.”
Thank you to all my supporters out there, everyone that came to the performance and any of you reading this. You’re why I do it.