My Writing Buddy, Anu
My writing buddy Anu wrote this sweet piece about my book launch at Third Place Books in Seattle:
Oct 11, 2022. Today I attended Patricia’s book launch. This is the first book to come out of the memoir writers’ group that I’m part of.
I felt such joy to see this book sailing out to the world. I feel like I’m part of a group of pregnant people and this is the first delivery. A book typically has a long gestation time. And don’t even mention the long labor before the book pops out.
Our writers’ group has six women: Patricia (who started the group), Connie, Helen, Linda, Mercedes, and Sara. And me (maybe I’m a seahorse). A couple of days after I attended the first meeting, I received an email from Patricia.
From: Patricia Grayhall
To: Anu Garg
Date: Sep 19, 2019, 7:27 PM
Anu, it was nice to meet you on Tuesday. I had heard such nice things about you from Connie. I talked with Connie today about some reservations I have about participating in the group, even though I started it.
I am a lesbian writing about my life in my twenties when I was a bit of a wild child. I don't know how this story will be perceived by you, a man of Indian background or the straight women in the group. So far I have not shared my writing with anyone other than my writing coach except for my rather vague beginning that I read at the meeting.
My first reaction was annoyance that someone had assumed that I might be homophobic. But then I considered this from her point of view and appreciated that she asked to clarify. After all, there still are so many closed-minded people in this world. Imagine having to ask someone if they are OK with your life when in an ideal world it should be a given. I responded.
From: Anu Garg
To: Patricia Grayhall
Date: Sep 19, 2019, 9:31 PM
Subject: Re: Hello
Thanks for reaching out. I don't know about the others, but, as a man of Indian background, I would be offended if you told me you didn't like mangoes.
Seriously though, I believe in live and let live. You're a human being and that makes you a part of my tribe. I consider animals to be part of the same continuum, but that's a topic for another time. I'd love to read your story if you decide to share.
BTW, the woman I love the most in this big wide world is a lesbian.
I'm so happy to have joined the group that you started. Thank you for opening it to me.
In our writers’ group, we meet once a month. We have a rotating schedule in which we take turns in sharing the drafts of our pieces and then critique them. We get such valuable feedback. Chapter by chapter we make progress. Patricia was the first one to complete her book and find a publisher. We all were so excited.
A lot happens between the time the text of a book is finished and when the book hits bookstores. Cover design, typesetting, proofreading, and more. We discussed the color scheme and fonts for the book cover. We voted on the picture that goes below the book title. We critiqued the copy for the back cover. The book was titled Making the Rounds: Defying Norms in Love and Medicine.
Then came the big day. The day of the book launch. Oct 11, 2022, at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, a suburb of Seattle. Mercedes (wo)manned the bookstore door, welcoming people and directing them to the section called The Den where the book launch was happening.
Patricia was to talk with a fellow memoir author and both had taken seats at the front of The Den. The audience was filtering in. The bookstore had to bring in more chairs.
I have never been a groomsman or a bridesmaid, but on this day I felt like I was part of a group of bridesmaids plus a bridesman. OK, that’s switching metaphors in midstream, but at that moment it really felt like that.
Patricia may have been a first-time bride here, but she was no bridezilla (or authorzilla). You might think someone would be nervous when their first book is released, but Patricia was calm and relaxed. If you have spent the last four decades of your life welcoming new arrivals to this world and seeing people off at the ultimate departure lounge, and everything in between, nothing would faze you easily.
I saw Linda sitting in the audience with a bouquet in her hands. I knew what it was for. At the end of the book signing, Patricia the bride would turn around, her back toward the audience. Then she’d toss this bouquet over her shoulder toward the audience. Whoever in our group of bridesmaids/bridesman caught it would be the next to walk down the book-publishing aisle.
Turns out Patricia had already given this bouquet to Linda. OK, she gave it to Linda for safekeeping while she was talking about her book during the book launch, but still. The game was rigged. Not fair, Patricia! On the other hand, it was fair. Linda was the second person in our group who had completed her memoir and was now shopping it around to publishers. So it was logical for her to receive the bouquet.
Anyway, sitting there in The Den surrounded by shelves and shelves of books and rows and rows of booklovers, I felt at home. Soon The Den was full. Filled with my kind of people, those who loved books. The clock struck seven and a bookstore employee walked to the mic and introduced Patricia and Donna (the author of A Year of Living Kindly) with whom Patricia was going to have the conversation.
Patricia told us that she picked Oct 11 as her book launch date because it’s National Coming Out Day. What a perfect choice for a date! When my memoir comes out I’d pick the same date to celebrate my daughter.
Donna asked Patricia about her life, coming out to her parents, going to medical school, and more. Patricia’s answers were poignant and filled with humor. She read some sections from her book. It was heartbreaking to hear how we used to discriminate and make life difficult for people who were just a touch different from the majority.
For example, Patricia talked about the time while in medical school she and her then-lover were sitting on the campus lawn making out. A police car stopped by and a cop stepped out. “What are you two girls doin’? … Keep this up and you’ll be in real trouble,” he warned them. As if the police had solved all other criminal activity in the city. Two people loving each other, not hurting anyone, was once a crime.
Today, same-sex marriage (or equivalent) is legal in most of the world. Only the most bigoted still rail against it. Thankfully, the Overton window has moved. But it moves too slowly. I say we throw a rock through the window.
Then came the time for the book signing. A long line formed. I got two copies of the book signed, one for my daughter and another for my niece. Patricia signed them as: Dear Ananya,
Knowledge of our heritage is power.
Enjoy! Patricia Grayhall
And to my niece she signed: Dear Shreshtha,
Knowledge of our history as women is power.
Enjoy! Patricia Grayhall
Now I’m feeling like how kids felt when a new Harry Potter book was released. It’s going to be an all-nighter reading Making the Rounds: Defying Norms in Love and Medicine. And this book is extra special as I had a small part in its making, serving as a bridesman and a doula.