Last night we had a Small Stories, Big Changes discussion in Manhattan.
I was nervous that no one was going to show up, but we packed the place. I was worried that I had schlepped heavy books through airports to no avail, but we sold a bunch of books and I will be returning with a nice light suitcase.
I should say that the “format” for promoting this book seems to be getting some traction. It’s not a “presentation.” Nor is it a reading. Since the book is an anthology, I put the authors “on stage” while I hang out in the audience as a roving “Phil Donahue.”
I get questions started. I get the authors talking. And at each event there is a moment when I am no longer needed. The crowd takes over and engages in a dialog with the authors. It’s interactive. It’s different. And it is wonderful. Like one big Q+A.
This is the seventh time we have staged a “Salon Discussion” about this book—from Mother Earth News Fairs in Puyallup and Seven Springs to bookstores throughout the triangle to Pamela’s fabulous place in the East Village. I must say I am deeply indebted to Tami for pulling so many strings (and putting up with so much) to make these events possible.
Two things struck me on this New York visit. The first was an overwhelming trip to Trader Joe’s. I’d never been to one. Jess and I walked a few blocks to my first Trader Joe’s to do a beer run with backpacks. The volume of food, and people, was astonishing. There must have been 100 people in line to checkout—with a moving “Line Starts Here” flag held by a human standard bearer.
I watched a young guy open a box of canned tuna, stock the shelf, break down the box, and leave the aisle. Before he reached the stock room, the tuna had sold out. Cans and bags and boxes of food were leaving the store at the same rate they were entering.
The intriguing problem of scale was re-enforced by Nathaniel Doyno, formerly of Steel City Biofuels. He now works for Con-Edison on a 100 million dollar energy conservation project which serves 300,000 small businesses. Nathaniel is committed to doing work “at scale.”
The Town of Pittsboro, where I work, just passed the 4,000 resident mark. It’s a scale I can comprehend. I have a real sense of what it would take to fill up everyone’s fuel tank. And I have a real sense of what it would take to keep everyone fed.
But New York? Not so much.It was a fascinating and deeply edifying evening. The crowd was largely from the advertising and fashion worlds, and to see them engaging in conversations ranging from Eric Henry’s custom blue jeans made from organic Cotton of the Carolinas, to Jess’s distancing herself from the word “activist,” was truly invigorating. Rebekah Hren also mixed into the conversation with some of her own uncertainties about her journey from being “off grid” to her current endeavor, which involves both real estate and solar electricity production on a massive scale.
It’s the reason, I suppose, that I collected Small Stories in the first place.
Our next discussion will be at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw next Thursday night at 7:00. It will be interesting to see how the Alamance County crowd responds to this conversation.
In the afterglow of a successful evening, Jess, Dan, Tami and I were taken out to dinner by my brother Jim. He’s a prolific blogger, book reviewer, and serial entrepreneur who finds my work quizzical and fascinating. Renewing with him was another wonderful aspect of this New York conversation.