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Suzanne Burns

Diary of a First Book, Entry 2: It Ain’t About Unicorns, Bitch

July 26th, 2009
by Suzanne Burns


This book-pimping thing has brought both extreme highs and lows during the first month, as Misfits and Other Heroes has made its way into the world. I have cried and eaten one too many donuts, been routed to an Internet porn site when I Googled myself and been told by a local bookstore owner, “We don’t carry books about unicorns,” when I tried to explain how my short stories hover around the genre of magic realism.

I broke up with my writing group. In those newly immortal words of wisdom, “I just wasn’t that into it.”

I don’t like being critiqued. I don’t take any form of criticism well. I am Irish, Goddamnit.

An article in a local paper, which chronicled my epilepsy more than my book, prompted a local rep to send me a letter on official, fancy stationary that congratulated me for being borderline retarded and still having a life. Extended family members read the book and think I’m a freak. I read one of my stories, “Optical Illusion” to a crowd of quilt making Jesus freaks last week. Not only did they audibly cringe when I read the line about the main character, obsessed with her boyfriend’s glass eye, shoving said eye into her body to get closer to him, after the reading, two people came up to me and said their fathers have glass eyes. Um, wow…

My favorite warm and fuzzy experience so far is trying to book a reading in a store where my ex-boyfriend’s sister-in-law holds court. She sent me a letter asking to justify why I dumped him before she’d agree to sponsoring a reading. (The break-up happened six years ago and he is now happily married.)

Do they make Calgon for showers? My husband, the plumber, can’t even answer this question.

Highlights include a lovely little article in The Oregonian that doesn’t mention anything but the book, a woman who told me she took my book to read on a trip to see her family after her grandpa died and found comfort in it, and a really smart and good writer telling me how much he liked my work in the most elaborate text message I’ve ever received.

The experience has taught me that writing is where it’s at. Hats off to people who can profoundly market themselves without feeling degraded and humiliated. It’s not for me. I love writing. Period. (Or is that exclamation point?) The business end of it feels a little bit like whoring. If this is the case, I need to buy tighter clothes and a push-up bra.

My next reading is in a resort town close to here. The town where the woman who runs the bookstore thinks magic realism means unicorns. I am reading at the library. On the night another writer is coming to the bookstore. My flyers have been taken down all over town. The library put the flyer up by the men’s bathroom. The local paper hasn’t mentioned it while another source got the time and date wrong. I want to eat four donuts for breakfast.

I’m reading in Portland next week. My peeps, my peeps might be there. The ones who “get it.” I’m reading at not only the biggest independent bookstore in the world, but in a doughnut shop. So whether or not I tank, a perfectly scrumptious Voodoo Doughnut will be my reward. And sometimes that kind of reward is all an up-and-coming intellectual can hope for.

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Comment by jonathan evison
2009-07-26 09:34:53

. . . hang in there, suzanne . . . i fear publicity might be an acquired taste directly related to the food you put on your table . . .

Comment by Suzanne
2009-07-26 12:01:42

Thanks, Jonathan! I think I need to focus on bigger towns. I’ll update after Sunriver.

Comment by Stefan Kiesbye
2009-07-26 09:54:27

whoa, i thought for sure that magic realism had a better rep than that…maybe one should not read in resort towns?

yeah, marketing is whoring…but then again, it’s its own strange adventure (and a good excuse to take extensive road trips) and hey, there are donuts to be had.

All best to you in Portland. Greetings to Kevin Sampsell!

Comment by Brad Listi
2009-07-26 11:40:18

Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes about unicorns better than any Nobel laureate who ever lived.

Hang in there, Suzanne. This post only proves that you got a soul (not that it needed proving).

The term “necessary evil” comes to mind when thinking about book PR & marketing.

The beauty of this post? Two birds with one stone. It helps get the word out about your book while also allowing you to vent about the hellish nature of getting the word out about your book.

Comment by Suzanne
2009-07-26 12:01:04

I like that!

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-07-26 15:37:05

Wait, so by inference, not having a soul will result in marketing success?

Advantage Smithson!

Stick it out, man. Take advantage of the populous culture that is the United States. And good luck to you.

Comment by Suzanne
2009-07-26 12:02:31

Can’t argue the part about donuts. (And why is it sometimes donuts and other times doughnuts?)

Comment by Marni Grossman
2009-07-26 18:54:45

Oh man. Two people in the audience with glass eyes? What are the chances?

I bet no one ever approached Nabokov to tell him that their fathers were pedophiles…

Comment by Aaron Dietz
2009-07-26 19:53:35

Yeah, the whole marketing thing is crazy. I’m trying to create a plan that’s fun for me (I have time - it won’t come out until fall of 2010). If you can’t do something and make it fun, then you’re either doing it the wrong way, or doing the wrong thing altogether. Still, at times there can be value in it - I’m checking out your book. If the library doesn’t have it, here, I hope they’ll order it immediately.

Comment by Rich Ferguson
2009-07-26 20:30:13

Hang in there, Suzanne. At least you seem to have your wits and sense of humor about you. And you know what? Those two things’ll get you a lot farther than any donut, or unicorn lover ever will.

Onward and upward.

Comment by Ducky
2009-07-27 06:13:12

You could always hire an intern to go for you pretending to be you. I’ve done that before.

Comment by Autumn
2009-07-28 12:38:31

People so often miss out on great literature because it borders (or crosses happily into) somewhere they’re not familiar with, literally speaking.

I just read a collection of Kelly Link stories, and I’m THRILLED my friend recommended it to me. Now I can get her to read Kenneth J., Harvey, and then she’ll recommend another awesome, funk-o-licious author I didn’t know about, and on and on and on it goes.

In short: I think your book sounds awesome!

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