Sunday, October 22, 2006

Mr Morello Writes

In keeping with our current schedule of writing up events from over a week ago, our first evening (and adult!) event was Mr Morello Writes the Thursday before last (October 12th). with Morello Letters author Duncan McNair. It was a small, but perfectly formed event - even if 1/8 of the audience consisted of our relatives... I've already written about The Morello Letters itself - and a great little book it is too (signed copies still available). But I'd thought you'd appreciate some details of the behind-the-scenes activities beforehand. We'd advertised the event as started at 7pm, and had bought some funky folding chairs the previous week specially. It's fair to say that ticket sales had been a little slow - new bookshop, new author, etc. However, with a combination of Duncan's skilful marketing, our in-house mailing list and some frankly disgraceful bribery and blackmailing of family and friends we were confident of getting above the figure Nicki and I had set ourselves (10) to avoid the event being a bit of a damp squib. At 5pm the shop was still set-up for a normal retail day, so when the trusty James turned up at about 5.30pm, we had to swing into action. By 6.30pm the front of the shop looked like an event was about to take place (see photo above). Duncan McNair's agent had kindly sent us a whole load of fliers which had arrived that morning, so I went a bit mad in the shop window: Did it look tacky? Possibly. Did it bring anyone extra to the event. Probably not. But there was no mistaking the fact that an event was taking place that evening in our shop. You'll notice the new chalkboard - which had arrived the day before. I had expectations of creating a nice, smart, artistic advertisement for the event, but it's been a few years (20?) since I last tried to write on a blackboard, and a have a new respect for some of my old teachers. It's a darn site trickier than it looks. In the end I hastily scrawled details of the event, and shoved it out of the front of the shop. No time to consider whether it looked slightly less classy than "apples £2 a lb". I did at least resist the temptation to write 'free wine' at the bottom. (BTW, the chalkboard has worked wonders for the significant number of people who walk down Stert Street most weeks and who have never noticed our shop. In the last week we have suddenly had people visiting the shop who never knew we were there. I put it entirely down to the chalkboard, although word-of-mouth must also be partially responsible...) Duncan turned up at 6.30pm, and despite a farcical 15 minute attempt by me to erect a 9 foot display poster of a goat (which ended in failure) by 7.15pm approximately 15 people were seated with glass of wine in anticipation of my big introduction. (I think that's me looking for a bit of inspiration, as I had my usual stomach-churning bout of nerves, fuelled by forgetting to eat anything but a banana all day). Duncan was brilliant - a very good public speaker, with loads of great behind-the-scenes anecdotes of the birth of Mr Morello, his family and menagerie of animals. He read out some of the letters and responses, and finished the evening signing copies, and chatting to everyone. Nicki and I felt the event was a great success. A big thank you to everyone who came to the event - everyone seemed to have a great time. Thanks particularly to Duncan's marketing posse who travelled down from Banbury, our neighbours in the flat upstairs who - it turned out - were big fans of Henry Root (which The Morello Letters have been critically compared to), and last but not least to my Mum who drive down from Cambridgeshire (and back) with her friend Jill. Kudos and respect. Thanks of course to Duncan - who was in Pinar the next day, and had an estimated 40 gigs lined up between then and Christmas (as well as keeping down his day job of a solicitor). Who'd be an author, eh? We had the first proper meeting of our Thursday bookgroup last Thursday, and next Thursday we have an arts and crafts themed scrapbooking event (Oct 26th) to coincide with annual Abingdon Craft Fair. But Nicki and I are tremendously excited about the event that will be taking place on November 2nd...more about that in our next blog post...

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