David Alexander Robertson

The Evolution of Alice & Thin Air 2014

I don’t get nervous speaking in public. It’s always been an odd thing about me. I like it. What makes me nervous about speaking events, like my book launch for “The Evolution of Alice“, is attendance. I’ve been lucky that my events have all been well-attended, but, for me, this time was different. It was a novel, and this isn’t something I’m known for.

I got to McNally Robinson Booksellers early. I walked around for a few minutes and then settled in on a chair where my book launch was happening, in the atrium. They were still setting up chairs. A lot of chairs. Enough chairs for about seventy people. I almost stopped them and said, “guys, please, this is going to end badly.” I’d counted on my hand the day before and was sure I’d get at least twenty people (all family and my publisher’s staff) but I wasn’t so sure about seventy. But I kept my mouth shut. At the very least, it would make a good icebreaker. You always have to have a good icebreaker.

Why was I nervous? Well, up until that point I’d really only had graphic novels published (12 of them!), aside from some poetry, and it was a big change of pace for me. I was wondering if people would buy me as a novelist, no matter how good “Alice” was. So I waited, and the time for the launch got closer, and people started to trickle in, at first the usual suspects, and then, thankfully, people I didn’t expect, some strangers, and by the time it was time to go most of the chairs had been filled. Phew!

It was great to see the faces in the audience that I saw. A couple of people who reviewed the book, Alison Gillmor and an old mentor of mine, Neil Besner (he’s not actually old, it was just a while ago that he gave me the best advice I’d ever gotten as a writer), folks from my publisher’s office, both sets of parents, teachers that had had me out to speak at their class, educators that hadn’t had me out, readers, magazine editors (thanks again, Marjorie, for coming to everything ever), and so on. My friend and colleague, Niigaan Sinclair, hosted the event, and my editor for “Alice”, Warren Cariou, participated as well. And I spoke and read and thanked a million people and forgot a few more that I sprinkled in throughout my readings (which could’ve been awkward but, I think, added some nice levity). After it all, I visited with everybody and signed books and left McNally’s feeling really good about the launch and the book. It was a dream come true.

Since then I’ve been obsessively checking goodreads.com to see what people I’ve never met think about the book, enjoying the glowing reviews, trying to learn what I can from the average reviews, and growing a thick skin for the rare negative review. But it’s such an amazing thing, either way, to know people you don’t know have read your book and it’s touched them and they’ve thought enough about it to write something with their review, or just review it at all. It’s everything I could’ve wanted. And all I can wonder is where the journey will take me next.

Thin Air just wrapped. I was busy. I did six events for the Winnipeg International Writers Festival, and I have a catch up event this week at SJR as well. I loved going to the schools to visit with all the kids, all the way from grade seven to grade twelve, visiting the community group in Carman, Manitoba, and working with the young writers from Rainy River, Ontario. I got to read on the main stage on Wednesday night as well with some really great writers. It was amazing to hear them read, see their skills at it, and try to learn from them, too, and also just enjoy their work. I thought I did pretty well at my reading, and it was fun interacting with some of the audience afterwards as well. Marjorie was there too! Shocker! Love her.

Another nice thing that happened last week, the week of the 22nd of September, was that, out of nowhere, I had this incredible mention on CBC radio on The Next Chapter for Sugar Falls!! The show, hosted by Shelag Rogers, saw Victor Dwyer from The Globe and Mail, say that if you liked 12 Years A Slave by Solomon Northup, you’ll love Sugar Falls by David Alexander Robertson. Wow. Enough said, just listen to the clip on the link I’ve provided. It was immensely flattering.

Here’s to what’s next!


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