Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Calling Me Home book tour highlights

By Julie

The last few weeks have passed in a blur of activity. I've had more fun than the legal limit. I want to share just a few highlights with you--I wish I could sit and write an entire travelogue, because there have been so many moments I never want to forget. Alas, time is short and this post needs to go up! Please bear with me if this seems a bit self-indulgent.

At left was me at my BookPeople event in Austin, Texas with my hairstylist of nearly 15 years, Fannie. Her personality is VERY much the inspiration for Dorrie in Calling Me Home, though she'd never do many of the things Dorrie did and vice versa. Dorrie's life and situations are fiction, but she wouldn't exist without the presence of this beautiful, generous, hilarious, amazing person in my life. Fannie recently moved, leaving me to cope with finding a new hairstylist. She's the recipient of many whining texts as I search. But there are also texts and phone calls about our kids, our heartbreaks, and our joys. She was hairstylist first. Now, she's my dear friend.


These little charmers are smart girls who read--and I believe they might even be writers one day. I've known them since before the youngest was even born, though I hadn't seen them in a while. One shares a name with one of my characters, and I was thrilled to autograph a copy to her, and share that with her. The other already has the ability to read Calling Me Home, though her mother will screen each chapter as she goes to be sure the maturity level isn't higher than she can handle emotionally at this point in life.

Girls like this are the future of the United States, and it is so exciting to see their parents bring them to events like an author reading/signing, and watch the wheels turn in their heads as it occurs to them that careers can be made from the passions that burn inside them.

The feeling as I held their sweet heads close to my heart was beyond description.

My son, Ryan Pickop, released his first full-length CD the same week Calling Me Home launched, and he shared a release party with me at a cool little bakery venue in Waco, Texas. I was honored to read and share a bit about the book, and humbled to watch my son play his music and sing the amazing lyrics that come from his brilliant brain. He's more writer than I'll ever be, and I am so very proud of him.

His CD, Lie in the Leaves, is about life and death, grief and celebration.  You can listen to his songs and purchase it here


Finally, this last photo is quite possibly from the highlight of my book tour so far. I talked and signed books at the Tattered Cover in Denver, which meant so much to me as I spent my junior and senior high years in Denver and grew up in the stacks of the original Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek. Reading at the Colfax location, which was a former theater I visited for field trips as a student, was a blast. I was surrounded by friends I've made in Colorado from the age of 15 until less than two months ago at the Pulpwood Queen's Annual Girlfriend Weekend (read about Alyse Urice here). Authors Barbara Samuel/O'Neal and Carleen Brice, who both blurbed Calling Me Home, were in attendance, and I loved being able to hug every one of these folks in person.

But my most meaningful moments in Denver were spent at Manual High School. I graduated from there many years ago, and leaving those rooms behind was a bittersweet celebration. My years there were some of the hardest of my life. I was painfully shy. My family life was in turmoil. I didn't fit in at school. I was neither a minority kid who lived in the school's inner-city neighborhood, nor one of the kids bused from the wealthy neighborhoods further afield. I lived in a small house with my struggling single mom and my brother, in a transforming neighborhood with few children. The unlikely friends I made were often decades older and different in so many ways. I had a close-knit group of friends at church, but my close friends were not at school, as a rule. I went about my days with my head down, lifted occasionally by the teachers who saw some glimmer in my schoolwork that indicated I might one day be a writer and nudged me that direction whenever possible.

This first public high school in Denver has a long, troubled history. It has reinvented itself several times, and has been closed and reopened because of dismal passing rates. The New Yorker magazine devoted a long feature to Manual several years ago because of its challenges.

I stopped by Monday morning in the aftermath of a snow storm, unsure whether I'd be welcomed or viewed with suspicion. I took a few books with me, hoping to give them to the secretary or librarian to add to the school's collection. Instead, I ended up talking to the vice principal, who then took me to meet some of the English teachers, and before I knew it, I was talking to a classroom full of students, sharing a little of my history at their school, a little about my book, and reading a few scenes. I returned the next morning to talk with another class.

These are kids who might have given up on the system, but the system keeps trying not to give up on them. Their teacher told me every single student is affiliated with a gang. They deal with things most of us could never even imagine dealing with as an adult, much less a kid.

But they were curious. They were intelligent. They were mostly polite, or shushed by their classmates if they weren't. They wanted to know why I was there, why I'd written a book about an interracial relationship, why I'd decided I could make it as a writer, why I'd bothered to come talk to them. We talked about voice and point-of-view, pre-writing, revising, reading our work aloud. In the class on the second day, I read the short scene from Calling Me Home where Dorrie shares her fears with Isabelle about the trouble she thinks her son might be in. As I read, one young man, who tried to unnerve me at first with a series of loud questions, not allowing the other kids to speak over him, became very quiet. He listened intently, and when I finished, he said softly, "I'd read that." My heart overflowed.

I see him here in this photo, listening. I think one day he'll accomplish bigger things than he can even imagine while he's a junior in this school that refuses to quit on him. Just like me.




15 comments:

  1. How wonderful, Julie. The last bit most of all! But I did love seeing that photo of Fannie!! :)

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    1. Thank you, Amy! Lots of good mementos there!

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  2. Okay, the story about the young man made me get all choked up. You know I once had aspirations to be an English or history teacher, one like those teachers in the movies who are so amazing and touch the lives of all the troubled kids in their classes. I never reached that goal, but I still am so very moved when a young person responds to learning, to using their mind, to curiosity, to what could be. So proud of you and so glad you got to visit your school and make an impact there. What a wonderful part of your dream come true!

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    1. It was really an amazing experience, Gail. Thanks!

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  3. Really enjoyed reading this. This is such a special time for you and I know you are enjoying every minute of it.

    Ann Ellison

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  4. Sounds like you're having a blast and your trip down memory lane was a triumphant one. Hugs!

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  5. Oh my... What can I say... What an adventure you are on, and it's just the beginning! Loved the part about Manual High School, especially since my Mom graduated there in the 1940's. So so proud of you! Terry

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    1. For sure, Terry! Thank you so much!

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  6. Loved hearing about your tour, Julie. Fannie looks exactly as I had imagined! So proud of you for stopping by your old school--especially since your memories of being there weren't all positive. This time, I have a feeling, your departure held an entirely different meaning for you.

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    1. No doubt about that, Pamela. So glad I went.

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  8. Wonderful highlights, Julie. You are touching many hearts. And congrats to your son on his new CD!

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    1. I missed this comment! Thank you, Cindy!

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