I’ve had quite a few discussions with Sue Pike, who is is another Ottawa mystery writer, about “community” lately. This is because Sue wanted to do a blog about my book launch (her post is up today at Mystery Mavens) and in particular about the way that people have become engaged in it and offered to help out. Here’s what Sue has to say:
“This will not be your average book launch. Peggy is known in Ottawa for the terrific parties she loves to throw, so the usual cold canapés and quiet author-reading just isn’t in the cards for this shindig. She began planning a month or so ago and she’s been sharing her plans on her blog ….
“Here’s where the plot thickens. When Peggy was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger in 2010, she was invited to attend the awards ceremonies in Harrogate, England. She was between jobs at the time and the trip was going to cost more than she could comfortably afford. It was at this point that a community building movement began. She threw a Cuban dinner party for thirty people, asked each guest to contribute $35 and that along with other donations was enough to pay for the overseas flight. It was at this festival that she met Ian Rankin who in turn introduced her to his agent. The rest, as they say, is history.
“But back to the launch. When it came time to nail down the details, Peggy’s friends came forward again. Because we had stepped up to the Harrogate challenge, we were now stakeholders. We had an investment in the The Beggar’s Opera and we needed this launch to be a success. It wasn’t just Peggy’s party any more it was ours too. Many offered to cook Cuban dishes for the event. Others threw in money to help with other expenses. (There will be live Cuban music as well.)
“Although people are bringing rum cake and opera cake, Peggy had her heart set on a cake in the shape of a 1957 Chevy that she saw on http://www.cakestudio.ca (seen here) and she found out that Kate Green Cakes from Kemptville will duplicate the cake (in red and white) and transport it to the launch for a reasonable fee and a signed copy of the book.
“It’s amazing what people will do when they catch the spirit of an event. The mayor is coming as is Peggy’s city councillor and the MPP for the area. ‘Will there be speeches?’ I asked, when I talked to Peggy yesterday. ‘No!’ said Peggy firmly. ‘And no author reading either. I just want to take a moment when the musicians are on break to thank everyone for all their help.’
“That’s a first in my experience. Around 120 people have confirmed their attendance which is just about the capacity of the Orange Gallery. I’ve never heard of people being turned away from the launch of an author’s debut book but this may be another first. ”
Thanks for that nice feedback, Sue. The amount of support has been pretty astonishing, but I think you build a community by getting people engaged, and you get people engaged by asking them to do the things they love to do anyway, like cooking or helping select wine.
The vendors have been terrific: Walkers’ Chocolates threw in artwork on customized chocolate cigars for free; so did Sarah J Cupcakes (which will do mini-cupcakes with the Penguin logo). Havana Cafe is delivering appetizers for free, paid for by a donation from Norm Bowley Legal, etc. etc. The kindness goes deep.
For example, I asked one friend if he could bring a few bottles of non-alcoholic drinks. Last night he told me he was making an arrangement with Loblaws to get 75 (75!) Cuban non-alcoholic coolers in Cuban flavours. And so now negotiations are now being conducted by others on my behalf– how cool is that?
Penguin, I should mention, is pretty excited too — I’ve just learned that my commissioning editor is coming from Toronto and that my Canadian agent is making a special trip from New York City just for the day to join us. I just wish you could be with us, too, Sue, because you’ve been part of that great community that’s developed around this remarkable journey. (But thank you very much for offering to make cookies.)