The first thing to hit me was the smell of the auditorium lobby.
I wish I could describe this smell, but I can't. It's dank, the result of concrete walls and stone floors. It stores all the dampness of rainy days and warm nights, I suppose. My good friend Crystal and I were walking to the bookstore to get some change to have on hand in case anyone needed it when we sold books. We cut through the Campus Center by way of the auditorium lobby, and as I walked through, my backpack in tow, I can't even tell you the flashback I experienced. Both as student and teacher.
The Temper launch party consisted of hugs and smiling faces, as well as my following on the heels of the next generation of writers, each of whom read their published poems or prose. I couldn't believe how young the grad students were, especially. But when I was introduced, and I stood before the small gathering, I experienced not a flashback, but something more powerful and moving. I was more than an alumna. I was someone who was so deeply connected to this campus, now claustrophobic with ugly new dormitories and eyesore buildings, someone who had an opportunity to give something back to this campus -- not another eyesore building or a monetary donation, but just words. My words.
I don't think I ever realized how deeply connected my novel was to this place. Not in terms of storyline and character or anything like that, but in terms of craft. Much of my writing took place in Mirasol's Cafe, for instance, or while walking around Ring Road as I thought about Andi and Devin and their arrangement. It took place in my Fairhaven apartment, and I talked it out w/ my friends and colleagues. Andi's knowledge of rhetoric was the result of my enthusiasm as I finished my graduate studies.
Perhaps I should have listed UMass-Dartmouth in my acknowledgements of Faking It. But being a special guest, being the old generation passing on the torch, was a gratitude that couldn't be put into words.
Oh, and I sold and signed quite a few books, too.
This has been a true homecoming. And I can't wait to see how it weaves its way into my next book. Because I'm sure it will.
Coming in the next post: guest blogger Stacey Cochran will discuss his new novel Claws as well as seek your feedback on book marketing as the future of publishing continues to evolve.