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Thisbe Nissen: Tour Diary

Preliminaries - Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 -
Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9 - Day 10 - Day 11 -Day 12 - Day 13 - Day 14 - Day 15 -
Day 16 - Day 17 - Day 18 - Day 19 - Day 20 - Day 21 - Day 22 -
Day 23 - Day 24 - Day 25 - Day 26 - Day 27 - Day 28 - Day 29 - Home Diary - July 25 - July 26

Day 1: Friday June 1, Chicago IL

Left Iowa City this morning in a rental car so big I think I should have had a skipper's license to drive it. Singing along with Dave Zollo and Teddy Morgan and Bo Ramsey all the way into Chicago. It makes me sad every time I leave Iowa City, and I wonder if that means it's truly home or if it's just leaving my nest that gets me, no matter where that nest may be. I think it's Iowa City though. That town has been good to me. It's always hard to leave the cats and the boyfriend and the garden, but it's good to be moving right now, good to be taking this book thing on the road instead of sitting at home stressing about it. I want to stop checking the numbers on Amazon which I can't make any sense of anyway, and feel like I'm actually doing something to help sell the darn thing.

BEA is a booksellers / booklovers carnival! Such a nice luncheon sponsored by Booksense and The New Yorker, lots of people making little speeches about how great Booksense is and I wanted to get up and make mine too: I'm only here today because Jules Davis at Pendragon Books in Berkeley got the U of I edition of Out of the Girls' Room... onto the Booksense 76 list, which made it's way to a Vintage/Anchor editorial meeting and made then decide to look into picking up the rights and reissuing it last fall. Thank you Booksense! Finally got to meet Elinor Lipman, who even as a stranger seemed like a friendly face in the crowd. Saw Dean and Jeremiah from Canterbury Booksellers in Madison, met someone from booksense.com, even talked to a woman who'll be introducing my Seattle reading who, it turns out, I played in the playground with on the upper west side of Manhattan when we were wee ones. It's a small world, this world. (Note: place I want to read in the future: such a nice woman from Left Bank Books in St. Louis, and I could do that as an easy drive from IC.)

Overwhelmed at BEA by sheer numbers of people, fled back to hotel for sustinence since I seem to have forgotton to eat at the luncheon and was ravenous, and when I get too ravenous things get ugly. Usually no matter what's going on if I say I'm hungry Chris says, go eat, no further ado, just eat before you lose it completely. So I ate and now I'm a much happier camper.

Oh you poor people at Knopf who thought it would be fun for me to do a tour diary and now you're going to get to hear about every meal I eat and every bookseller I chat with! Whose crazy idea was this anyway, you are no doubt asking yourselves. I plan to have many, or else make up many, exciting adventures as the tour progresses, I swear. We're just starting out here, give me some time to warm up. Oh -- I know: I shared a cab with Andre Dubus III and chatted with Richard Russo, both of whom, at the mere mention of Iowa City, said "Do you know John McNally?" And I got to say, yes of course I know John McNally (whose book of stories "Troublemakers" won last year's John Simmons Short Fiction Award from U of I Press and who is at BEA now, and into whom I ran a few hours later at the U of Wisconsin Press booth where he is promoting the forthcoming anthology "The Student Body: short stories about college students and professors' in which I have a story and Richard Russo has a story and Stephen King and lots of other neat people).

One last thought here before I go check out the swimming pool upstairs here at the Hilton. This is something I have always been really bad about and need to find a way to get better. Because everyone I meet pronounces my last name differently than I pronounce it. Far as anyone in my family ever knew it's Nissen, rhymes with missin', as in I been missin' you. Or kissin', as in I wish I was kissin' you, baby. But everyone else in the world seems to think it should be Nissen and in Nee-sin, or Niece -in, rhyming with Jackie Gleason, or Liam Nieson (sp?) and I always want to say something and then I can't figure out how and so I let it go and then kick myself about it later. So if anyone has a good suggestion as to how to combat this problem please let me know. I think the root of the dilemna is that the car company is Nissan, begining with that Nee sound, as in Knee-sahn. And it makes sense as to why I've always wanted to call the cars Niss-an, as in why don't you go kiss Ann...

So Friday late afternoon I go for a swim in the pool at the hotel. Suit up with my geeky little swim cap to keep my hair out of my face, my new blue goggles from K mart, and try to do some laps amidst about seventeen squawking children in water wings, and all I could think was: I've become one of those annoying adults who takes up space in the pool swimming her boring old laps, disrupting all the fun games of Marco Polo. Geeky old lady in a bathing cap. My fate.

Friday night: the Knopf authors dinner. Such swankiness! Swarms of booksellers and authors and book reviewers, an incredible meal the courses of which just kept on coming. I was seated at a table across from the charming Arthur Bradford whose collection, Dogwalker, comes out later this summer, and in between the owner of The Regulator, an independent bookstore in NC, and Nancy Pate, the book critic for the Orlando Sentinel, with whom I bonded over a love of Laurie Colwin. Spent most of the night discussing my favorite topic, trends in baby naming, with two wonderful booksellers from Brookline Booksmith (where I'll be next week) and Northshire Books in VT (where I'd love to give a reading in the fall, hint hint to Michelle, publicist extraordinaire...), and a great woman from the Detroit Free Press who was among a handful of pregnant women there that night cursing not being able to take advantage of the open bar and free-flowing wine. Such good people in this place! People keep coming over to introduce themselves and say nice things and I keep wanting to weep with with gratitude. This is so much better than sitting at home anxiously chewing on the insides of my cheeks which are by now raw masses of scar tissue. Everyone keeps telling me to stop worrying so much and I keep vowing to try.