In mid-June Jessica Webb launched her debut novel, Trigger, at Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto. I, described in the promo as “acclaimed mystery writer,” was billed as the “Special Guest.” It was the first time that either of those titles had appeared in the same sentence as my name, so I was understandably thrilled even though I joked about it.
With such recognition, however, comes the weight of responsibility. I wanted to help Jessica in any way I could. We had met once when we did a reading together the previous October at the Naked Heart Festival. I had been impressed by what I heard of her yet unpublished manuscript, and felt that she had a bright future in writing ahead.
I also thought back to the launch of my first book. Even though I thoroughly enjoy getting up in front of people, presenting my own writing was still a daunting experience. I would have been glad to have another writer there as part of the programming.
In the days leading up to Jessica’s launch I searched through my own books, looking for an appropriate passage to read. I even conferred with Jessica, trying to make sure that whatever I chose would compliment what she had planned. Once I’d made my decision, I did my customary preparation.
All was set to go. I was happy with what I would be doing, and I was looking forward to seeing Jessica and to buying a signed copy of her book.
Then it happened!
A frigid wind whipped through the streets. Rain. Snow. Hail. One miserable day.
I knew I was in trouble as soon as walked out the door. Sleet pummeled my face. If I didn’t take action, I would arrive at the launch unable to see through spattered spectacles.
Between rushing, and using the wrong hand to open the car door (other hand shielding specs), the course of my day took an about face. In that split-second when the edge of the door came in contact with my forehead I went from being a “Special Guest” to being a bleeding emergency room patient. Instead of coming home with a signed copy of Trigger, I came home with five stitches and a goose egg.
I don’t need to tell you which of the above parts I would have chosen to play. More important than my own situation was the fact that I let Jessica down at the last minute. In the long run, I’m sure that my absence will not make one iota of difference to her success, but I felt terrible about it.
I’ll never have a do-over of that day, but I will have the opportunity to hear Jessica read on June 30th at the Proud Voices, She Writes event, which is part of the Toronto Pride Celebrations.
I’ll definitely take the subway.
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