Get Your Pitchfork On! came into the world a year ago. And what a year it’s been! I spent most of 2012 traveling around to promote the book, which gave me an excuse to visit family and friends.
It was important to me, while writing the book, to make it not about me. I wrote it for you, the reader, and your dreams of living in the country. In spite of that, I sometimes found it difficult to completely divorce myself from the emotional ties I still have to that little parcel in Washington. I learned the hard way that if I read the line from the book’s introduction, “Our beloved dog had been killed on the highway bordering our property,” I’d choke up if there was someone in the audience who knew her.
Reading the introduction to the Land section, in which I describe the most wonderful features of living in a remote, natural area, had a similar effect. I often dug a fingernail into my thumb to keep it together.
Despite this, and despite peppering my presentations with cautionary tales of cats being eaten by coyotes and homesteaders putting their arms in wood-chippers, I tried to keep it fun! One of my efforts in this regard has been the menagerie of farm animals I’ve set up on the podium in front of me. These plastic toys have been a big hit, to the point that I’ve had to keep an eye on children passing by my table at book fairs—they hope they’re giveaways.
These animals came to me in the best possible way, just a couple of months before GYPO hit the bookshelves. I was at a Portland bar known for its fantastic Happy Hour—cheap and delicious food, and an always-changing champagne cocktail special. My friend Anmarie and I met there and ordered the special, which was some crazy thing involving elderberry liquor from Switzerland or something. To our delight, the bartender had topped each flute with a farm animal; mine sported a goat and Anmarie’s a horse. Naturally, we had to order another round, and scored a cow and a chicken. Anmarie graciously surrendered hers when I decided that I would bring them to every book event.
My first reading was, appropriately, in the Columbia River Gorge, where Get Your Pitchfork On! was born. I traveled all around Oregon and Washington, and even made it down to Los Angeles and over to Wisconsin and my home state, Minnesota. These were wonderful opportunities to see many dear friends of past and present all at once. And I also got to have great conversations with people I’ve never met, and will probably never see again.
As you can see from my schedule, I did not stick solely to bookstores! That first reading was in my friends’ restaurant, Solstice Wood Fired Café (with support from Waucoma Bookstore). I set up a table at a plant nursery in Salem, Oregon, a winery tasting room in Jacksonville, Oregon, and a feed store in Portland. I had a lunch talk in a little diner in Waupaca, Wisconsin. I read in bars in Portland and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I got to share my stories with a couple dozen relatives—and my high school prom date’s parents!—in my dad’s hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, on his mother’s birthday.
In January of this year I was part of a panel discussion put on by Laura Stanfill, who had interviewed me after GYPO came out, and then included that interview in a book about writing called Brave on the Page. At a long table at Powell’s, as per usual, I set out my farm animals.
The panel’s moderator, author Joannna Rose, handled the group expertly—she asked great questions and threw in the right amount of humor. At one point she interrupted herself to ask me, “Why do you have those animals in front of you?”
Later, Laura sent me some photos she had taken, including this one, which she titled, “Behold, the Cow”:
What a fun year! Thanks to publisher Adam Parfrey and Process Media’s staff, particularly Carrie Schaff and Jessica Parfrey; publicists Mary Bisbee-Beek and Sheepscot Creative’s Dave and Bethany; blurbers Mark Wunderlich, Kim Barnes, Corinna Borden, Monica Drake, and Frank Bures; designer Gregg Einhorn; and the chapter-readers and everyone else noted in the book’s acknowledgements. And everyone who’s come to an event and/or bought a book.
Happy First Birthday, Get Your Pitchfork On! May you have many more—there are lots of people I still need to visit!