It may seem like it is a lot of fun giving book talks, but it not always an easy task. I have encountered some frustration and aggravation many times! If I had a marketing manager, I wouldn’t have to worry about arranging to deliver copies of my books to various venues. But since I don’t, I have to do that task, like many other tasks associated with book talks, myself. Here are several examples of what can go wrong. One entire box of books I mailed to Mississippi “went missing” (I find this term a rather bizarre one, as if the books had minds of their own). Did they get stolen? Probably not. Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton, is good, but not that good! I had a near miss in Houston when a box of books split open from the not so gentle handling by the USPS. Fortunately, the books did not get ‘separated’ from the addressee ‘s name and the USPS did manage to still deliver them otherwise undamaged. So, I suspect that perhaps the missing book of Mississippi books might have had a similar fate, except that the P. O. couldn’t figure out where to send them. After the Houston near miss, I started using more packing tape around the perimeter of the shipping boxes and using smaller boxes. Finally is the case of the phantom box of books that arrived in time for one of my San Francisco library talks, but never got delivered by the P. O. Fortunately I discovered this problem before I left for San Francisco and managed to bring a replacement box on the plane. The following week we discovered that the box was still sitting in the San Francisco branch post office! The P.O. claimed they tried to deliver them once but no one was there at the library to receive them. This explanation seemed rather suspicious, especially since they left no notice to the library of this attempt. I had since left town, but luckily I had a local relative go by to retrieve the box of books and store them for me for some future talks in the Bay area.
Getting myself to the talk venue can also be hair-raising. A friend, whose name will not be mentioned to avoid embarrassing him or her, drove me to one event. With about 10 mins. to spare, the friend realized that we were headed to the wrong restaurant and had to make a U turn and speed to get to the actual site just in the nick of time. Similarly, once when driving to San Diego for a talk, I allowed myself three hours for the drive based on past trips to give talks there which took roughly 2 hours. However, on this particular date, the freeway was clogged with weekend bumper to bumper traffic for mile after mile. We had to phone ahead to say we would be late, but fortunately, we managed to get there only 5 minutes late.
Getting to the correct venue on time doesn’t mean you are home free yet. In Hanford, for some unknown reason, I could not get the cable from my laptop to plug into the projector. After 10 mins. of frustration, I decided to just forego showing any slides and proceed. During the talk, which actually was going pretty smoothly, one of the staff members was kneeling in front of the podium trying to connect other cables to the computer while I spoke. We never got it connected. After that talk, I never took my laptop and relied on the venue providing the equipment. That usually worked, but on one occasion at Signal Hill, CA., it backfired. Not only was there no laptop, there was also no projector or screen! I mistakenly assumed they would be prepared for a slide presentation; I learned from this experience to be explicit in stating what equipment would be needed. Again, I dodged a bullet here because the student assistant was clever enough to use her own laptop and connect it to a large screen lcd television in lieu of a projector. One other example is from my second visit to Portland. Someone forgot to unlock the cabinet under the podium to provide access to the laptop. Security came but they did not have the right key. At the last minute, someone found a staff person who knew where the right key was and we dodged another bullet.
O.K., can you be relaxed once you have arrived at the correct place on time and the computer equipment is up and running? No, because once I found that the computer could not ‘read’ my zip drive, which was formatted for a Macintosh and could not be read by a PC. Fortunately, being paranoid, I had brought an extra zip drive in case I lost one. This other zip drive just happened, fortunately, to be PC formatted. After that experience, I learned to arrange to send my powerpoint or prezi file electronically a few days in advance to the venue and ask them to preload and test it before the day of the talk. This procedure also saves precious time as I have often seen speakers lose 5 to 10 mins. of speaking time while problems loading files are solved.
What’s that saying… If it can go wrong, it will?