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The Oklahoma Tour, Part II

October 27th, 2006

After the television interview , Don and I spent the night in Oklahoma City with Dixie, a lovely and welcoming woman whose last name I shall not mention since I haven’t asked her permission to do so. Suffice it to say that her spectacular home is in the high rent district of north OKC, and it was like staying at a five-star bed and breakfast. She fed us a gourmet supper that night and a belt-stretching breakfast the next morning, after which she chauffeured me to a meeting of the Acorn Book Club, which is the oldest book club in Oklahoma. The club was meeting that day at a beautiful restored Victorian home in the Heritage Hills district of the city. Thirty or so elegant and well-dressed women of all ages hosted me at a fancy luncheon on china, silver, and linen, after which I spoke for three-quarters of an hour about the books and how I came to write them. Both Dixie and the book club loaded me down with thank-you gifts. The crowd was entirely appreciative and I left satisfied, sated, and richer than when I came.

We left Oklahoma City that afternoon for Tulsa, my home town. After we checked into the hotel, we went to dinner with my brother and sister-in-law, then collapsed in a heap for the rest of the evening. The next day I had no commitments, so I was able to catch up with my best girlhood friend and otherwise relax before launching into the last events of the tour.

I always have a little trouble getting a venue in Tulsa. I don’t know why. This strikes me as ironic, since this is where I grew up and lived until I was well into my 30’s, and much of my extended family is still there. This year, I set up a signing at a Barnes and Noble bookstore on 41st St. and Yale. When I arranged to come to the bookstore several months ago, I did ask the very pleasant CRM if I could do a talk, and he was perfectly amenable. But when I got there, they had set up a small table by the front door with no chairs or space for an audience. Undeterred, I chatted up a storm with everyone who came by. And a number of people did come by just to see me, since I had notified everyone I ever knew and a lot of people I didn’t. I saw several cousins and many friends from days of yore, as well as Ami Elizabeth Reeves, author of Next of Kin, and Julia Thomas, wife of Will Thomas, whose book Some Danger Involved won the Oklahoma Book Award in 2004. Afterward, I was told that the store had sold a lot of my books. Maybe they’ll remember me next year.

We ended the tour by going to Boynton, where everything began, back in the misty past, when my great-grandparents moved to Oklahoma at the turn of the 20th Century. It was raining cats and dogs when we left Tulsa that morning, so I didn’t have much expectation of a successful event. But my expectation was wrong. The talk was held at the Boynton Historical Society building, in a 20X20 room that was bursting at the seams with people – and believe it or not, I wasn’t related to most of them! A gorgeous feature article about me and the books had appeared the day before in the Muskogee Phoenix newspaper, on top of a feature in the Haskell News, and folks had hauled out their canoes and rowed to Boynton in the rain from all around the vicinity. We even had a woman there from Oklahoma City! It was a gratifying experience, to say the least, since crowd made me feel like some sort of celebrity. I sold every single book I brought with me, and could have sold a lot more if I’d had them.

This is all pretty good for a town of about 400. I have a couple of people to thank for the success of that endeavor. Daniel Lapham, the reporter at the Muskogee Phoenix, and Julie Arrowood of the Haskell News, certainly drummed up business for me with their articles. June Smith and Ardith McKeaigg, who run the Boynton Historical Society, invited me in the first place and provided me with a great place to speak. And of course, Jean Morgan, wife of my father’s cousin Charles Lee Morgan, really is responsible for getting the word out all over Muskogee county. If it weren’t for her, the enterprise wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.

Not to mention the fact that Jean and Charles Lee live in the house that my great-grandparents owned, the very house I write about in the books, where the real Alafair lived. After the signing, Don and I went out to the farm for the first time since my grandmother died 25 years ago.

Since this grows lengthy, I’ll save the trip to the old homestead for the next post, and end by reminding you, Dear Reader, that the Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma program voting ends on Oct. 31, so if you haven’t gone to www.okreadsok.org and voted yet, time is running out. And last, check out the “Events” page if you live in Arizona. I’ve added a number of appearances in November and December.

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