Book bits … a launch retrospective.
Four weeks ago I was left feeling as if my head had exploded … shivering, numb and in shock. No, nothing bad had happened, in fact something amazing had happened, something I never dared imagine.
My book had been published and the book launch had just finished.
At about 6.30pm on Thursday 14th May, I was sitting in a marquee with only half the sides on it, rain was pouring down, my mother had been given a lift home and taken my car keys back with her, so small person and I were left waiting for them to be returned after everyone else had gone. The bunting still looked jaunty, but the cake, the amazing cake was all gone, the fizz finished, tea urn emptied, buns eaten and many many books were signed and sold. Milky Moments was published, launched and on bookshelves in children’s bedrooms.
We had the launch at Burwash Manor farm in Barton just outside Cambridge, bit of a hairbrained scheme, but it made sense, it is where I met Jessica D’Alton Goode, the amazing wonderful person who became my friend and who illustrated my book and helped to transform the garbled contents of my mind into glorious reality. She was working behind the cheese counter, I was talking about book covers for another cunning plan and over time things evolved. We decorated the marquee together for our launch!
We didn’t have a red carpet, and the fizz was cheap prosecco, tea wasn’t in bone china but polystyrene cups. It had the definite air of a village fete, a wet one. The game we’d organised of Hide and Seek with Eric the Bear (clues hidden around the lovely play area and gardens) wasn’t the English idyll of children happily running around gleefully following the trail but one of a few very soggy ones braving the rain and coming in rather grimly clutching disintegrating soaked papers… but … it was my book launch, our book launch and it was fun.
We decorated the marquee to look similar to the first illustration in Milky Moments, about 80 people came along, family, friends, playgroup mothers, children, midwives, dads, lactation consultants, the press, our wonderful publisher Martin, and random strangers who had picked up flyers in coffee shops or read about it online. Everyone enthusiastic, every one excited, and everyone supportive of the message that breastfeeding is normal (even though several of the women there had been unable to nurse their own children).
I was ok until a friend stood infront of me and asked me to sign the book she had just bought. My book. Milky Moments. The beautiful hard back book. I started to cry, overwhelmed quiet tears but they threatened to engulf me and become great wracking sobs. Another friend came over and told me to pull myself together. I did, kind of, and I signed books so many books, over 50 of them, for friends, strangers and for the woman who had been pivotal right at the start of our journey, and the midwife who had given the talk on breastfeeding I’d attended in the days before small person was born. I found it hard, really hard, and very humbling. I was asked to speak, I burbled, I didn’t say everything I should have done, I wasn’t articulate or sensible, but it was from a totally full heart. We had a raffle to raise funds for the Cambridge Breastfeeding Alliance, Jess had painted a picture, I’d written a poem to go with it… a small friend of Hope’s one it, one of the children whose names appear in the book. We raised £120 to go towards helping their wonderful service for mothers… that meant alot.
When everyone left, slowly but surely, I started to shiver, it took until the next morning and a very long hot shower for that to stop. I think I was in shock!
The press weren’t really interested, the local paper ran a piece I’d written, the nationals felt it was too niche and too good news a story, but the book sold, and kept on selling. Mothers from a wonderful breastfeeding forum for older children that I joined months ago (and have been hugely supported by both on my breastfeeding and book journeys) bought the book. Strangers emailed me to say they’d bought the book, and one after the other the 5 star reviews kept on appearing, to date Milky Moments hasn’t had anything else, and my piece in the paper had a letter in response, a positive letter, from a man.
The London launch was more sedate, inside at the Pinter and Martin office, again surrounded by friends and breastfeeding supporters. Not so many places to hide the clues for the Eric the Bear treasure hunt for few children there to find, but the raffle there raised over £100 for La Leche League of GB and the fizz was much better even if the cake wasn’t as lovely. Then the publisher asked me to read the book. The same crippling nerves hit me, a feeling of fear at the idea of seeming pretnetious … of being not me … I’m me, a mother, a fairly dishevelled mother, not an author who reads books, yet that is what I’ve become. We sat down, Jess and I, on the sofa, the room full of people looking at us. Jess held the book up. Martin, the publisher introduces us as the shyest and most self effacing author and illustrator he’d signed, and I started reading, wishing the ground would swallow me up … but I just thought about reading to Hope, to my girl, and remembered reading out loud to Martin the first time I met him, and suddenly it was ok, I wanted the moment to last and I relished the fact that people were listening to my words, looking at my book and Jess’s lovely illustrations.
Two people cried … and not because it was embarrassing, but because my words moved them… how bonkers is that, and how very wonderful.
After that I enjoyed the rest of the evening and an overnight stay there, good to get to know the publisher better, and fun watching his older children playing with my girl, and then driving back the next day with the left over bunting and a few pink iced buns.
The book was well and truly launched.
Reviews kept coming in, on Amazon UK, on Amazon USA, and on the publisher’s own website PinterandMartin.com every one a 5 star review, every one generous, warm and moving. Nobody quibbled with the price or grumbled about anything, everyone has been unfailingly supportive and generous in their praise for Milky Moments … stories of fathers being moved to tears, of elder siblings hunting for Eric, enjoying seeing their daily normality replicated in a book, small people requesting the book at bed time night after night, families treasuring it as something to hand down to future generations… and the hardback book just kept on selling. People have been buying it from Hong Kong to Texas, Sligo to California, Sydney to Scotland … my book, our book, is all over the world, and with every one that sells the message that breastfeeding is normal, perfectly normal, is being repeated time and time again and spread a bit further. Children are growing up with images of children, not just babies, but toddlers and older children nursing. How wonderful is that?
Have you bought your copy yet?
Which brings me to my news, my book news…
but I think this post is already too long so I’ll put it in another post … but it is well worth waiting for, and I did want to share the fun of the launch, before all the excitement fades into a blur… and I wanted to thank Pinter and Martin, the lovely Larder at Burwash Manor, Jess, my amazing Jess, and everyone else who has put up with excitement, angst, and exuberance about the book for so long… and anyone else who knows me.