The furthest I’ve ever traveled for a book event was from Baltimore, Maryland to Madrid, Spain.
As part of my book tour for Tracks: A Novel in Stories, I had a reading and social lined up at a bookstore in Madrid that specialized in English-language books.
We were planning a vacation to (and travel story on) Spain anyway. Adding a book event to the visit was a great way of mixing business with pleasure – and it proved to be an effective way to sell books and create some buzz with a new readership.
So after we had a nice meal between Plaza Mayor and Peurta del Sol (steak and paella), we headed for Calle del Espiritu Santo for J & J Coffee and Books.
Perhaps “J & J Beer and Books” would be a more fitting name. The establishment, with a highly literary crowd, seemed as much bar as bookstore. Patrons sat around partaking in lively discussions about everything from football to literature. Bookshelves lined some of the walls, bottles lined others. Downstairs was a vast library of books.
J & J Books is a popular bookstore in Madrid specializing in English-language books. They’re also known for their Friday Quiz night, two-for-one happy hour specials, and reading events. One of the expat regulars I talked with told me the secret to their success. “They draw people in with books and then keep them for a while with beer and wine and conversation.”
When we arrived, the crowd was as lively as you might expect at a neighborhood bar – people talking (European) football and books, travel, and politics while seated at the long bar and at tables and chairs beyond it.
The manager and staff kept us supplied with house beer, wine, and cocktails as we mingled with the crowd. When the time came, the manager stood behind the bar and announced me. I was given a place of honor behind the beer tap. From there, I read “Idle Chatter,” a story from Tracks.
The conversing crowd became attentive and, during dramatic pauses in my reading, it had grown so quiet that you could hear a drop of beer splash against the bar.
After my reading, which lasted about half an hour, I was warmly received by my audience. Was it coincidence that my story about a person who values small talk was followed by hours of enjoyable small talk? We talked about my book, my writing process, my visit to Spain and other travels. We talked about their favorite books and their writing, about why they lived in Madrid (most of them were originally from England, Ireland, Scotland, or the United States) and their own travels. It was a good time.
A bit of wisdom picked up during the conversation: “What’s for you won’t go by you.”
A bit of insight on Spanish literature: “Don Quixote was a jerk!”
I sold out of all the books I brought with me, and signed a good number of them. It was a fine way to cap our visit to Spain. A great way to mix business with pleasure.
I discovered, after my invitation to read, that J and J was written up in a several guide books on Madrid and Spain. They were even written up in the New York Times.
Visit J & J Books and Coffee at their website. You can listen to a free podcast of what I read to them. A few weeks after my return to the states, I read the story again on Baltimore’s NPR station, WYPR. Find the audio reading of “Idle Chatter” at http://www.tracksnovel.com/radio.html.
Eric D. Goodman is a full-time writer and editor who loves to travel. His novel in stories, Tracks, was published by Atticus Books (Summer 2011) and won the 2012 Gold Medal for Best Fiction in the Mid-Atlantic Region from the Independent Publishers Book Awards. It follows a passenger train full of travelers as these strangers touch one another in unexpected ways. He’s also the author of the childrens’ book, Flightless Goose. Eric’s work has appeared in The Baltimore Review, Pedestal Magazine, WritersWeekly, The Potomac, Barrelhouse, JMWW, Scribble, Slow Trains, and New Lines from the Old Line State: An Anthology of Maryland Writers, among others. His second novel, Womb, is currently with his agent. Visit Eric on Facebook, Twitter, and at his literary blog, Writeful. Learn more about Eric and his writing at http://www.EricDGoodman.com.