Write of Way by Mary Lou Sanelli

Wednesday, March 01, 2023 10:39 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

Looking Back at the Italian Festival

My good friend Dennis invited me to sign copies of my new book at our last Italian Festa and I was thrilled. The invitation gets better: “I can’t find another Italian author this year. You can have the table to yourself.”

Well, an invitation like that doesn’t come along all that often.

Now, at a festival celebrating all things Italian—and by “all things” I mean what 99% of the people come for: the food—I knew most vendors would be selling gelato or cannoli or pasta or pizza. Even so, I accepted the invitation. Courage can be its own sort of blessing.

My first no-sale of the day was a man who picked up my book and read the cover. I tried to summarize what the book is about, which is always hard to do, for others, for myself. He nodded but I could tell from his eyes that I’d lost him. You usually do, going on about your book. The key is finding balance between explanation and too much. You want to say enough to make the book appealing but leave room for imagination. He turned my book over to read the back. He read the cover again. He read the spine. Then he took about twenty minutes telling me about his own writing. He told me about his grown children. He told me about his dog. But this is normal. The world is full of lonely people. If I even begin to imagine how many, I could cry. Still, I thought the whole encounter was funny, but not funny laugh-out-loud-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. I imagined myself waving a wand to make the whole weekend pass quickly.

And then.

A teacher looked through my new children’s book and said, “I’ll take five of these.” Oh. Those. Words. Those generous words. I can’t help it, I thought, I love this. I love selling my books. You’d think I’d love the whole new world of internet connection, but for me, the best experience is all about meeting my readers. Things were starting to look up.

I’ve been selling my creativity my entire life. I know you must be thinking, really, your entire life?  But it’s true. Since year four. Painted rocks. Popsicles with pansies frozen within, edible art long before its time. Handmade puppets, clutches, note cards. Drumming up business. Scared to death, but excited. Alive.

A well-dressed man (shirt, tie, dress pants made of whatever it is that fabric with a sheen is made of these days), scolded me when I couldn’t answer his question in Italian. In the Northwest, I often feel like I act too Italian compared to the general population. But today, he is not the first person who has made me feel like I am not Italian enough.

This makes me smile.

By Sunday, I was out of books (out of books!), so I packed up early, and on my way out the door, I turned back to see Dennis watching the band. He’d just pulled off Seattle’s 30th festival with knack and finesse. I wished I could’ve stayed and danced, but I had to go, and I didn’t want to bother Dennis, not even with a personal “ciao e grazie di tutto” which can take a lot of oomph, good oomph, but still oomph, so I’m saying it here.

Mary Lou Sanelli

Mary Lou Sanelli is the author of Every Little Thing, a collection of essays that was nominated for a Pacific Northwest Book Award and a Washington State Book Award. Her previous titles include poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. For more information about her and her work, visit www.marylousanelli.com.

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