Martha (18) and Debbie (17)
Friends, generosity, fun — the New Book Tour: Part 2.
With this post I skip ahead a bit — jumping over New York City and a research trip to Italy and most of June. I can’t resist because it’s all about Debbie Stier. Where to begin with the magnificent and generous and smart and beautiful Debbie Stier? When we were 16? (Read to the end and you’ll find out about that.) I’ll start instead with the book tour: On June 22nd we’ll be in San Francisco for a reading I’ll do at The Booksmith, arranged by Debbie. “You’re going to San Francisco for your book,” she announced one day, in that way of hers that bubbles with good ideas. “And I’m coming.” A few days later she had one of The Booksmith’s owners, Praveen Madan, on a conference call for a “brainstorming session” to figure out how to make a successful reading. Lots of ideas ricocheted across the telephone wire, then a date was set, tickets bought, a hotel booked. We’re staying at The Huntington Hotel and Spa (note the word SPA) and we’ll be there for three days, filled in with visits to other bookstores, shopping, eating, sightseeing. Debbie likes to say, “This will be the Sex In The City leg of your tour.” (Thanks be we’re not taking a train.)
Every time I have published a novel, Debbie has been behind the scenes pushing the boulder up the hill, cheering me on and reaching out to every contact she has, on my behalf. For a long while she was a publicist — never at my publishing house. No matter. One quite impressive example of her help was with Gorgeous Lies, my second novel. Through her passion for the book and through her connections she got the book to Terry Gross of Fresh Air, and kept following up until I was booked on the show. She went with me to the studios for the interview, and when, after, I was trembling with stage fright, she took me for a celebratory glass of wine. She has sent my novels to tastemakers, to bookstore owners, magazine editors and newspaper reviewers, bloggers. She’s connected me with the people at Vook and Dailylit and Get Glue — just to name a few Her ideas are boundless and she, very unlike me, is a stunning optimist. In January, she decided we needed to have cocktail parties once a month to get to know the most interesting people in social media. Who came? The list is too long — another post — but I’d end up reading about the guests in the paper, the impressive things they were doing, funding twitter and tumblr, reporting on it all. Debbie looks to the future and has no time for the past or for being held back.
Debbie is now Senior Vice President, Editor-at-Large & Dir. Of Digital Marketing at Harpercollins. Her personal mission is to help bring book publishing into the 21st Century by effectively using social media. Her authors include the bestselling author of Crush It, Gary Vaynerchuk, Melanie Notkin (The Savvy Auntie), Baratunde Thurston.
With Dear Money, she started helping me about a year ago when I first told her I was going to build a website. “Very important,” she confirmed, along with a whole lot of other stuff that went in one ear and out the other — all having to do with social media: twitter and tumblr and flickr and facebook — words that were still foreign to me, in fact at that point more foreign than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and No Docs and 2/28s and negative convexity and LIBOR and subprime and all the information I’d learned about mortgage-backed securities while researching Dear Money. I sent her a draft of the site. I was quite thrilled with it. At the crack of dawn, she called. (Debbie is not a morning person.) “I couldn’t sleep last night, Martha. I’ve been impatient to call. You can’t use that. It’s so 2.0. It’s not going to work. It’s beautiful but it’s boring.” I was crushed. And I didn’t understand what she meant. “It’s five years ago. Sites aren’t like that anymore.” She explained that sites had to by dynamic and not static. Mine was static. She told me I’d need to update frequently. “It will be like your own magazine in which you include everything you love and that interests you. You have so much to work with: your big, eccentric family, all their books, your books, their art, your love of food and cooking and traveling.” I followed her instructions. I got on facebook and twitter and goodreads and started my “dynamic” website. And though I resisted and thought I couldn’t possibly do it, and though I’m not as active as some, it has been a lot of fun. All authors can learn from her tips and I bet she’ll be kind enough to do a Q&A with me here and spell out those tips. Another future post.
Now back to when we were teenagers in Princeton. She lived on Lover’s Lane which always seemed appropriate to me because of her passion. She played tennis beautifully and also piano. She has one younger brother. Her family, in comparison to mine, seemed uncomplicated and more ordinary in a spell-binding way. When my nine siblings and I were hiking in Haiti, they (the cozy four) were skiing in Aspen. She was very popular and she was my friend. She came to the beach with us; she stayed for days at our farm; we did naughty things together that I can’t mention here (another tip of hers: don’t write anything on your blog that you wouldn’t want on the cover of the New York Times). A story she loves to tell about us (which I don’t remember as well as she does) was that I hired her to assist me in a job I had catering a dinner party. I’d made an enormous lasagne (we were about 16 and 17 years old) and she’d had a few sips of wine. Carrying the lasagne (homemade noodles and all) from the kitchen to the diningroom, she dropped it. SPLASH!! Has she been making up for the spilled lasagne all these years? I don’t have many friends that reach back as far as Debbie. I am very fortunate. I am blessed. I will hang onto her, cherish her forever. San Francisco here we come…