My first book was published six months ago (notice the optimistic word “first”), and although the swirl of the initial excitement is now over, I remain thrilled. Despite the fact that I can hold my book in my hot little hands, it still feels surreal to me that it actually happened. I keep glancing at my bucket list to make sure the check mark beside write a book and have it published hasn’t faded like morning fog when the sun rises.
The book is a collection of short stories depicting ordinary people like you and me living their spiritual lives with Mother Nature and Her seasonal cycles as their primary deity. The marketing plan has included readings and signings as each seasonal shift occurs, and this past Sunday, just a week before Yule, I gave a reading at a local bookstore/coffee shop that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
At each reading, I have offered a few excerpts from the corresponding seasonal story. I prepared for this one by selecting what I wanted to read aloud, and then I had a great idea. Part of this particular story describes a group of people who gather and stay awake holding vigil on the winter solstice, the longest night of the solar year. Their metaphoric gesture of supporting the Great Cosmic Mother as She gives birth to the sun is demonstrated through a candle lighting ceremony and by making sure the fires stay lit until dawn. So I brought a large column candle and a bunch of tea lights so that at the appropriate time, I could lead a similar candle lighting ceremony to engage my readers further in the story.
Twenty of my books were delivered there just over a week before this date, along with a large laminated sign the shop could use to promote the event. I also promoted my appearance in all the ways I know how; talking it up to whoever would listen, invitations through my personal email list and social media. When I arrived, I was happy to see the sign right on the front door of the place, with a hand written paper taped to it that said, “Reading and Book Signing today at two!” When I entered, I saw two tables near the stage with “reserved” signs on them and another with all of my books stacked artfully upon it, and for a foolish instant, I thought, I wonder how many books have already sold?
The two lovely people working there were the guy at the register, who also worked the sound system and set up the reading on live stream, and the barista. They offered me a free coffee. I had a pleasant conversation with the sound guy, chatting about everything from the fast approaching holiday to the Seahawk game that had begun an hour before. If you have never lived in a town whose football team has won the super bowl, then you don’t know the absolute mania that results. If I had known there was going to be a game on this afternoon, I probably would not have booked this engagement. But I didn’t, and there I was and the power of commitment and all that.
I found a small table and moved it up on the little stage beside the mic stand where I was to give the reading, covered it with my holiday table cloth, placed the candles in a circle and lit the big one in the center, saying a little prayer that the eight people who clicked “going” on my fb event page were about to arrive any second now. None did.
That’s okay, I told myself, you want to meet new people anyway, to reach new readers beyond your immediate sphere of influence. The candle light flickered for no good reason.
After waiting about ten minutes, I wanted to bolt and run, but instead I said to Sound Guy. “Well, I might as well start, eh?” I got up there, sat on the stool by the mic, introduced myself and explained why I wrote the book. There were about ten people in the store, and two of them sitting on the couch nearest the stage stood up and walked out as soon as I began. Ignore them and keep going. The two women at the next closest table were totally engrossed in their crocheting and didn’t even glance up to acknowledge that a live, amplified person was reading to them not three feet away.
Now, I am not a shrinking violet, I am not afraid of the spotlight, I don’t shy away from microphones, and in fact can project my voice such that I often don’t need one, especially in this small of a place. But because we were live streaming, the mic was necessary, and my voice seemed to echo off the resounding silence and apathy that met my spoken words. The barista’s station is right by the stage, and the sound of the intermittent latte machine competed with my voice. Soon, three young men entered, walked up to the bar, and began ordering their coffee drinks in full voice. They continued their conversation, talking and laughing, completely oblivious to what was going on around them. The barista had to shush them as she pointed to me up there on the stage. The three of them turned and stood there staring at me with their mouths open like landed fish for a few seconds before bursting into laugher and walking away with their coffees. Still I soldiered on.
I read in a vacuum, a wind tunnel, an iron lung, a prison. When my sentence was up (all of them), I said, “Thanks for listening!” like a cheery madwoman. No one had listened. I let them know that my book was for sale right over there and would make great stocking stuffers if folks needed to finish their holiday shopping, and I would be happy to sign them. I blew out the candle and was never so grateful to step off a stage in my entire life. I sat at the book table for less than thirty seconds because I simply couldn’t endure a moment longer, so I thanked Sound Guy, who said, “Too bad you weren’t here an hour ago, the place was packed,” collected my books and altar items and prepared to leave.
I gifted the store with one of my books, placing it in on the “religions” shelf. Even feeling as badly as I did, it still felt good to see it there among Deepak Chopra’s, Thich Nhat Hanh’s and Starhawk’s. Just before I lifted my laminated sign off the door and left, the barista said, “I really liked your story. I think my friend would have loved it.” I guess someone was listening. But she didn’t buy.
After the tears in the car on the way home subsided, I chose to adopt a philosophical perspective. Not every attempt is going to be successful. Check the football schedule in the future. Pearls before swine. It’s not a reflection on you personally, or your writing, and certainly does not mean that your book was not worth writing. You stuck to it and did what you went there to do, even though it was terribly uncomfortable. Okay, “terribly uncomfortable” is an understatement, it was your worst nightmare, but don’t let one event, no matter how horrible it felt, throw you off your game. For all you know, someone was watching and listening to that live stream, and you changed their life.
Thankfully, I had two other events scheduled for this season that restored my faith. The one last night was beautiful. Only six people were there, but they were fully engaged, listened raptly, lit their candles with reverence, and bought eight books. Like the song says: some days it’s kicks, then it’s kicks in the shins, but the world goes round! So do the seasons. And they teach us about fallow as well as bounty. When I got home from this lovely counterbalance to my afternoon of humiliation, I lit another candle with gratitude for the difficulties we encounter that serve to mature and strengthen us. After all, if the Great Cosmic Mother can labor through the longest night, an hour or so of mortification is not going to do me in.
About Rev. Judith Laxer
Originally from New York, I moved west in 1989. I took my lifelong interest and study in psychic phenomena and metaphysics and began the professional transition from a career in the Performing Arts to one in Spirituality.
On the Summer Solstice in 1992, I became a licensed, Ordained SHES (Spiritual Healers and Earth Stewards) Minister. Since then, I have created and officiated at countless ceremonies and rituals as a Minister and Priestess.
As a teacher, I have been creating and leading classes, workshops and programs in spiritual development, Goddess consciousness, and psychic awareness since 1993, as part of my private practice and at spirituality conferences and gatherings nationally.
I enjoy a successful private practice that includes spiritual counseling, psychic Tarot readings,certified Hypnotherapy, Teaching, Reiki, and Shamanic healing practices. My ministry is growing as I provide monthly Goddess Worship Services in Gaia’s Temple.