Not Your Average Book Launch

My mental image of a book launch is a cocktail party where everyone is in formal dress and standing around making witty comments that could be straight out of a New Yorker cartoon. Considering me, it is inevitable that the book launch for Designing with LibreOffice was not like that at all.

For one thing, the launch was at the Steamworks Pub in Gastown, a place that has seen more business meetings than a dozen board rooms. True to my clichéd ideas about a book launch, waitresses were circulating with trays of appetizers, but the food – carefully chosen to avoid shell fish and nuts to respect my allergies and those of my editor, Jean Weber – was both tasty and varied.

Nor do I imagine that the hosts of the average book launch urge people to take boxes of leftovers home. I can only plead that I am a widower with limited freezer space, and I had nightmares of finding places to cram the leftovers, and surviving on pork sliders and mini-cheesecakes for the next ten days.

As for black tie, forget it – since I work from home, even business casual is a major concession. In fact, it feels like cosplay, only not so interesting.

Forget, too, people standing. I didn’t plan things that way, but when my I arrived with my sister-in-law Marion, we sat down to wait. When another person arrived, they also pulled up a chair. So did the next person, and the next, until we had a circle of about twenty people. Since several people were over sixty-five, and everyone else was comfortable sitting, it seemed easier to keep things that way. Sitting down lent an air of informality that I much preferred to any alternative, especially since it meant that people could balance their plates more easily.

A veteran attendee of book launches might have recognized some of the proceedings. Jean, who had flown in from Queensland via the Bay Area, gave a humorous introduction about how I hadn’t delivered the book she originally expected, and Marion gave an equally humorous introduction about me, with both of them sparing me the embarrassment of something more serious. People asked questions about the book, I gave away advance copies and t-shirts (which I still have to mail out), signed the books, and even a copy of my thesis-turned-monograph, which I wrote nearly twenty-five years ago.

Mostly, though, it was an afternoon of casual conversation, and a chance to catch up with relatives and friends, most of whom I don’t see nearly often enough. By the time the last guests left, laden with doggie bags, I was thinking that book launches were nothing like the formidable events I had imagined, and that I should have another one as soon as possible.

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