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.

Book Launch Introduction

My sister-in-law Marion Crook was kind enough to give this introduction at  the book launch for “Designing with LibreOffice:”

I have known Bruce Byfield for over thirty years. He has always loved words. We have had debates about the precise meanings of words and their etiology. He has long been interested in how words look on a page.

I am happy to be here at the launch of his book Designing with LibreOffice.

The notion of information being available free to any who want to learn is in keeping with Bruce’s ideals around sharing and education equity. He has consistently worked on the programs that preceded Libre Office and committed himself to making the tools of the computer world more available to all. It seems as though LibreOffice was almost created to suit his philosophy.

He tells me that Jean Webber, the editor of this book, wanted something that allowed users to understand style and templates–but not a manual. Bruce’s unique and detailed understanding of this subject made him the author of choice.

Bruce has been a writer for many years and has some 1800 articles many of those pertaining to this subject, and one previous book to his credit. As a writer myself I have admired his tenacity, an absolutely necessary personality quality in a writer, and his expertise in this field.

My sister, Trish Williams, was married to Bruce until we sadly lost her six years ago. She was an enthusiastic support of Bruce’s writing and had a firm belief in his ability. At one point ,when Bruce was in a low of doubting his own abilities, he told her he was going to burn his books. He had some copies of his book, the one with the red and white cover? Trish hustled over to my place and said, “Hide these for me. I refuse to burn them. He’s very good.” So I kept them until Bruce came to realize his own talent.

Bruce and I got the first computers; we thought they were marvelous. It wasn’t really so long ago that using a computer set us apart from other writers. I used a computer to get the books written. Bruce enjoyed the process of using a computer and was enthusiastic about what programs could do and how much they could do. He tried different ways of producing results while I kept doing the same thing and was annoyed when I had to learn a new program. Bruce loved it all.

He could talk about computer programs until my eyes glazed, but he could command the attention of other computer enthusiasts because he both understood the new ideas and pushed to learn more. I suppose that’s how you get to be an expert.

He tells me that he thought the books needed to be written so that users of LibreOffice could get the most out of the program. He has worked for three years on this making sure that his exacting standards of word use and command of language produced concise, efficient prose. Knowing Bruce I am sure it also contains humour.