Dec 3, 2009

Virtually Yours

The national book tour ended about a week and a half ago, covering 15 cities in about eight weeks. Many thanks to everyone at home and elsewhere who made it such a memorable trek. From the salon at Wicki’s loft in NYC all the way to Tami’s invention of the Possibilitini Martini in South Florida (see recipe below) it was an illuminating two-month dialogue with readers and new friends that I’ll not soon forget.

I’m now on Day Two of a virtual book tour, which involves a lot less physical travel but quite a bit of interaction nonetheless. It means logging on to different blogs every day that are reviewing the book or posting interviews with me, and interacting with the bloggers and their followers. The tour is virtual in every sense: Ballantine in New York contracted with a woman named Dorothy in Virginia who runs a company called Pump Up Your Book! so that an author in California can be introduced to readers all over the country—and nobody has to leave the comfort of their computer screens.

In my case, it means sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of coffee first thing in the morning before my kids get up, to check the first round of blog comments from the East Coast; then logging on again later in the day—usually from a cafĂ© in Topanga—to see who’s joined the conversation; and then checking in a third time at night after the kids have gone to bed, to respond to the final comments and thank everyone for participating.

What this online tour is revealing, right from the start, is that I’ve written a much more controversial book than I thought I had, and for reasons I wouldn’t have expected. On the physical tour I encountered mainly people who hadn’t yet read the book or who’d read it and liked it. The internet is where the divergence of opinion shows up, and sheesh, has it ever.

I knew I was taking a risk with this book, although I’d anticipated that most of the flak I’d receive would be because of its spiritual message. Instead, I’ve come under scrutiny almost exclusively because of…my parenting. Depending on the reader, my character in the book was either courageous, or irresponsible. Honest, or overanxious. Thoughtful, or (and this is a big one being leveled at many female memoirists these days) self-absorbed.

Admittedly, the choices my husband and I made nine years ago were not ones that many parents would make. One blogger—and I’m reluctant to use the word “reviewer” because blogs are personal opinions, after all—yesterday objected so strongly to us as parents that she couldn’t find much of merit in the book to recommend. (Yet one of the reader responses to her post was “I love books like this! Thanks!”—proving the point that all publicity is good publicity, I guess.) Then another blogger today at identified so much with the parents of a troubled child that she called the book one of the five best books she’d ever read.

And there you have it, my friends. The Mommy Wars. Alive and kicking on The POE blog tour.

If you really want to see the battle in action, check out the book’s Amazon reviews, where opinions range from “I couldn’t put this book down” to “I kept wanting to slap the author.” (Real nice, ay? Thanks, Marcy, whoever you are! Love you, too, sister!) And please feel free to weigh in and share your own opinion, if not specifically about my parenting—because why should the choices one mother made nine years ago matter so much to another mother today?—then about why mothers are so quick to judge those who parent differently than they do. And how at a time when unity and cooperation are so essential, the only purpose this kind of criticism serves is to help the poster feel more secure and confident about herself.

Let’s try to raise the dialogue above that level, and into a type of discourse that actually does some public good. Anyone game?

The Possibilitini
1.5 oz vodka
.5 oz Triple Sec.
.5 oz pomegranate juice
.5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp sugar syrup.
Shake with ice and pour over 1 tsp pomegranate seeds.