Friday, April 23, 2010 posted by Jen at 4/23/2010 09:16:00 PM
When I sold my first book – lo these many, many years ago – I had, as every writer does, a number of hopes and dreams and secret fantasies.
Maybe it’ll be a best seller!
Maybe it’ll win a prize!
And maybe – just maybe – I’ll get to sing backup with the Rock Bottom Remainders.
The Remainders are the world’s most prominent, and only, all-author supergroup, who’ve been rocking out at bookseller conventions and concert halls since the early 1990’s. The band stars Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Stephen King and Amy Tan and has attracted such legitimate musical talent as Bruce Springsteen, Roger McGuinn and one of my all-time favorites, the late, great Warren Zevon.
Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer…but I had rock-and-roll fantasies, of standing in front of a cheering crowd, wailing into a microphone or rocking out on a guitar.
Sadly, these dreams were killed by – and I’m about to use some very technical musical terms here – “not being very good.”
I can read music, thanks to years of piano (shout-out, Mrs. Noar!) I can carry a tune within a very limited range. I sang in choir in high school and glee club in college, but my fantasies of rocking were mostly confined to the privacy of my shower stall or, lately, Music Together classes with my two-year-old. In front of an audience of imaginary fans or drooling toddlers, I sound just fine.
A few years ago, I joined the board of the Free Library of Philadelphia which was a great way to give my time and money to a city, and an institution, that I love (and an institution that’s hit hard when the economy tanks, private donors scale back their gifts, and tax dollars dwindle).
A few months back, the board got the word that the Remainders were going on tour, and that Philadelphia would be one of the stops, with the library receiving the proceeds from ticket sales. Here it was. At last. My chance!
I bought a bunch of tickets to give away, thinking that if I was going to sing on a stage existing outside of my imagination, I’d want people there to cheer me on. I threw a little pre-party at one of my favorite spots, the Continental, because I figured that the drunker folks were, the better I’d sound.
Last night, I got on stage, introduced the band (highlight: telling Mitch Albom that he might have “Tuesdays with Morrie,” but Philadelphia has “Marley and Me,” and that somewhere in Heaven, a yellow lab is probably taking a dump in his dead professor’s slippers).
Then I sang back-up on “Da Do Ron Ron,” “Mustang Sally” and “634-5789” and “Leader of the Pack.”
I have no idea how I sounded. I don’t know whether I was in tune, or even whether my mic was on. I have no idea how I looked, although when you’re standing next to Amy Tan in a Lady Gaga-style wig, it tends to make you feel good about your own sartorial and hairstyling choices. But being up there, with a microphone in front of me and a legitimately decent band behind me was an absolute blast and truly a dream come true.
Novelist Sarah Pekkanen – I’ve mentioned her a few times – and her friend Lindsay Manes were the winning bidders for the privilege of closing the show with “Wild Thing.” We finished up with “Gloria,” and, almost twenty-four hours later I am still beaming.
Thanks to everyone who came...and for those of you who didn’t, you can learn more about the Free Library, a remarkable institution that offers an array of great author events (Anna Quindlen next Thursday night! Isabelle Allende May 4! Charlaine Harris May 5!) and programs (podcasts! Job-search coaching! Homework help!)
If you’ve got a few dollars to throw toward a worthy institution that’s been hit hard by the economic downturn, the library could use the help.
Come summer, I’ll be reading at the Free Library’s Central branch from my new book, FLY AWAY HOME, on Wednesday, July 14, at 7:30 p.m…but meanwhile, I’m at the Pennsylvania General Store in the Reading Terminal Market on Tuesday, May 4 at 6 p.m., where there will be wine, chocolate, and paperback copies of BEST FRIENDS FOREVER.
Then, on Thursday, May 13, I’m in NYC at the Park Avenue Borders at 461 Park Avenue at 7 p.m.. Hope to see lots of you East Coast readers there. Rock on!