About the book About the balloons Discussion questions How (and why) I wrote the book Reviews & Press Alaska Scrapbook Past events

25,000 miles and counting: tour notes and photos appear below. Click on the store or venue name in the center column for more information about the site; click on the pictures to see larger versions. Thanks to everyone for coming out! (This is a work in progress.)
February 4, 5:30-7 p.m. Barnes & Noble/Metro Center, Washington, DC

At our first reading, the store happily reported that we "outsold Princess Diana's butler", who had recently come through for a signing.

Setting an early theme for the tour, the audience included a couple of surprise guests -- Pearl and David Chanar (visible at right in photo), who hail from a village not far from Bethel, Alaska, where the book is set. You don't meet a lot of people from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in downtown DC. David, who does some Yup'ik translation work, said I'd gotten all my Yup'ik vocabulary correct in the book -- but that he'd only just started it.

February 17, 8 p.m. George Mason University, Fairfax, VA (Concert Hall, top floor).
Joint reading with Nicole Louise Reid
(In the Breeze of Passing Things).
Nicole and I graduated the same year from the MFA program at George Mason. She bravely made the trek all the way down from Erie, PA for the reading.

Because I believe in being a full-service author, I not only brought books but some Cloud Atlas cake...

...actually, it was leftover cake from a book party that some kind friends had for me, but it was still cake, still edible.

February 24, 7:30 p.m. Tattered Cover/LoDo, Denver, CO

With a college pal of my mom's, at Tattered Cover's new/old location in Denver.

Sunday, March 7, 5 p.m. Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington DC Here we start a sub-theme of the tour, which is photographs taken by famous writers and photographers. At Politics & Prose, my photographer was none other than Dana Milbank, White House correspondent for the Washington Post. For now, though, you'll just have to take my word for it, as Dana has not sent said photos.

Which is a shame, because it was an excellent event -- we sold before the line was even half through. I even sold the copy I read from (which was awkward, because I realized later that was my own personal copy, not the store's).

In addition to having dozens of friends and family and old students on hand, we had a good supply of complete strangers, which is always a good barometer of success.

One of these strangers came up and introduced himself at the end. He was also named Liam, he said, and had been using a radio piece I wrote about my name (our name?) as a monologue for his theater class at Boston College. Hunh.

Thursday, March 11,
7 p.m.
Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA

A true highlight of the evening would be the surprise attendance of my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Frodsham, of Mark Keppel Elementary School (in neighboring Glendale, my old stomping grounds). I introduced her to wide applause.

I was also surprsied to see the Banana Republic salesman who put together an outfit earlier that day when I realized I'd somehow left all my dress clothes back in Washington, DC. I introduced him to the crowd, too, of course, and his applause was equally warm.

I think people applauded for me as well at some point, but it was mostly about my sixth grade teacher and the Banana Republic guy.

BR's handiwork (the insta-outfit), above, and more LA photos here.

Sunday, March 14, 3 p.m. Prince Books, Norfolk, VA A wonderful store, an intimate crowd, but full of surprises, including a long lost uncle, and Dr. Kurt Mueller, fellow Loyola grad, and if I remember correctly, the slowest person on the swim team (other than me).
Friday, March 26, 10 a.m. Virginia Festival of the Book, UVa Bookstore (UVa Central Grounds Parking Garage on Emmet Street), Charlottesville, VA. Panel discussion with Thomas Mallon (Bandbox), Robert Kaplow (Me and Orson Welles), Dan O'Brien (The Contract Surgeon).

Panel moderator Grace Zisk (far left) had her husband Burt take photos of the event. Along with Grace are pictured, left to right, Thomas Mallon, Dan O'Brien, me and Robert Kaplow. I'm not sure why all of us have such odd expressions, or why mine is the oddest. I think this was Q&A time, and I was desperately trying to hand the microphone to someone else to provide an answer.

Friday, April 16, noon Alaska Room, Kuskokwim Consortium Library, Bethel, AK

Talking with John Active, of Bethel's KYUK, after the reading. Photograph by famous photographer #1, James Barker, author of Always Getting Ready.

Saturday, April 17, 3 p.m. Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Anchorage, AK (talk and discussion at 3, signing at 4)

There was a stuffed moose or bear at just about every reading venue I visited in Alaska. I specifically asked to be photographed with this one -- that's museum director of education Aaron Micallef on the other side of the antlers.

Sunday, April 18, 3 p.m. Baranov Museum, Kodiak, AK No moose at the Baranov, but a stuffed bear did stare me down during much of my talk. Not only was the Baranov one of the coolest settings I read in -- it's the oldest Russian structure in Alaska -- they also baked dozens and dozens of balloon-shaped cookies for afterwards. It was a feat that remains unmatched.
Monday, April 19, 7 p.m. University of Alaska/Fairbanks (museum), Fairbanks, AK Another reading, another bear, although this one was in a less threatening posture. Poet John Reinhard was my very able, very kind host, showing me around campus and town and taking me to a bring-and-grill your own meat bar after the event.
Tuesday, April 20,
7:30 p.m.
Title Wave Books, Anchorage, AK You'd be hard pressed to find a nicer (or bigger) bookstore in Alaska to do a reading. And I'm not just saying that because they presented me with my very own Title Wave tote bag, and Title Wave running socks (which came in handy the next morning when I had to outrun a moose near the University of Alaska/Anchorage).

What other bookstore hosts scar competitions, for example? (It turns out the events manager and I having matching ones.)

And you'd be hard pressed to find a more welcoming radio host than Talk of Alaska's Steve Heimel, who not only took me out to breakfast that morning and then had me on his show (see below), but even came to the reading later that night.


Thursday, April 22,
7:30 p.m.
Sherwood Regional Library, Alexandria, VA Though it's less than two miles from my house, I actually traveled more than 3,000 miles to get here, since I had to fly overnight from Alaska to make it in time. In addition to being one of the places where I wrote the book, the library is also notable for (or more notable for) its very own "Hemingway Palm", which raised from a seedpod from, yes, one of Hemingway's palms in Cuba.
Saturday, May 1, 1 p.m. Books on the Square, Providence, RI

Books on the Square is a warm, friendly place to do a reading, especially when your sister (foreground, ponytail) turns out all her friends and family. But it is a little intimidating to read your book in front of the "bestseller wall..." [the white wall at right].

Honesty requires me to say that the find of the day at Books on the Square was not my novel (though honesty can also add that we did sell out), but, in fact, Olivia the Pig Night Lights. I promptly bought one for my daughter and urged everyone else to buy them, too.

The photo, by the way, was taken by yet another famous photographer--my uncle, Richard Bourdeau. For more Providence photos, click here.

Thursday, May 6, 7:30 p.m. Cafe Gutenberg, Richmond, VA So it's settled: the best burger in Richmond -- if not Virginia (with the exception of Five Guys) is the Gutenberger at Cafe Gutenberg.

This was the first bookstore on my tour where 1) I was able to order a hamburger and 2) the chef came out of the kitchen for literary discussion, book signing and a photograph session.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying -- long live Cafe Gutenberg. If you're anywhere in the area, and even if you're not, stop by.


Owner Steve, Liam, and Chef Dave. Photograph by famous photographer #3, Caroline Kettlewell, author of Electric Dreams.


Sunday, June 27, 3 p.m. Book Club, Bethesda, MD In addition to being one of the wisest and kindest book clubs I've had the pleasure of meeting, they also proved artistic photographers, managing to get a group shot that also has a certain 'cloud-like' quality to it...

July 1, 8 p.m.

Booksandcoffee, Dewey Beach, DE My last reading for a while, but the first where I had my family in tow. Debby Creasy and Maribeth Fischer (a novelist herself) were wonderful hosts, and Booksandcoffee is a wonderful store. Took me forever to sort out the title -- it's not Books and Coffee, but books, sand, coffee -- which, of course, is perfect for a beach bookstore.
July 20, 10:00 a.m.  University of the South (Sewanee Writers' Conference), Sewanee, TN
(A joint reading, open to the public,  with Elizabeth Brundage and Nick Norwood.)
August 31, 5-7 p.m. The Twig Book Shop, San Antonio, TX  
September 21, 5 p.m. Fall for the Book Festival, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA  
November 14, 5 p.m. Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way, NE, Lake Forest Park, Washington  
December 2, 7 p.m. University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, IN  
February 23, 7 p.m. University of Baltimore, Baltimore, MD. Joint reading with famed author and raconteur John Rowell, author of The Music of Your Life.  
March 5 Pure Sea Glass Writer's Conference, Dewey Beach, DE  
April 3, 2 p.m. Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA  
March 2, 2006 p.m. Harry W. Schwartz Books (on Downer) Milwaukee
March 11, 1:30 p.m. AWP Conference Austin
April 19 Poetic Principles Series Richmond
April 28 4th Annual Spring Writers' Festival (pdf link) Milwaukee