How do you pack 97 warm bodies into a small library in Eastern Ontario AND still make sense as you offer a few (unprepared) remarks? We are still not sure, but we had a crash-course on this during our book tour of Eastern and Southwestern Ontario in August while touring The Castleton Massacre. We had been told to expect a “few” people for a “meet and greet” event. What we got was a throng of eager listeners trying to wedge themselves between library stacks, standing on chairs, leaning on bookstands, and pressing (too) close to the table at the front of the room where we were gamely chatting away. When people could no longer get into the two small rooms set aside for the greeting, they congregated in the hallway by the front door, struggling to hear. The bookseller ran out of books, sold a few more from our car trunks but still the buyers wanted more. Readers demanded to know if we would be giving a presentation to those late receiving books! Eventually, we emerged from this scrum, a bit shaken but also heartened by the enthusiasm of the audience.
Not all of our appearances were standing room only, and sometimes only a few books went out the door. Still, the tour was memorable, with each presentation differing somewhat and with questions so varied that we had to remain alert to the book’s nuances. Many of the audience members had already read the book, and they presented prepared questions to us that were often challenging, but rarely unfair. When recounting anecdotes found in the book to the audience to illustrate a point, if we left out any details some careful reader would provide them for us, almost as shadow presenters.
One of the most agreeable results of our tour was that there were two of us. When the technology didn’t cooperate or when the numbers were weak, we just sat and chatted with each other or whoever happened to be around. In fact, the whole tour was such a singular experience that it took two of us to debrief the various events and their importance to each of us.
Now the first phase is over, and we are currently planning the second for the fall. Will the book have "legs"? Or will we be settled in chairs with just a few folks to chat with? We're game to find out!
Sharon Anne Cook is a distinguished professor emerita at the University of Ottawa. She is the author and editor of twelve books on Canadian women’s history. The recipient of many teaching awards, she teaches graduate courses in the history of education. She lives in Ottawa.
Margaret Carson is the eldest of two children who survived the Castleton massacre. A retired college instructor, she is accomplished in creating and adapting workplace programs as well as classroom delivery. She lives in Mississippi Mills, Ontario.