Forget about book tours or reading engagements. Forget about "branding" yourself and promoting your work to the unseen masses. Just get a job at your local bakery and bring along a pile of books. Here you will meet a photographer from New York City, a cellist from Scotland, a local fisherman. And all of them will buy your book. While the coffee percolates, they will ask you what your book is about and you will tell them stories about hitchhiking to Mexico with the French Canadian you met while treeplanting, about your thatch cottage on a rocky isle in Ireland. You will talk until interrupted by the next in line asking about the daily soup, or "What kind of muffins are those?"
You will cream butter and sugar, and then you will listen. You'll hear about serving in Vietnam, about guarding a Buddhist monastery carved into stone, a spiral staircase descending into the centre of the Earth. "The monks would go down there for weeks to meditate," they'll tell you. The family from Washington State building a house down the road will tell you about travelling on business to India, Bangladesh, China--about countrysides filled with factories, and entire towns unable to breathe.
The dough will finish its first rising, and when you punch it down for its second, the blue-eyed man who works for the Ministry of Agriculture will peruse the books for sale and notice Susan Musgrave's name. "She just lives down the road," you'll say. "I love this cover," he'll say of a deer lying dead in the snow, of the title When the World is Not Our Home. So do I, you'll agree. And you'll look at one another then, understanding something. And he'll buy your book, too.
After this sale you'll realize you're doing what you've always wanted to do. For a few moments, you're entering the life of another. More importantly, they're allowing you to do so--they're even paying you for it. You'll stand there greasing loaf pans while they read about the little boy tortured in Guatemala, your friend dying of cancer, your heart breaking again and again. After a few minutes, they'll look at you differently. They'll thank you.
And you will want to thank them for much more than their $18.95. You'll want to thank them for making poetry--for what else could this exchange be called? This chance encounter transformed into a moment of shared humanity? You'll want to thank them for making you realize it's possible to feel a little more at home in this world. But they'll leave before you can tell them all this. They'll see you're busy, that there are people waiting in line.