Up and down and inside out

On Friday, I drove up to Ohlone College in Fremont, California, for an event hosted by professors at the college. Five Deaf authors, including me, had the opportunity to give short presentations about our work, answer questions, and (if we had them, sell our books).

I felt very honored to have been invited as one of the authors, and I truly enjoyed meeting the three I didn’t already know and seeing Tom Holcomb after 20 years since we last chatted.

If you want to give these other authors a bit of well-deserved attention, please check them out. I’ll link their names to their websites or to their books:

Linda Drattell
Dr. Tom Holcomb
Ron Hirano
Rachel Zemach

Before I share about the actual event before, let me just say that the layout of Ohlone College may have been designed by MC Escher. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the case. I showed up a bit early, ready to lug a box of books and the typewriter across campus to the event. Looking at the map, this seemed it would be a short trip.

But no, I got lost, twice. I went up flights of stairs, took elevators, walked long stretches of pathway and reached dead ends, went down other flights of stairs and up others, finally winding my way through a parking lot until I found the location. This is all me, not their fault at all (but I’m willing to blame Escher, if he had anything to do with this).

Did I say it was hot? But I made it, and stood there facing a cool breeze that finally arrived, willing it to chill me to the bone.

Everyone was friendly, full of excitement about the event. We set up booths under the shade of trees after I expressed a little wide-eyed concern about the original plan of having the booths in a sunny area with no shade at all. The sun and I have a limited relationship. I respect the sun’s majesty, but I must shield my eyes from its glory. (I should add: I didn’t pack sunscreen.)

I set up my booth, happy that I actually had the stack of books that I had worried for two weeks wouldn’t arrive on time. They came the day before I left. I brought the typewriter to add a little interactivity, a little fun for the visitors. I have to admit, I was a little surprised how it seemed to almost frighten a few people to try it, as if it was poking a sleeping beast. Ron, however, typed a sentence while a big grin spread across his face. He understands typewriters.

We each had about 8 minutes to give our presentations, taking any approach we liked. I definitely enjoyed learning about everyone’s books, why they write, and their plans for what’s next. Meanwhile, I grew nervous, waiting for my turn.

I hadn’t given a presentation about my books before, so this was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone. Thankfully, the crowd was full of smiling faces that helped my nerves. I decided that the best approach at this event, especially giving my presentation in ASL, was to tell a condensed version of the first chapter. Having grown up signing SEE and using my voice, discovering ASL later on in life, I know I’m not a natural ASL storyteller. But I AM a storyteller, so I just focused on painting a visual image of this story as best as I could.

The questions afterward, both from the crowd and later at my booth, made the event even more worthwhile. I was happy to encourage other writers to keep going and not let their doubts get in the way. We all have them, don’t we? You just have to do it anyway.

I’m back home now, working on next steps. This year I’ll be promoting the book more, while hunting for an agent again. The sequel, after all, is already written. It just needs a publishing house to call home.

By J. Parrish Lewis

J. Parrish Lewis was born and raised in Maryland. In his youth there, he and his brother had many adventures in the dogwood forests near his home. His nostalgia for these adventures has strongly influenced his characters, their relationships, and their perspective on the world they inhabit. He moved to California’s coast to earn his degree in communications and now lives with his family in the San Joaquin Valley. Lewis is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate. He enjoys hazelnut coffee, captioned movies, and walking his dog.

Comments are awesome. I approve positive comments, even if you disagree with me. I don't approve comments that are negative, even if you're agreeing with me.