M. H. Callway:
- The Mesdames have tried many different – and some unusual – venues to get our names out there.
Mmes Joan and Cathy Astolfo both have friends involved in community and dinner theatre. Mystery plays, like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, are popular with audiences so co-partnering was an obvious choice. We ended up having had a lot of fun working with different theatre troupes at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts, the Blue Moon Café in New Hamburg and thanks to Mme Cheryl’s sister, Elaine Freedman, in Toronto.
Our best experiences happened when the theatre company gave the Mesdames advance publicity and told the audience about us at the beginning of the performance. That way everyone knew why we were there and were eager to meet us. Also we found that the best times to connect with the audience were before the performance or during intermission. Evening performances end late and by then, everyone wants to get home. The Mesdames included!
Community theatre is more popular outside Toronto. That meant travel and commitment of at least one evening. For this reason, we decided that one “special appearance” worked best for us. And the more Mesdames who show up in our trademark purple colours, the better!
As Rosemary McCracken pointed out in Walk the Talk #2, book sales are hard to predict, but sales at the theatres were about the same as at our library events. And theatres afforded an opportunity to connect with readers we might otherwise never have met.
Best experience: A lovely lady from the Oakville University Women’s Club invited us to speak at their next meeting. Their speaker had cancelled unexpectedly so it was a win-win situation for everyone. An excellent evening with lots of interest from a thoughtful, well-read crowd. And to top it off, they presented us with tasty buffet of coffee and treats – and a generous honorarium!
Next best experience: Connecting with an enthusiastic writer at the Toronto theatre who not only bought all my books but became a devoted fan!
Best salesperson: Mme Cathy Dunphy showed no fear in introducing theatre-goers to the Mesdames and that led to our Best Experience at the University Women’s Club.
Worst experience: Having our table located next to the washroom. The audience really didn’t know why we were there! Happily, the theatre company made sure next time that we were placed beside the ticket table .
THE GOOD NEWS STORY:
Apparently, you can get a fan club doing library appearances. I was delighted to find at our Burlington library appearance this year, that a woman who had seen me in Niagara two months before drove all the way to Burlington to be in the audience. Also this year, a group of three women in Hamilton turned out for all my appearances in the area. It was quite fun, because at the last one, I turned to them in front of the audience and asked what reading I should do this time. They were quick to tell me they wanted to hear the Nico bungled burglary scene again. It is such fun when you meet readers along the way who love your work, and enjoy hearing you talk about your characters time after time.
THE ‘WHY I LIKE DOING LIBRARY APPEARANCES WITH THE MESDAMES’ STORY:
Before the Mesdames came about, I did a lot of library appearances on my own. Sometimes they were just wonderful. Other times, they slammed your ego into a wall. I remember one time when I was supposed to appear at a large city central branch, to talk about my Goddaughter mob caper series. The audience was to be two classes of seniors from the local high school. I was pumped. This would be a huge crowd, and I had all sorts of fun things planned. But the fates intervened in a way no one could have predicted. On Monday, the teachers voted to work to rule. No field trips. On Tuesday, I got to the library to find exactly six elderly patrons in the audience, all of whom were pushing walkers. Half way through my reading, during a particularly thrilling part, one of the old dears blurted out: “When does the movie start?”
And that’s why I love doing readings with the Mesdames. We always have each other.