People often ask me, “Why did you write a book?” If they are friends who know me well, I will often mischievously reply, “I did it for the party.” And there’s a grain of truth to that response. As months go by, there have been more celebrations. Who knew the ancillary benefit to all that hard work would be enjoying the fruits of your labors with friends?
It started simply enough with a family get together in August just before I launched Any Color but Beige. My large and loving family went out of its way to host a surprise barbeque complete with a heartfelt toast from my brother Jimmy, an endless buffet of homemade Italian and American specialties, and many desserts. They marked the occasion with a present meant to represent all the hard work I’d done: a framed pen and ink drawing of black and red dance shoes, just like the one that appears on the book’s cover. Their pride was palpable, and I felt like I had just been handed the Pulitzer Prize.
Further fetes included a couple of Girls’ Nights In (GNI), hosted by friends in two places so different from one another in geography – America and Africa – and yet so similar in the comfortable familiarity of female friendship.
At the first one, I partied with Judy and her friends in the wilds of a Wisconsin, so starkly beautiful in its winter’s dress that it
took my breath away. Inside we moved between kitchen and living room, eating, drinking and talking. Judy had blown up an old high-school picture and used it as a buffet centerpiece. Bowls of brightly colored M&Ms added just the right amount of color to the event as did my colorful “tales told out of school” about Judy. (See Destination: Chicago in the book for their significance.)
The second party had the lush green landscape of suburban Johannesburg as a backdrop. Julie had ordered bright yellow helium balloons and tied them to the mailbox ensuring that no one missed the house. We congregated in the kitchen, chatting and eating and were about to move from the kitchen to the living room when Julie asked me to leave the room for a second.
From the next room I had heard a gasp and wondered what had happened? Had someone spotted a scorpion or snake? I didn’t have to wait long before they called me back into the kitchen and I saw the most amazing the sight. Leana, another Café Girlfriend, had made a cake in the shape of a book – my book. It was a carrot cake and everything, from the colorful book cover to the beautifully fashioned dance shoes was edible. I didn’t want to cut it, but cut it and enjoy it we did.
After the cake, it was time for me to talk about the book. I could have done a reading but the setting in both cases didn’t lend itself to that; it was much too informal. And so I told the “back story” about how the book came to be. And I also talked about each of my respective hosts’ role in the book. (You can find more about Judy in Chapter 3 and Julie in Chapter 25 of the book.)
Like the American Café Girls, the African girls had lots of questions and lots of stories of their own to share. Some things are universal, and it looks like Café Girlfriends are the same the world over. We’re all united by our shared experiences in life and in love. And Any Color but Beige is chock full such experiences it seems we can all relate to.
The conversation and the wine flowed freely, and everyone was reluctant to call it a night until we all agreed that we would somehow, somewhere meet again to continue our stories. At both parties, some of the girls were meeting for the first time so we ended up not only celebrating the book but also friendships old and new. I said in an earlier post that to be successful in this self-publishing business you not only have to be talented you have to be lucky. The excitement, enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of my family and friends have showed me just how lucky I am. As for the rest, it’s just icing on the cake.