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  • Writer's pictureToby

Book Conversations

I've had the privilege of attending several book events and interviews in the last several months (check out my homepage for info on several). At the expense of sounding trite, it has been a completely educational and humbling experience. I knew I'd be learning about writing books, sharing books, and selling books. I even knew I'd be learning about myself. But I did not completely understand how much I'd be learning about you.

To explain what this has been like, I'd like to use my grandmother's funeral as an example (stick with me; it's not morbid). My brother gave a beautiful eulogy that concluded with words she used to end her prayers of gratitude - "thanks for the company." I'd heard her say this countless times at meals or in community prayer. But hearing it there, and then, meant more. And not just because it was her funeral. It was because in that moment we were all remembering our experience of her, and those words, from all of our different standpoints. So many different journeys we had with her, but our endings were the same.

Fast forward to the 2023 Louisiana Book Festival. I was on a panel with three other men discussing the topic "Men Write About Social Issues, Exploration, Growth, and Loss." As I shared what made me write Dark Roux, the experiences and situations that spawned scenes and characters, I saw that faraway look in people's eyes, similar to the one at Granny's funeral. At a recent book signing in San Antonio at The Twig Bookshop, I got to hear about people's experiences in Louisiana, with Cajun food and music, or event with Cajun family. There was the look again. It's that look that has convinced me that books are conversations beyond the pages, or even the talks, but all the way to memories and experiences that transcend words and float between us in these faraway looks.

And maybe the conversation even transcends time. Someone asked me recently if I think about the immortality that may come with creating a book. I answered that I used to. When I first started writing I thought about leaving a written mark on history, one that could be appreciated across time. But I honestly don't care about that anymore. There are millions of books in the world now. My voice is just one of them. But it seems the books which rise to the top, that get taught in classes or are considered classics, are the ones which create the most conversations. Whether it be with ourselves, an epoch, a culture, a government, an idea, etc., our best books are made of conversations. Like any good Cajun I want to keep the conversation going.

So please, if you see me around, stop and talk. I want to hear about you and where you intersected with my book, or any book. I want to hear where your dreams live and where your memories are kept. I want us to get that faraway look in our eyes. It will be the opposite of my grandmother's funeral; we'll be on the same journey but will end up in different places. At the end of our conversation I'll get to say, just like her, "thanks for the company."

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