When you write a book and send it out into the world, your relationship with it becomes very removed. If you're lucky, a review or two appears in print, and there may be some blogger attention. Sales figures come and go and your mother assures you that your book is wonderful.
If you are very, very fortunate, your publisher has made your words into a volume that is beautiful, with a cover that makes your heart soar each time you look at it. It's very much like realizing that your infant child is pleasant to look at, as well as being a possessor of the proper number of ears and toenails--a mixture of relief and delight. But still...
You know how you feel when you read another person's book--the visceral reaction of pleasure or surprise or outrage or disgust--a reaction that you have always regarded as a purely private one, until now. Now you long to be in the room as someone reads your words, invisibly witnessing this private act, a voyeur of the worst kind.
Then a bookstore agrees to let you read to an audience of their customers--people who have read your book, or are curious about it, or who wandered in with nothing better to do than to listen to you. Nervously you walk up to the podium, feel a thrill of relief that the microphone is at the right level for you and is working properly, say something that you pray is coherent, and begin to read.
And you realize this is what you have longed to do--to connect with your readers directly, to tell them a story and see their reaction to your words. As you read and feel a current between yourself and your listeners, you are amazed by an overwhelming sense of joy that is very similar to the euphoria you felt after giving birth to yor children. It's the best high in the world, and while you answer questions and sign copies of your book, you realize that if not for independent bookstores like Seattle's Elliott Bay Book Company or Bainbridge Island's Eagle Harbor Books, this particular relationship between reader and writer would never come into being. You pray that these stores and others like them will always be in place, creating this special link between booklovers, and this extraordinary feeling that comes only when words come to life in a reading room.