Opening Nights

by Kitty Felde

Is launch day for a book the same as opening night for a new play?

Yes and no.

On Monday, my middle grade mystery novel Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza comes out in English and Spanish. It’s the story of the 10-year-old daughter of a congressman from Los Angeles who moves to D.C. and solves mysteries inside the U.S. Capitol. I’ve been nervous and excited and had to remind myself that I’ve had opening nights for years.

But it made me think about what book launches and opening nights have in common.

Some things are the same.

As a playwright, you’re sending out emails to all your friends and family, begging them to buy tickets for opening night. You’re posting on social. You might even go ‘old school’ and send out postcards to that agent you’re hoping to snag, or that friend of a show runner you met at a party. You’re hoping for good reviews in the handful of places that actually still review plays. You offer ticket discounts. You post some more on social… You get the idea.

As a book writer, you’re also emailing your friends and family, begging them to buy your book. You’re posting on social. Instead of postcards, you’re printing bookmarks, handing them out like candy at book festivals and library conventions. You’ve sent your book out to Kirkus and other review sites and posted the manuscript on NetGalley, (a free service free to readers, but a few hundred dollars for writers,) hoping for reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Instead of discounting tickets, you’re discounting book sales. You post some more on social…

Sound familiar?

For writers, book events are our opening nights. There is often champagne and cakes decorated with the cover of your book. The difference is that plays are what one pal described as ephemeral. A production disappears after its run. Books are tangible evidence of our writing. Sure, they may gather dust on library shelves and on the bedside table of your best friend who promises to read it one of these days.

There is one difference between writing for the page and writing for the stage: the community of theatre. As a book writer, you often do get to collaborate with a designer (for the cover instead of the set) and an editor (similar to a director.) What you don’t get writing books is the joy of the rehearsal room, the hours you get to spend with actors who bring your characters to life, the collaboration that leads to genius stage business and laughs you didn’t know where there.

But writing is writing, whether it’s plays or books. And after the stage lights are turned off or the bookstore locks the door, we all head back to the laptop or yellow pad or dictation app and start all over again.

LAFPI readers can get an autographed copy of Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza or Bienvenida a Washington Fina Mendoza by clicking here.

Kitty Felde is a playwright currently working on Snake in the Grass, the third book in her Fina Mendoza Mysteries series of middle grade novels.

About Kitty Felde

Award-winning public radio journalist, writer, and TEDx speaker Kitty Felde hosts the Book Club for Kids podcast, named by The Times of London as one of the top 10 kidcasts in the world. The Los Angeles native created the Washington bureau for Southern California Public Radio and covered Capitol Hill for nearly a decade, explaining how government works to grownups. Now she explains it to kids in a series of mystery novels and podcasts called The Fina Mendoza Mysteries. Kitty was named LA Radio Journalist of the Year three times by the LA Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.

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