2010 at 5am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
I have many reasons to love Susan Gregg Gilmore, not the least of which is that she brought me a much-needed cup of coffee on the morning of the Book Blogger Convention (for which she baked more than a hundred individual pound cakes), when we discovered all too late that the Javits Center’s Starbucks wasn’t open. She’s just that awesome, and she is also a wonderful writer (her debut novel Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen was one of my book club’s favorites last year). I’m looking forward to hosting Susan’s event at Fountain Bookstore next month, when she celebrates the release of her second novel, The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove. Here’s Susan on on southern traditions, baby showers, and her idea for the perfect book event.
Come summer, I can count on three things here in my native Tennessee – a heat index soaring into triple digits, a legion of chiggers and mosquitoes searching for a tasty spot to land on my bare legs, and a social calendar filled with invitations to graduations, weddings, bridal and baby showers.
Ah, the monogrammed silver trays, the monogrammed towels, the monogrammed stationery, the monogrammed cosmetic bags, napkins and flatware. Give me anything, anything at all, and I will put a monogram on it – the embroidered stamp that says, “Yes, I gave this gift some serious thought even if it only cost $15 at the local Hallmark store.”
In the last six weeks, I have attended more parties and eaten more pimento cheese sandwiches than any one woman need to endure in a lifetime. (BTW, FYI, I am not playing another diaper game be it What’s in the Dirty Diaper, Change the Baby’s Diaper, Pass the Diaper . . . EVER!) But there is one invitation that stands out among all the rest, one date that is always marked in my calendar in ink, one event that in its very nature epitomizes the custom and ritual of Southern etiquette. That’s right – the beloved, soon-to-be famous, Sip ‘n See.
Simply put, the Sip ‘n See is predicated on two essential elements. There must be something to sip, and there must be something to see. Most typically, punch and a baby. Sweet tea and a bride works well, too. As does the more modern variation, beer and a potential boyfriend, although this affair is often referred to as a Guzzle ‘n Nuzzle and seems to be preferred by the under thirty crowd.
I have also seen the Sip ‘n See format successfully applied to a house warming. And the funeral wake is actually nothing more than a post-mortem Sip ‘n See with finger foods typically being replaced by cream-of-chicken-soup-based casseroles. All in all, it really is the perfect social model, paradigm, if you will, that can be applied to almost any number of special life moments deemed worthy of proper and formal commemoration.
So, here’s my thinking. One, my second book, The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove, will be released next month. Two, people are always asking if writing a book is like giving birth. Personally, I think it is a much longer, harder process. Therefore, three, I have decided that I am entitled to my very own Sip ‘n See, a literary shower of sorts. Of course, this would be a more authorial version featuring, hmm, let me think, Cosmopolitans or cucumber-infused Bloody Marys, a plethora of appetizers (quite possibly to include sushi and chicken satay), spiced nuts, and two sweets (the requisite number no matter what the purpose of the Sip ‘n See), one of which in this case must be pound cake. Bezellia loves pound cake.
Truth be told, this would be as much for Bezellia Grove as for me. After all, in my head, she is a very real girl deserving of her own formal social debut. She’s a fifth-generation Nashvillian, born with the right name and the right address. Anything less than a proper introduction to the reading public would be, well, absolutely INAPPROPRIATE!
But, seriously, this Sip ‘n See concept could be the next big event in the publishing world, following right on the heels of the e-book, Kindle, Twitter and blogging. As publishing houses enforce tighter marketing budgets and authors are left more and more to promote their work on their own, I see the literary Sip ‘n See as a win-win-win for both writer, publisher and retailer.
Bookstore owners could host the events in their stores, an e-vite would suffice, no need for formal paper invitations. Readers could come and admire the new book. They could drink a bit of sherbet punch, nibble on a cheese straw while the author smiles and thanks everyone profusely for taking the time to come and share this most special moment with him or her. Monogrammed gifts need not be presented, although a book purchase would be appreciated by both store owner and author alike.
OK, I admit it. This is beginning to sound like many of the readings and signings I have attended in bookstores, sans the sherbert punch. But I feel so strongly about the power of the Sip ‘n See that I think it must be further investigated. Sometimes a little retooling, a little renaming, rebranding, repackaging is all that is needed to insure a product’s success. BankAmericard became VISA. Opal Fruits, what the heck is that?, became Starburst. Ah, see what I mean. And now with the literary world in flux, I think the timing is right to introduce the Sip ‘n See. Try it on for size. Take it out for a spin. You get my drift? So if you see an invite in your inbox for a Sip ‘n See, please, do not hit delete!
Learn more about Susan Gregg Gilmore at her website, and follow her on Twitter. The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove will be out August 17th. Mark your calendars, and keep an eye out for a fun giveaway here. And if you’re in or near Richmond, join Susan and me for a fabulous event at Fountain Bookstore on August 23rd.