It was a gorgeous spring evening when I parked my car in a city lot last night and headed to Country Bookshelf on Main Street. Although my inner cynic reminded me that we will probably get more snow in Bozeman, I couldn’t help being buoyed by the warm evening.

When I arrived at the store, I was pleased to see a window display promoting my talk. A large poster announced that a discussion of the 2010 Montana Book Award by Bozeman author and member of the selection committee—me. The latest winner and the four honor books were displayed conspicuously. That—along with the nice advertisement in this morning’s newspaper—will surely draw an audience, I thought.

When I stepped inside, the clerk greeted me with a smile. (They always greet you with a smile at Country Bookshelf.) There was another poster beside the cash register.

We chatted amiably. Then I explained that I was planning to do brief readings from each of the books, so I needed a few minutes to mark the spots I had chosen with post-it notes. Then I made my way to the mezzanine where there was another display of the MBA winners.

I was finding the selected spots in the books, when an acquaintance came in and began asking questions. I answered as well as I could while searching the books.

When the appointed hour arrived, only three people were there and that included the storeowner and a clerk. As I was deciding what to do, a woman arrived and hope flickered for a moment.

With such a small group, we re-arranged the chairs. I abandoned the lectern, sat by the book display, and we began. It was magic. I had everything I needed: a topic I love (good books) and an attentive (albeit small) audience.

I outlined the history of the Montana Book Award and described how it works. (I’ve blogged about that here.) Then I launched into a discussion of each of the books. I said that reviewers usually neglect books’ connections to Montana history and culture and tried to correct that. I described their literary merits in terms of research, writing, and ability to engage readers. And I read short excerpts.

Here’s a list of titles with links to reviews I posted earlier:

I paused now and then to answer questions and let the presentation amble wherever the audience wanted to take it. All too soon, it was done. I read a short excerpt from my book, Adventures in Yellowstone, and signed copies to leave at the store.

I am grateful to the owner of Country Bookshelf, Ariana Paliobagis, and her staff. They did everything they could to make the evening a success—and it was, at least for me.

I only wish I had drawn a larger audience of book lovers—and book buyers. I hope you’ll do yourself a favor by rushing to Country Bookshelf and buying Montana Book Award winners. The store and the books deserve your support.

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