- Gail Wilson Kenna
What to write? About the frustration of trying to sell books if you’re me…
My problem as a salesperson began with Girl Scout cookies. In Fullerton my family lived in a rented house for six years in a neighborhood of modest homes. Lots of older persons, including widows on fixed incomes. And GS cookies were not cheap. How to get rid of my allotment when I was unable to push the product? I only know from third grade through sixth, I dreaded the annual GS cookie sale.
Then my senior year in high school, I was chosen as Fullerton High’s Young Careerist at Buffums’ department store in Santa Ana. Why had I applied when I had no acumen for sales? Call me dense. The selected careerists worked four Saturdays a month & during holidays, rotating departments in the classy store. Then during July and August a careerist stayed in one department. I was given Lingerie, upstairs where rich women had clothing modeled for them. Five agonizing days a week. A real salesgirl (no use of woman then) gets a customer to buy two slips when she comes in for one, and four pair of panties when she seeks two. A $1000 dollar scholarship awaited the best careerist. I knew I would not be selected because the silver fox manager in Men’s had given me the lowest possible score. Did any young careerist have the guts to report him for rubbing his prick against our bums in the narrow “tie & handkerchief” counter? No, but when I saw the fox appear, I exited the counter and stared him down, all four Saturdays that January. In February the department store manager called me to his office and asked why I had gone from a perfect score of 100 in Stationery to a 70 in Men’s. Ah, 1961…the sounds of silence. Three years later, my Shakespeare professor at USC said if I would do him a favor, he would raise my C+ to a B. He was talked about, but did any female English major take action against Dr. A. then? I doubt it.
The point is I’m a failure at selling books. Nothing in me will pitch one. “Listen folks. You must know an undocumented person in the Northern Neck who might want to read Here to There and Back Again to improve his or her English. Or you might know a young person with reading problems and Covid angst. The book’s main character is on his way to California in 1849. Cholera is one worry for Eugene B. Chase. And the story told is an old one. It’s about leaving home, facing uncertainty, surviving travail: and then the return home, stronger and changed from the journey."
I didn’t count the persons last night in a local library, enjoying appetizers and wine, who came to hear “The Legacy of Letters.” I was one of three who spoke. And once again, I affirmed that I lack a pitchfork for sales. So why, I ask myself, have I written, Tennis Talk of a Nobody?
A simple answer. I like writing books, even if I don’t know how to sell them. I had hoped New Readers’ Press would want Here to There and Back Again, a revised and improved edition of Along the Gold Rush Trail, which New Reader’s Press sold for twenty years. The current editor told me the company no longer does “pleasure reading books” and concentrates on test preparation materials.
Next week: Man’s Fate by Andre Malraux…a timely novel whether a reader knows it or not.