I leave today on the Localist train tour … it seems surreal even to write that. I planned this trip without really believing it would happen — I thought it could happen, that theoretically I could turn my blog (Shop Small) into a book, publish it, and take it on an East Coast tour of the U.S. via Amtrak … but it was more of an idea or a concept. I’m not an easy traveler (ask any of my friends and family). I don’t have unlimited funds. I don’t have a publisher or a marketing team behind me. Self-publishing and crowdfunding made a DIY book tour a possibility, but it’s also tricky and nervewracking, and there’s a reason this isn’t a normal thing to do.
Part of me (okay, a small part) hoped I wouldn’t meet my Kickstarter stretch goal, that I’d never have to leave my comfort zone and put myself at the mercy of Amtrak and UPS and rely on the goodwill of literally hundreds of people and booksellers who are helping to make this happen, because it would’ve been easier. I would’ve slept better last night. I wouldn’t be a bundle of nerves today. I wouldn’t be standing up in front of a group of strangers at the French Market in New Orleans tomorrow hoping people are ready to listen to my message instead of throwing rotten tomatoes at me. (I mean, it’s a farmer’s market — food is readily available for throwing.)
Another part of me is excited to begin and to see what this adventure holds. I know how lucky I am to have this opportunity, and I’m ready to share it with everyone who reads my blog and follows me on Instagram and wants to be a part of it.
I’m also glad that, in a way, this is a trial run. As you’ll see from my very non-professional map (I’m not a calligrapher or a cartographer, clearly), New Orleans is my first stop, but Birmingham is my second, so I’ll be back home by Monday morning. When I was planning, this seemed anti-climactic, but now it seems necessary — in many ways (mostly involving suitcase packing and book delivery, which is delayed thanks to ice storms), I’m not ready to begin.
But I know that I never really would be prepared to leave my home and my friends (not to mention my favorite local shops — whether I’ll survive a month without Paramount remains to be seen), and in that way I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. So today the journey begins, and tomorrow marks my first official non-Alabama Localist event and the first time I’m hopping on Amtrak’s Crescent Line with a plan to take it all the way to the end.
It’s incredibly scary, but so was going a year without big box stores. So was opening my own bookstore during a recession (and the rise of Amazon and ebooks). So was writing a book. I did those things with a lot of work, and with a LOT of help — my customers and my readers and my backers are the reason those things succeeded, and I believe that, with help, I can pull this crazy thing off, too. I hope you’ll join me, both by showing up in the cities I’m visiting and by following along, sharing and commenting on blogs and tweets and Instagrams and Facebook posts along the way. Today, I’m scared. But I’m also incredibly grateful for your support. It’s what got me here, and it’s what’s going to get me on that train today.
So thank you. And here we go …
Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.