So much of life (and book festivals) is throwing noodles at the wall to see what sticks. What slides down the wall to the floor, you let the dogs eat. What sticks, teaches you that you got something right, and then you reproduce the steps you took, and enjoy the fact that you get to eat more great pasta than you let the dogs eat. There are so many factors involved in this experiment, it can be challenging. The definitive recipe book for this has yet to be written.
Which Pasta Company Makes The Best Noodles?
Do I have the right brand of pasta at the start? This is a tough one. You want to choose a brand that you think people will notice, one they are familiar with, one they've experienced before. I really thought I covered this detail well. The brand I chose was well-known, and large enough to be seen from all four directions... but I guess it wasn't familiar to enough people, because some still had trouble noticing it. So, perhaps not the right brand of pasta. Not a terrific start to dinner.
Are there obstructions between the pantry where you keep the pasta and the stove where you eventually will cook the pasta? Do you need to step over things like trucks, piles of sand, broken pieces of flooring? This is difficult to predict. Of course, if when you make plans for pasta night, and you know you're renovating the kitchen the same day, you probably don't want to cook pasta that night, and maybe do burgers on the grill, in the back yard instead. But, if you made plans for pasta dinner in advance, and the ceiling falls in, damaging the floor in the process... well, there's not much you can do about that. Unforeseen issues may arise, stuff you can't plan for, but you go ahead with your pasta dinner anyway, because you promised people you'd make pasta. So you dodge the cracks in the floor and the piles of drywall, navigating carefully around them to get to the stove, working hard not to spill the huge pot of water. Stuff happens that we can't control sometimes; but we make the best of it.
So, you've got a really nice pasta dinner planned, and you've told everyone you know. You sent out colorful, nifty invitations. You've told them about the kind of sauce you'll be using, the mountains of cheese that will be available, and you've even offered meat or meatless options. You tell every one of your friends, and you invite them to tell their friends, because after all, a pasta dinner is so much fun, you want to share it with as many people as you possibly can. You spend time posting flyers at local meeting places around town, places that don't usually serve pasta (and some that do), you send out several emails and redundant social media postings about the snazzy dinner you're hosting, and you send letters to the local media to let them know how cool your pasta dinner will be... you can only hope everyone will tell the world, or at least everyone within a twenty mile drive.
Pasta Dinner Day
So, you've got your pot of boiling water filled with noodles on the stove, and you add a bit of salt, just to make sure the pasta will cook evenly. You make sure there's plenty of garlic bread, and extra cheese... just in case. You set out the tables and chairs, and make sure that everyone has easy access to the bathrooms... again, just in case. You put out six large signs on the roads to direct people to the kitchen, and another just inside the door, hoping people will see them and make their way to your table in droves. You grab the camera, and get ready for some fun pasta dinner hi-jinks because, let's face it, your friends are the BEST at having a good time when they get to share pasta and talk about EVERYTHING they love about noodles.
Your Friends Arrive Hungry, But...
This is a good thing. You've cooked the pasta and thrown it against that wall. Most of it sticks, but there are a few pieces that fall to the floor. But, with a golden retriever and a little terrier, there's no worry of ants ruining dinner. So you press on. All is going well, you're all set up around the table, ready to share a splendiferous meal with a crowd of pasta enthralled people... but no one shows up. Well, okay, a few trickle in here and there... but not nearly as many as you had planned on, or hoped for. You're disappointed, of course, everyone is. You had really hoped that your friends would scream about this pasta dinner from the rooftops, but it appears that they didn't tell anyone. Or maybe your friends don't have any friends who like pasta, or at least, not this particular brand. You hoped that the local media would scream about it, too, but... crickets. So, everyone packs up and goes home, frustrated and feeling let down because you promised them a remarkable pasta dinner with tons of people, and it just didn't work out that way. You feel a little like a fraud and a lot like a failure.
The Next Day
After contemplating the pasta dinner over a cup of cocoa, and going over where things went wrong, you come to a few conclusions.
First, you should have anticipated that not everyone likes your brand of pasta. They're not used to seeing the green box, and so they didn't really notice the trouble you went to in buying the best brand you could find... while staying within your budget. You probably should have thought this through and asked people ahead of time what brand of pasta they preferred. That may have enticed more people to come to dinner.
Second, you should have checked more than six months in advance to see if any demolition work was planned for that section of the kitchen before you chose the date for your dinner. And in fact, you did, but either the renovations that took place wren't planned, or the workmen didn't bother to tell you... it's hard to nail down the truth on that one because contractors can be so unpredictable.
Third, you realize that you should have had more signs, more cheese, more bathrooms, and more time to take photos. Perhaps a clown or pony rides would have helped, too. But, you had a limited budget based on what your friends were willing to kick in for this awesome dinner, and there wasn't anything left for fun frills like that... so, dinner wasn't all that much fun. None of your friends offered to help, either, and you felt rude and awkward at the idea of delegating or asking for more money. A couple people even left the dinner early. Disheartened, you pack up your leftover pasta, and go home. The leftover pasta, and cheese, and garlic bread are all spoiled now, and you've lost a ton of money, and there's nothing left to give to charity. At this point, even the dogs aren't interested in cleaning up what's left.
Out of desperation, you write a note to all your friends. You tell them that you had planned to host another pasta dinner party in a few months, but after the utter failure you just experienced, you just aren't sure that's such a good idea. So, you ask for their feedback. You ask them to hide their identities so they can feel at ease in being brutally honest. After all, false feedback doesn't help anyone make a better pasta party. What you get back is indeed, brutally honest. But it's not incredibly helpful. There's a lot of critique, but not many specific suggestions on how to improve. Frustration looms large.
Finally, after much thought, a review of the financials, and a conversation with the dogs about their lack of interest in pasta, you make the decision NOT to host another pasta party. Although it's a lot of fun, it's too much work for just one person. And let's face it, you're not as young as you used to be. You contemplate that perhaps the dinner would have been more fun if you had spent more money on things like a balloon animal guy, a marching band, and a gigantic full-page ad in every newspaper in town, but you didn't want to ask your friends to pay more than the pasta dinner was actually worth; 'cus you know, that's all sorts of fun once, but then who wants to spend that kind of money on another pasta dinner party, like EVER?
There's a lot of sadness when you stare at the leftover noodles the next day, and even two days later when they're stinking up the kitchen, and realize that perhaps no matter what you try, people will NEVER like your pasta. So, you accept it and move on. Thinking that perhaps making chocolate chip cookies and only sharing them with your closest friends is a better idea.
I've always believed in the idea of doing what works and not doing what doesn't work... so, no more pasta dinner parties for me. But... I still like pasta. If you're hosting a pasta dinner party someday, I'd love it if you would include me on the guest list - and you can be sure, I'll tell the world!
Translation: Although fun for me, The Summer Indie Author Book Festival 2019 was a complete and utter failure. Pages Promotions will not be hosting another Indie Book Festival. If you already reserved a table for future planned events, your refund will be processed shortly. We appreciate your patience. Thank you.
6/25/2019 01:15:36 pm
Hi Diana- I felt so bad for you because this is exactly what happened at our first solo book one last year in Ludington. It was a total failure as far as bringing in outside people. As you may have noticed, we're trying again in conjunction with Ludington's "Friday Night Live." We hope to find something that works. I do appreciate all your hard work and I know you care about authors. We're all just struggling to figure out the marketing piece. The TV author read thing should be great, and I did some networking, so the day wasn't a complete loss-- only a financial disaster :D
6/25/2019 01:18:38 pm
Thank you, Joan. I appreciate your support. We'll spend some more tine on the TV program and see where that leads... perhaps those noodles will stick. :-)
6/25/2019 01:20:18 pm
PS- I was in charge of our flop last year, and our hopeful not-a-flop this year. I figure this is my last chance to redeem myself in this role!
6/25/2019 01:55:54 pm
Having also organized a floppish book event last year, I hear you. It's disheartening and frustrating. You do everything you can think of within your budget, but getting people in the door to partake of the fruits of your labor is really tough. I'm sorry you ended up with unhelpful feedback. :(
6/25/2019 09:07:36 pm
6/30/2019 04:59:07 pm
First of all, I empathize with your frustration Diana. I has sweated over elaborate gatherings at my place only to see 90% of the people who asked me to put it together suddenly find something better to do with their time that day. It can be very discouraging.
2/16/2022 01:57:23 am
Very much appreciated. Thank you for this excellent article. Keep posting!
2/16/2022 08:30:35 am
Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.
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