Blog Post #137: '20 Years a Filmmaker' Book Signing at Books & Books Recap!
Updated: Jan 25
A book signing for Gabriel Rhenals' 1st book '20 Years a Filmmaker' took place on Sunday, January 8th, 2023 from 4pm to 6pm at Books & Books (Coral Gables).
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” –Maya Angelou
Back in June of last year, I attended a book signing event organized by my friend Kelsey Milian Lopez for her debut poetry collection The Sociology of a Miami Girl (read my review of the book here) at Books & Books in Coral Gables. So impressed with the space and service offered to local authors, I was at once determined to collaborate with the locally-owned and independent bookstore over a book signing event of my own once 20 Years a Filmmaker, which I was still working on at the time, was completed and published.
In early October, after 20 Years a Filmmaker was published through Amazon's self-publishing service Kindle Direct Publishing, I followed through with my intent and reached out to Books & Books' Director of Events & Marketing Cristina Nosti. Our interaction was immediately convivial and productive. By the end of the ten-minute call, we'd set a January event date and discussed all of the operational particulars. Shortly after, all of the required paperwork was submitted and I was left with ample time to figure out what the event program would entail.
I decided on a discussion, an audience Q&A, a live music performance and the obligatory book signing ritual. Simple!
For the discussion, I would need a host. However, I didn't need to rack my brain over a list of potentials. My immediate and only choice was my mentor and former high school English teacher Michael Hill. What better facilitator of a dialogue than someone who'd spent three decades as a public educator (now retired)? Plus, we've developed a sterling rapport over the years and our chemistry is absolute!
For the live music performance, I originally considered hiring an instrumentalist specialized in the classical repertoire; to play something light and lilting by either Bach, Mozart or Vivaldi to complement my own personal music preference. But in a change of heart, I decided to offer my younger sibling Daniel an opportunity to share his own knack for musicmaking at the event.
With the start of the new year, the event was just around the corner! I met with Mr. Hill and my brother Daniel separately to discuss the plan for the event and granted them considerable latitude in their roles as host and performer, respectively. I trusted them.
As the big day drew nearer, I was more calm and assured than nervous and apprehensive. After all, I'd written a 443-page book. A little public speaking, of which I was more than prepared for as a Toastmaster, was as easy as pie in comparison.
On the Sunday of the event, I arrived an hour-and-a-half early and found manager Jack Kiely who I found instantly dutiful and kind. He would be responsible for setting up the room where the event would be taking place and providing a brief formal introduction before Mr. Hill began his deliberations. Mr. Hill also arrived fairly early and we spent some time going over some last-minute details about the event.
About 15 minutes before the expected start of the event, Mr. Hill and I stood near the entrance of the bookstore and greeted arriving guests. Many warm smiles and sentiments were exchanged. With the public generally released from the grip of the pandemic, normalcy felt restored.
Two particularly guests I was most pleased to see were Sylvan Seidenman, my former New World School of the Arts guidance counselor, and Louise Farnsworth, a former Miami Killian Senior High teacher. Both supportive figures from my past and both referenced in my book.
With the gallery filling up nicely with roughly 25 guests or so, it was time to initiate the proceedings. I signaled to Mr. Kiely to begin his introduction at the podium and took a seat at the book signing table.
After Mr. Kiely's introduction, Mr. Hill replaced him at the podium and began his hosting duty with an evocative and heartfelt two-minute speech about the circumstances that led to our friendship and his high regard for what I'd accomplished with this book. It was a great honor and I couldn't have asked for a more appropriate start, in both tone and content, to my humble book signing event.
Following Mr. Hill's impressive opening, we both took our seats on the two high-chairs in front of the audience and began our discussion. Owing to our thorough preparation, the discussion unwinded as expected with some anticipated but refreshing deviations. My prepared and extemporaneous speaking skills were both mobilized for the occasion. We touched upon such topics as the origin of the idea for the book, my writing process, significant challenges along the way, the importance of literacy, advice for aspiring authors, my next creative endeavor, etc. With about 20 diverse topics addressed in total, perhaps it's no surprise that the audience Q&A following the discussion was rather muted. We left few stones unturned!
After the Q&A, it was now time for some live music! My brother took the stage with his acoustic guitar and introduced the first of two songs he'd be playing: "Wonderwall" by one of his favorite bands Oasis. His performance was spirited and vibrant. After the conclusion of that song, he played an original song of his, titled "More Love Than a Garbage Truck". Again, a stellar performance also met with enthusiastic applause from the swooning attendees.
Now, it was time for the actual book signing portion of this book signing event. I encouraged all of my guests to purchase a copy of the book if they didn't already possess one for signing. Many fresh books soon awaited my John Hancock and I signed all of them with the person's name, the phrase "ARS LONGA, VITA BREVIS!" (dually meaning "skillfullness takes a long time and life is short" as well as "art can outlive its creators") and my initials.
After the book signing, the event was quietly concluded. However, I did spend some time conversing with several guests as I gathered my belongings and readied to vacate the closing bookstore. One of these guests was Jack Kierski, a passionate young filmmaker who I couldn't help but share some advice related to making feature films. After bidding farewell to some few remaining guests, I located Mr. Kiely and thanked him for his most gracious service today before walking to the parking garage across the street to head home.
20 Years a Filmmaker is a supplement to my filmmaking activity which I regard as the main artery of my creative pipeline. I said as much during my discussion. However, I hope that however secondary the book is to me, it can bring some modicum of green flora to a barren desert. That said, I am eternally grateful to all who attended my book signing and intend to read the book. Enjoy!
If you're interested in visiting Books & Books, which I highly recommend, and purchasing a signed copy of 20 Years a Filmmaker, there will be signed copies available for 90 days. So, stop on by soon and thank you for your care and support!
(Photos by Katherine Ruiz Echanique, Patricia Mei Rhenals and Gabriel Rhenals)