Cara Black Sep 2020
Cara Black’s Back…Zooming from San Francisco
This is the year for “firsts.” We’ve all been put in the position of doing things we never dreamed of doing for the first time, like confining ourselves to home for months on end, like wearing surgical masks in public places and like holding virtual meetings on an app called “Zoom” that we didn’t know existed until Covid-19 became the center of our lives.
Our monthly coffee gathering, Après-Midi, which we have held the second Tuesday of every month since 2003—of which I’ve only missed one due to illness in all these years—and which has been held in the same café all these years, too, was aborted when the café shut their doors. The speakers couldn’t get to Paris, the participants couldn’t or wouldn’t leave their homes for fear of contracting the virus and it followed the “norm” for all public events…meaning not taking place at all.
The first month after lockdown—April—we just cancelled it. In May we held our first Zoom gathering with author, Kathy Borrus, then again on Zoom with author, Talia Carner in June and author Ella Dyer in July. The café reopened in July, but because we normally don’t hold a gathering in August, we set our sights on the first live Après-Midi for September to be “back to normal”…whatever that meant.
Author, Cara Black, was scheduled to come to Paris, but that didn’t happen, so we were faced with the dilemma of either changing speakers or combining the best of both worlds by holding it live and on Zoom at the same time. Cara, the good sport that she is, agreed to be up early morning in San Francisco to meet our 3 p.m. Paris launch time. We really weren’t sure how this was going to work, but logistically we knew it could, with some planning.
Those who could and would attend live, did…about 15 people—some regulars, some newcomers. Mostly everyone wore masks while they weren’t eating or drinking. The projector was set up to show the Zoom meeting on the wall, in the same spot where we normally project the speaker’s presentation. We set up a mini Bluetooth speaker to project the sound. We had two computers controlling the meeting—mine projecting it on the wall and Patty Sadauskas’ as a co-host letting in the participants and monitoring the recording.
Technically, it didn’t go very smoothly, and we learned a lot from this first attempt at combining the live meeting with the Zoom. The speaker conflicted with the audio on the computer, sending wild reverberations whenever I wanted to add comments…so I couldn’t make the usual jokes or ask questions like I might normally do. But, I think the solution to that is to wear a head set plugged into the computer instead, something we hadn’t anticipated. And one of other mistakes we made was to record the scene more in “Gallery View” than “Speaker View.” Live and learn! Next time will be more perfect…
In spite of the technical challenges, more than 100 people from around the world showed up on Zoom to hear Cara talk about her latest book, “Three Hours in Paris.” In case you haven’t already been exposed to Cara and her 18 other books, she’s a bestselling author of the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series, which are all set in Paris, each in a different arrondissement. Only two are left unaddressed: the 15th and the 19th, but are in the works. This new book is a real shift from her usual.
Hearing all about her experience writing this novel, which took years and tons of research, was fascinating. She held us in the palm of her hand for almost all of the two hours as we listened intently and then questioned her. Cara is one of our favorite speakers. She makes you feel as if you’ve known her your whole life; is candid about her writing with no pretense and is intensely interesting as she tells stories about researching murder and in this case, World War II. She comes to speak about once a year, or with every new book, and always draws a big audience. Her books are a delight to read and this one is one of her best—a real page-turner with a fabulous new protagonist. She did not disappoint, even at such an early hour as she downed a strong cup of coffee, the sun coming up behind her out the window of her San Francisco home that we could see on Zoom.
Penelope Fletcher, proprietor of the Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore in Paris, brought Cara’s books for us to purchase, with Cara promising to send book plates to all who did. For those of you who missed the event, but would like to watch it as it unfolded, you can visit vimeo.com/455874059/…and please don’t be too critical for our first attempt at this!
- Patty Sadauskas
- Willaim Jordan
- Ella Dyer
- Sharon Korman
- Alicia Kartuzinski
- Julia Frey
- Surinder Bains
- Craig Carlson
- April Pett
- Janet Hulstrand
- Pat Hallam
- Diane Haggerty
- Summer Allman
- Plus others who might not have signed in or joined us on Zoom!