In August of 2016, I wrote a blog post that would have a greater impact on my life than I could ever have imagined. Two months after that visit to the Charcoal Oven in Oklahoma City, I received a call from a publishing company in Chicago; they’d come across what I’d written. A short time afterwards, I had a contract for a book. More than two years later, the result of that contract hit the streets: Lost Restaurants of Tulsa was a reality.
I hoped it would be a success, naturally…but I had no idea what was in store for me. It all started on December 1. The first place that the public could get their hands on the book was a craft and local goods show at the Tulsa Garden Center called Carols and Crumpets. Sam sells her jewelry there every year and I got to tag along with my book. With no advertising or fanfare, I sold more than a box. A good sign, but I dared not think much of it.
On Sunday the 2nd, I invited the families that I had interviewed for the book to my home for a celebration. Several people came by, including a few I’d never met in person, and we had a splendid time. During that day, my publisher also let me know the book was already heading for a second printing – and the book hadn’t even hit shelves yet.
December 3rd was the official Launch Day. I started off by appearing on Good Day Tulsa at the local ABC affiliate. I was pleasantly surprised to find a friend there that was also waiting for a little time on the television: Briana Shepard. She was there promoting her upcoming craft show and had also helped put me in touch with a member of the Bishop family, an integral part of my book. It was also Samantha’s birthday and we celebrated with our usual tradition: a drink at Hodges Bend.
A few days later, I spoke to the Tulsa World and they wrote a wonderful article about the book. I spoke at a local Rotary meeting and to the Lions Club. I was interviewed on the local NPR station. It was a whirlwind and I hadn’t even had the big launch event yet.
My first book signing was at Ida Red, a gift shop/soda fountain downtown. It was First Friday in the Tulsa Arts District, but a cold front kept most people home that night. Still, I had a good stream of people come in to get a copy of the book.
The formal launch event was originally set for Saturday, December 8th at the Tulsa Historical Society. It had been postponed due to a particularly dire weather forecast…but when the day came there was no winter weather. I decided to go up there anyway in case people showed up — and I’m glad I did! Over 50 people came in to see my presentation and buy a book. I was delighted.
I felt that the turnout would eat into the rescheduled event on Monday evening, but to my great surprise another 120 people showed up to hear me speak and get a bite of some “found” foods. Samantha had spent all day cooking and baking to provide goodies from a few restaurants featured in the book. We had Hot Toddy Bread (Middle Path Cafe), Baked Fudge (The 1800/The Garden), Blackbottom Pie (Pennington’s), and more. It was a massive success!
Over the next two weeks, I had a near constant stream of book signings all across town. Decopolis, Whitty Books, both Barnes & Noble stores. I brought Morning Buns (Bakery on Cherry Street) to Magic City Books and My Pi Pizza to Mother Road Market.
I stopped by KTUL again on December 20th for a second spot on Good Day Tulsa (the first one had been interrupted by a national story) and once again bumped into a friend: Michael Wallis. He was there to talk about his new book about Los Luceros in New Mexico. We were waiting in the Leake Conference Room, named after a previous owner of the station – coincidentally, a man who I’d interviewed about another venture of his, restaurant The Razor Clam.
My last book signing event of the year took place at Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on Saturday, December 22nd. By then, the publisher had requested a third printing and books were sold out across the city. I brought my last box of books and sold out in less than an hour. I also learned that the book had climbed to #2 on the Oklahoma Nonfiction Best Seller List.
I am thankful. I am awestruck. I am honored. I had hoped the book would be a success and it has surpassed my wildest dreams. I am so very happy that it has been received well and that it is being enjoyed by people across generations. The family stories contained within those pages are important and I am beyond happy that they are now captured forever.
Thank you to everyone that bought a book. Thank you to everyone that came to one of my talks. Thank you to everyone that told me how excited they were to read these stories. Thank you to everyone that supported me and helped me at every stage of this process. Most of all, thank you to Samantha. I am so blessed to have a partner that is so supportive and so encouraging. I am grateful for you all.
“What’s your next project?” is the question I am most often asked. Truly, I don’t know. I want to get back out on the road and explore new places with my camera. I want to learn more about Tulsa, especially the restaurants I didn’t get to feature in the book. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to write another one some day. For now, though, my next project is a nice long rest.