Have Knowledge, Will Travel

Care for a few facts? Will you buy me lunch?

An academic book tour is much like the education system during colonial times. Then, itinerant educators traveled from village to village, trading their skills for a night or two in a barn, a bunch of carrots for the stew pot or the occasional piece of meat.

This is only a book tour because Marilynn wills it so. There is no budget from the publisher, so she called and wrote academics, booksellers, and friends to arrange five readings and public events in Ireland, north and south. This is in addition to the people she asked to review the book, the work she did creating a hit list of academic and general interest publications for the publisher, writing blogs and articles about the work, doing a radio interview for a Dublin book program, and — oh yeah — staying on top of the two classes she’s teaching this spring.

In return for those five readings and public events, we have accommodation in Belfast for two nights, Dublin for two nights, and Galway for one night. We’re staying with a friend outside Belfast both weekends and a friend near Galway for a night. There are still a couple of days unaccounted for, so we’re going to see what the weather’s like and where we’d like to visit.

Oh, the Places We’ve Stayed!

We promoted Marilynn’s Stewart Parker biography for three years of book tours during the Thanksgiving holiday 2012-2014. Declan was in elementary school, so we took him out a week early and jaunted for two whole weeks, visiting Ireland and England the first year, England the Scotland the second, and England and Wales in 2014.

Her pay included some lodging, a few rail or bus tickets, and many meals out following a lecture. Fortunately, Marilynn doesn’t do it for the pay but, rather, for exposure for the book and the chance for us to travel to interesting places:

  • When I said I’d never been to Wales, she arranged a visit to Aberystwyth, the westernmost point of Britain. We stayed in a terrific grand hotel that overlooked the sea and the town’s boardwalk. During dinner, a Welsh professor taught Declan a dozen or two words, which he promptly wrote down on a napkin (and still has).
  • The previous year, we stayed in college lodgings in Durham Castle, an 11th century building that’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and also serves as a student dorm for Durham University. We ate breakfast at the high table in the dining hall, which served as inspiration for the Hogwarts great hall in the Harry Potter films. I should also point out that the bathroom for our room was up about 20 uneven concrete steps to an unheated chamber that in November felt like it was two degrees above absolute zero.
  • We’ve also stayed in the dean’s quarters at Hertford College, Oxford. Oxford University is comprised of 44 colleges, and Hertford was founded in 1284, which makes Marilynn’s Jesus College a relative newcomer. The Welsh college, which she attended as a Rhodes Scholar, was founded in 1571.
  • And though we remember nothing about our room at the Radisson Blu in Galway, we all still fondly remember the breakfast bar, which was the largest and most elaborate we had ever seen before — or since.

It certainly beat a few carrots and a soup bone.

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