I recently published my first novel (a comedy about money and class called The Mean$) and decided I wanted to throw a book party. But having a party, especially in your own apartment, is stressful. I was overjoyed, then, when my fashion designer friend offered to host it for me in her beautiful townhouse.
Alas, she was traveling on all my proposed party dates, and eventually it became clear that she couldn’t do it: I would have to host the party myself. I am a champ at hosting children’s birthday parties—I have three kids—but adult parties are another matter. For one thing, I have been sober for decades. My way of partying may look different from a lot of other folks’.
But I was determined to make this event something genuinely fun for me—I worked hard on my book after all—as well as enjoyable for my guests. The following small choices I made ended up being significant in ways I could not have anticipated, and I share them with you in case you, too, have partly-throwing angst.
-The first good decision I made was to outsource everything associated with alcohol. I wanted to serve alcohol because I knew many guests would enjoy it, and it is traditionally served at a book party, which is essentially a weekday cocktail party. But I didn’t want to think or worry about any of that part.
I asked my friend Hank for a recommendation, and he gave me the number of his good friend. I started texting Matt about what the drink I knew I wanted: an aperol spritz. It’s a pretty red drink with a slice of orange in it and it can made with or without alcohol. “I’ve been sober for a long time” I texted. “So In terms of ingredients, just buy what you think is best.”
When he replied, “I’m sober too!” I smiled. I had found that unicorn: a sober bartender! I let him handle everything—drinks, cups, ice. It was a huge relief.
-The other thing I did which was helpful which was think creatively about party staff. I didn’t want passed hors d’oeuvres—too fancy—plus, my book is about the comic tribulations of a striver who is living beyond her means. I decided the only help that was really necessary (beyond Matt) would be a doorman (for security) and a person to guide people to our floor in the elevator. Our building in the Garment District doesn’t have a doorman and our elevator can only handle 7 people at a time. (There have been instances after parties where the elevator has gotten stuck because unknowing guests overloaded it—I wanted to avoid that).
I decided to shake up these expected roles, though, and have a little fun with my guests. Through a local improv group, I found a doorman to play “Karl,” my hapless intern who is totally disorganized, and “Kendra,” an elevator attendant who squabbles with Karl and thinks he’s an idiot. Both Karl and Kendra used bananas as phones to talk to each other and Karl’s shirt had a banana print on it. When guests entered our apartment, the first thing they saw was a piece of furniture shaped like a banana (one we have owned for years, by the artist Misaki Kawai) with my books on it.
-I wanted food but nothing fussy. Flatbreads with various savory vegetable toppings, by Grandaisy Bakery, turned out to be the perfect answer. The bakery cut them into bite-sized squares and guests could pick them up with their hands. Because there is a dog named Twix in my book, I also had a large bowl of fun-sized Twix candy bars in case anyone wanted a sweet. I put them in a bowl made by my mother, who passed away last year.
-Because I was inviting fellow authors to the party, and the writing world is a small community, I decided to ask each author who was attending to bring a copy of their latest book. I set up a table I put a sign that read “These Books Were All Written By Authors AT THIS PARTY.” I was really happy to see that the table got a lot of attention. It’s surprising how often you go to a party and really don’t know who you are talking to. But some guests were able to ask me, “Hey, introduce me to the person who wrote this,” and I could do that. Instant connection!
-I had fun assembling the playlist, which were all songs about money (it’s surprising how many there are). And I found a fabulous gold suit to wear with dollar signs embroidered on the lapels. The suit was by Fashion Brand Company. And even better—I bought it on sale!
With food, drink, and my outfit taken care of, my husband Frank and I were free to (try to) declutter the apartment (I mentioned those three kids, yes?). And when I got the call from Unicorn Matt that global supply chain issues meant that the cost of aperol with alcohol was prohibitively expensive, it was easy to say fine, just choose a nice wine, then.
Aprerol with alcohol was hard to find, but as it turned out, aperol without alcohol was plentiful. So my guests either had a glass of wine or a nonalcoholic aperol spritz, which I quickly dubbed a Bloody Raccoon, after another character in my book. Matt said it was the first party he had ever worked at where the nonalcoholic drinks were more popular than than the alcoholic ones.
Mid-party, I said a few words of gratitude for my guests and for the publishing team who had worked on my book. And I was happy to note that the day after the party, because of these small decisions, I felt elated and connected, not depleted.