Getting Groovy Again at Seventy-Four
Dear Nicholas, I’ve recently entered an exotic youthful world, a culture that is a wonder to me: TikTok. Have you been there? What did you think–or feel? I’m now a TikToker and youthfully groovy again, but like never before.
Tiptoeing Onto The Scene
I ventured out onto this social media platform because I have a new book out and want people to read it. These days TikTok–more specifically,the subculture there of BookTok–is the great driving force for book visibility. The influencers reporting on books here are powerful people–and usually quite young.
My novel, My Life On Earth And Elsewhere has a teenage main character. Darcy, age sixteen, is struggling to balance life in high school with a romance taking place in the astral zone. It was clear to me that I could not neglect TikTok.
Breathtaking and Baffling
My first glimpse of the short videos that make up this wild world was breathtaking and baffling. I felt as if I’d been heading to a library and then taken a wrong turn into an arena rock concert. My overall impression on my first run through some TikTok videos was come-as-you-are party with music by Taylor Swift and a few thousand others. Much dancing, some very glammed-up reviewers and some in clothes suitable for washing a car, plus great outpourings of emotion, weeping over sad books, etc. Videos! So much sound and motion!
First thought: I can’t do this.
But then I kept visiting. The seeming rave party was not the whole story. Booktokers are passionate PASSIONATE readers. And I admire that.
First move: I made a video of myself. Not about this particular book but about writing and keeping myself encouraged. A no-music rudimentary first try compared to the sophisticated reels I was seeing.
Then I got a young person to make some videos about my book for my page.
I asked what she thought about my own first effort. “Endearing,” she said.
Delightful Surprise Connection
Then I started seeking independent book reviewers on BookTok to read and report on my book. The first review came from someone I hadn’t even asked. Uncanny story: Valentina of time4bookswithv wrote me that she had read my first novel Revelation (published 1988) while living in Venezuela. Her mother gave it to her and it was one of the first books she read in English. The story meant a lot to her and she’d heard I had a new book out; she wanted to read it and spread the word. I was so happy, probably should have videoed my own outpouring of emotion.
Then she posted, showed herself reading My Life On Earth And Elsewhere, eating a cake pop, drinking a strawberry smoothie, jiving to the music, lip synching to the guy beside her, making notes, and underlining a favored bit of description on page 13 where main character Darcy is assessing her social standing as “Included but Not Pursued.”
Valentina also declared me an ” incredible author” and my new novel an “amazing book.” Days later she included it in a pile of books she said made her feel like the song “Enchanted.”
Seeing the first of these was an altogether different experience from, say, getting a good review in The New York Times. as some of my work has done. I’m now finding that a good review on TikTok is also highly worthy of celebration.
Since then another BookToker, called 223in2023, showed a video of herself happily opening the package with my book in it. I’m eager to hear what she thinks. A few more have asked for copies.
So I am now, at my advanced age, “active on TikTok.”And, with delight replacing my initial trepidation, still learning to be this new kind of groovy.