Last night I spoke to an intimate crowd at Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta.  Okay, by which I mean not a jumbo crowd.  But, hey, I bet they were probably very intimate people, anyway. In fact, they were the nicest crowd you could imagine.  And a few of them stayed around a long time and we talked about writing in all its various forms, and whether MFA programs “work,” and which contemporary writers we love, and things like that.  Plus, I got to get a tour of Margaret Mitchell’s apartment, which was great fun.  It was a pretty small, dim place.  Guess whether she lived there before or after publishing “Gone with the Wind.”

I am a Margaret too, though long ago I threw it over in favor of Meg.  This was partly because I wanted to be a writer and had grandiose fantasies along those lines, and I figured that the field was already crowded (Mitchell; Drabble; Atwood); and partly because, whenever I took a standardized test as a kid, I could not fit my entire name in all the bubbles, letter for letter.  MARGARET R WOLITZER became MARGARET R WOLITZE

I also saw the actual movie-set front door from Tara, and I lightly brushed my hand along the same metal that Vivien Leigh once touched.  (This is why my publisher sent me here: so I could touch things that Vivien Leigh touched.)  Book tours are strange animals:  you don’t know who you’ll meet, how many you’ll meet, or what they will think of you.  I think the trick is to try not to take your own pulse; instead, it’s better during a book tour to think of yourself as one of the business travelers who populate the hotels you stay in and the airports you walk through.

With that in mind, I have decided that while I am between events–eating a chopped Cobb salad in a hotel room or standing in a brass-lined hotel elevator, say, or wheeling my bag of standard black-jacket reading outfit and novels (my own new one, and other people’s)–I will not worry about my reputation, my reviews or my book sales.  I will not!  Je refuse!  Instead, I will simply be my own alter-ego, a business traveler named Margaret R. Wolitzer.   I work for Kempco, in marketing, and this week I am traveling around the country to meet with the new regional managers.  I hope our meetings go well.