MYSTIC — Author Lara Ehrlich knows how to add a little razzle-dazzle to a virtual event.
Ehrlich, whose award-winning short story collection, "Animal Wife," will make its debut — virtually — next Tuesday, with all sorts of fun fanfare, is also the director of marketing for the New Haven-based International Festival of Arts & Ideas.
When the festival — which celebrated its 25th anniversary in June — was forced to move to a virtual stage, Ehrlich learned a few lessons about making online events come alive.
The experience "provided inspiration" for the "Animal Wife" event, she said, and taught her "how to connect with people in a new way."
It's always best to include a number of reasons to sign on to an event that requires sitting in front of a computer and logging on with a number or a code, said Ehrlich earlier this week from her home in Gales Ferry, where she lives with her husband, Douglas Riggs, and their 4-year-old daughter, Imogen.
The "Animal Wife" event will feature custom cocktails and appetizers from Mystic's popular Engine Room, a live musical performance by the local band Kat & Brad, a conversation moderated by Joy Baglio — founder and director of the Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop — ample opportunities for audience questions and participation and a certificate for a free "Animal Wife" pin and free doughnut from Young Buns Doughnuts for the first 25 people who order a copy of Ehrlich's book.
The "community aspect" of an event is important too, said Ehrlich, a Stonington High School graduate, who also graduated from Deans Mills and Mystic Middle Schools, Boston University, and the University of Chicago. She moved back to the region a few years ago to be closer to her parents, Pamela and Brian Ehrlich.
"Building community is so important right now," said Ehrlich, who hopes she'll see family, friends and former classmates at the "Animal Wife" event next week on the Crowdcast platform.
Anastasia Soroko, the event and marketing manager at both Bank Square Books in Mystic and Savoy Bookshop & Café in Westerly, has similar thoughts about community.
"It's exciting to bring the sense of community into the virtual world," said Soroko. "We think this is going to be a unique virtual event."
"As Lara's hometown bookstore," Soroko added, "we could not be more thrilled to partner with Lara to produce a virtual book launch party that encompasses several downtown Mystic businesses."
Although Ehrlich thinks people who know her or remember her from high school might be a bit surprised by her book of short stories, she's still hoping they'll attend and enjoy the virtual event with all its extras.
Ehrlich, who's been writing since she was a fourth-grader, said she explores the "complexities of women in transition" in "Animal Wife."
"It starts with stories about girls looking backwards," she explained ... "girls looking back ... with nostalgia ... and wondering what it means to be an adult."
The stories then move on to adult women questioning their identities and finally to mothers questioning what they've become ... but in unusual ways.
"I've always loved fairy tales," said Ehrlich. "I still do."
But not the sanitized Disney fairy tales with happy endings, she stressed, but stories from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen and Italo Cavalo ... the creepy fairy tales that look at "the darkness and the underbelly" of societal issues.
She said she finds inspiration in what Calvino says "of the way imagination bridges the gap between everyday existence and an idealized alternative."
"In villages where women bore most of the weight of a constricted life, witches flew by night on broomsticks,” he writes at the beginning of his "Italian Folktales."
The 15 stories of "Animal Wife," she said, "are unified by girls and women who cross this threshold seeking liberation from family responsibilities, from societal expectations, from their own minds."
Ehrlich said she and Baglio plan to discuss magic and fabulism in short stories, the craft of fiction writing, redefining the archetypal woman, dismantling the myth of "having it all" and other topics inspired by the themes of "Animal Wife," which won the Red Hen Press Fiction Award, chosen by Rhode Island author Ann Hood.
The event is free and open to the public and will take place virtually on the Crowdcast platform, although registration is required. Ehrlich will sign and personalize books ordered through Bank Square Books. Event information and registration can be found by visiting www.banksquarebooks.com/animalwifelaunch.