I spent my Saturday shuttling back and forth to Peterborough. There were two author-signing events at the local bookstore. I attend these to get a sense of what works in anticipation of the day I have a book signing of my own.
The first woman had written a fictional novel that held little interest for me. I studied her body language and noted how long she read from her book then opened the discussion to the audience. There was a good-sized crowd so I was able to slip in and out unnoticed.
The second was a bright, personable woman of my age. Her new book was a fictional account of a serial killer in California. But I noted an earlier work, a memoir, and bought a copy.
There were lots of her friends and fans in attendance. After she set up the book and read for 10 or 15 minutes, she invited questions from the audience. The discussion turned to her memoir of several years ago.
When she finished, a line formed as the audience rose to have their books autographed. I ducked out of line pretending to need to take a look at my iPhone. When I rejoined the queue I was last, right where I wanted to be so as not to be overheard. Joyce smiled up at me and took my copy of her memoir. “You look familiar do I know you?” “Not yet,” I replied.
“So what brought you here today? Have you read my memoir?” “Not yet. But I must be honest. I published my first book, a memoir, this week. I came because I wanted to see how you conducted a book signing and fell in love with your memoir.” Her smile faded and her eyes narrowed. She looked down at the book and began writing. I felt like I had just made the biggest faux pas in history. “What’s the name of your book?”
“Therapeutic Misadventures.” She looked up. “Great title. What’s it about?” I guessed she felt she had to follow this line of questioning. The elevator pitch came out as she wrote. “I don’t have time to review or even look at all the stuff people send me but please feel free to send me an email. You can find me through my FaceBook page.” With that she snapped the book shut, pasted a smile on her face and said, “Good luck.”
I have seen this before. My daughter Hanni was studying ceramics. When we attended the huge annual craft fair in Sunapee, NH last year, she was drawn to the different artists booths. Her questions about types of clay, glazes and firing techniques were answered one of two ways. Either the artist enthusiastically jumped into the conversation, educating and questioning, or they threw up a huge invisible wall and dismissed her. Why do artists and authors not recognize that someone took the time to encourage and see them when they were starting out? Why is there a sense of propriety and a refusal to acknowledge others?
I left deflated and sad. The glow that had followed me all week and the feeling of accomplishment evaporated like a puddle in the desert. As I drove home, I thought, “NO, when you asked if you knew me I said ‘Not Yet’ and I meant it!”