Some of us authors and readers can’t wait to hit the road to conferences, bookstores, and libraries. Others are more hesitant, or unsure where to start. Recently, one semi-wary Chick had the perfect opportunity to dip a talon into the waters…
Remember the childhood game “Mother, May I?” It required great cunning and skill, not to mention nerves of steel. How many steps—baby or giant or umbrella or helicopter—might be one too many, and then you’d have to run for your life and probably be tagged and have to be Mother (ugh)? That’s the way I’d felt lately, even though I’m lucky enough to be fully vaccinated.
When I received an invitation from our local library to attend a multi-author book signing, I was delighted—but a little worried, too. Was I ready to rejoin the world again? Were readers?
There was another teensy issue, too. I haven’t published a book in a while, and my first short story won’t appear until fall. My current work-in-progress is taking me forever to finish. Would people think I wasn’t a “real” writer anymore—a fraud? Gulp.
Then there’s always the fear of that book signing where not a single person appears. Hey, it happens. Part of Real Author Life. Maybe you’ve seen the classic cartoon by The Surreal McCoy, where the signing table with a “Meet the Author” sign has no line, and the table next to it with the “Meet the Author’s Dog” sign has a line out the door. I considered bringing my dog Farley. He promised to be good (see photo below). Two seconds later, he trampled through the daffodils. Sorry, Farley.
There were other worries, too. Would people still want bookmarks? Candy? Pens? How could I offer them in a safe way? I decided on wrapped Starburst, no bowl, and a discreetly placed pump bottle of Purell (I have plenty of those on hand, trust me.)
Not to mention, what should I wear? I couldn’t remember how authors were supposed to dress. But anything black was a safe choice for a mystery writer, right? And, of course, a mask (thank you, Ellen, for gifting me one with a cute Murder She Wrote design). Luckily, it was cold and windy, so I could add my trusty yellow crime tape scarf.
Turns out we authors enjoyed ourselves immensely. We barely got ourselves set up in time, since we were all so busy meeting each other and chatting with our library director (thank you, Sam!) and comparing notes on the Current State of Publishing/Bookselling. We ranged in age from 10 to 75 and represented a variety of genres: YA, picture book, romance/women’s fic, historical, cookbook, mystery/suspense, and memoir.
And readers DID show up, despite clouds and wind and 14 months worth of pandemic misery. It warmed my heart that many came specifically to support us and buy our books. I was especially touched when a reader arrived to return books she’d checked out by each of us in anticipation of the event—and she wanted to buy some of our other titles. The youngest author sold several copies of her fairy picture book she’d written with her grandmother. And many people wanted an autographed copy of the fabulous book detailing our town’s colorful history. (President Franklin Pierce’s boyhood home is just down the street.) Readers even signed up for our newsletters, bless them.
But as I sat at my tropically-themed table—luckily the combined weight of books and the little decorative typewriter my sister gave me kept everything from blowing away—I couldn’t help but reflect once again on how much we owe to our libraries and dedicated staff, many of whom are volunteers. And no matter which genres or formats we authors write, we share the special bond of creating stories we hope people will want to read. No need for envy or competition. All kinds of books are needed for all different kinds of readers, published all kinds of ways: traditionally, indie, hybrid, or online.
I returned home both grateful and reinspired to work on my manuscript. Tomorrow I head back to the library to pick up my copy of Bluebird, Bluebird for the next mystery book club discussion. And I even feel confident enough to hit the road again.
But I might bring my dog along, just in case.
Readers and authors, do you have any special events on the horizon? Are you ready to go (and what will you wear)? Let us know in the comments below!