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BEA Signing - Who Showed Up?
Jul 8, 2008
It has begun - my first-ever, wet-palm, nervous-stomach book signing at the annual Book Expo America (BEA). To prepare myself, I spent the previous 24 hours observing various authors at their signings, trying to gauge how much time they spend talking to each signee, how neatly they write, how much they write, and what they do while they wait for someone to show up in their line. As I sit waiting for my hour of signing to begin, I miserably realize there is no way to really prepare for this.
Right off the bat, event personnel ask me to sign a number of books for charity, which is nice because it keeps me occupied while the ushers open the rope at the beginning of my aisle. When I look up from my first task, I see a face looking at me expectantly. Whoa! Someone came – and it’s someone I don’t know!
And look! There are more unknown faces queuing up behind the first one. With a shaking hand and terrible penmanship, I scratch out something as illegible as a prescription on the first page of my book. But my first FREE BOOK! person is smiling, and so am I. We are off and running.
I try to ask each person a question so I can incorporate their answer into a little blurb above my signature. “Are you the cook in the family?” “Do you have a special event you are cooking for?” “Do you collect cookbooks?”
One well-intentioned question went terribly wrong, and I can only attribute the faux pas to my overall anxiety level. A lovely lady, advanced in years, approached. The words just popped out of my mouth. “You look like you have cooked for a lot of potlucks!” What the…??? All my back-pedaling only made it worse. I am grateful she didn’t hit me with her AARP card. I believe I can cross her off my list of enthusiastic reviewers.
Some people only wanted a signature in their book and not a personal note. These often were book store owners reviewing the book before ordering it for their store. But the people in my line were by no means boring. My most startling question came from a ferociously attractive young black woman who asked (and I swear this is true) if I had any recipes in the book lesbians would like. Say what? Do lesbians really approach food differently from non-lesbians? Fortunately, Emily, who was standing behind me and literally had my back, cheerfully piped up that she had tried many of the recipes in the book on her circle of friends, some of whom are gay, and they all got a thumbs up. I guess lesbians are fond of chocolate and pasta, too.
Wonder of wonders, I have people in line for the entire hour. As I finish signing one book, there always is another person waiting. They actually have to close my line to waiting folks when the hour draws to a close. I am humbled and awed by the power of the potluck.
What I learned is that people of all shapes, sizes, ages and skill levels are interested in a book that might get them through their next potluck trauma. Because apparently, potlucks DO cause trauma. I heard over and over again, “I never know what to fix.” “I don’t know how to cook and we are always asked to bring something to work on Fridays.” “I just got married and I have to take something to his family reunion and I don’t want to embarrass myself. “ I felt a great burden of responsibility to these desperate people hoping to find guidance in my book.
I was amazed at how many of these folk looked at me as if I knew what I was talking about. I could see it in their eyes – I was an Author to them. It was heady and a little scary, since I know just how not-a-professional-chef I really am. I kept waiting for someone to ask me why in the world anyone would want a book I had written. But the author mystique kept working for me.
Walking back to the booth after it was all over, I had trouble keeping the bounce out of my step, an involuntary smile off my lips. The signing had been an exhilarating, adrenaline-charged experience, one that is burned into my happy memory place. I wanted to write a thank you note to each person who stood in line; I suppose the FREE BOOK! would have to do.
I love people who read books. I love people who cook. I love people who read cook books. Especially mine!