For the rest of my life the phrase “Saturday from 1-3″ will hold a tender significance. Some authors loathe bookstore signings. They warned me that they can be lonely places that do nothing but reinforce your deep fear that nobody really cares about your book.
“Bookstore events are a thing of the past,” they’d say. “The sale of a few books is not worth your time and travel expenses. Use the internet. It’s cheaper and reaches a larger audience.”
Perhaps there is truth to all of this. But the internet can’t replace the human exchange between the writer and the reader. It is sacred territory. I am happy to sit, legs crossed and back straight, at a wobbly table near the entrance to the store. Happy to drum my fingers on a stack of books waiting for new homes as the clock ticks because I know that there will come that one person who has driven to the store to meet me.
To laugh and share her tale of life in a foreign land that she misses with a desperation she can taste and just knew that I would understand. She wants to feel that again, alive and vibrant, and she thinks the book will transport her back to a happier time.
Or to sidle up to the table eyes cast downward, introducing himself as the father of a daughter who has left her husband. A father who finally lifts his gaze to mine to reveal blue eyes glistening with tears because, he blurts out, he loves them both. He doesn’t think they understand what this will do to the whole family. He prays that the book will give them hope, steer then back to each other.
And the one who strode with confidence to the table, picked up a copy and stated that he, as a clergyman, was offered a post in Rome. But he just didn’t know if he had the courage to move there. It would be three years, he confided with a voice that did not match his stride at all. Did I think he should go? Perhaps the book would help in his decision.
Or the couple, hand in hand, searching for an adventure. They saw the title in the paper and thought, why not? Why can’t they do something like this? What’s stopping them other than their fear of the unknown. Could I share with them some of the nuts and bolts of moving abroad?
These are the exchanges that feed my writer’s soul. A book is so much more than the author’s story, and I respect that sacred space between me and the reader. The story finds its power in their souls, not mine.
So as I continue to call bookstores and ask if I might be able to set up a signing, I don’t mind if they tell me that their signings are not usually lucrative for the author. Because I know that will not be the point of my being there.