Last weekend, our family took a road trip to the university town of Jonesboro, Arkansas. The drive was an easy, mostly-Interstate trek that nipped the corner of Tennesse to take us through three states.
We arrived to find the town quite abuzz. Tons of events were taking place, and the modern shopping area was packed. That was a good start. We also were impressed with the amazing sculptures that had been placed around the mall and we thought the town had more cultural awareness than we had been warned to expect. I wish I knew the name of the artist. Really beautiful work.
But overall, the entire Arkansas experience was very different than my other signings. While the store had quite a crowd, very few people purchased the books. That was a bit of a disappointment, but something I knew would happen sooner or later. The real surprise was that the customers were still VERY interested in meeting me and getting my “autograph!”
I have to admit, I’m still trying to get used to the fact that anyone would want me to sign anything. Let’s face it. I am old, fat, and sleep-deprived. I have too many jobs and do good just to remember where I put my cell phone (found it this morning in the washing machine — not good!).
I understand why someone would want the books signed. Not because they’re my books, but because I too enjoy having an author sign books – especially for my children. I want them to know a regular person wrote and illustrated the book that we read together as a family. I want them to understand a real person exists behind the work.
I also want them to know about the author so they can understand that there are all sorts of careers in the world, not just the punch-the-clock, save for two-weeks-vacation kind of jobs that most of us are happy to accept. I want them to know that life is full of opportunity, and that creativity is a wonderful thing.
For those reasons, I understand why someone might want me to sign the books. But these folks didn’t care about the books (even though they all said they loved them — most weren’t there to buy any books unless they had Sponge Bob or Scooby Doo on the cover). They were there to meet a “real-life author.”
Uhm…what did he say? Does he mean me?
I always enjoy meeting new people and I treasure the fascinating conversations I have with folks at the signings. I will say, these were by far the most unique stories I’ve ever heard. They mostly involved animals, alcohol, and ammunition. At least folks in Arkansas appreciate assonance and alliteration.
A 10-year-old rodeo girl told me how she had to shoot her beloved horse after he developed shoulder spurs. A young boy said his mother shot their dog who wouldn’t stop biting him in the face (the mother plead innocent); and a teenage girl fessed to shooting her neighbor’s tires because he revved his truck motor too early in the morning. The stories were more than entertaining. They were brilliant! As the saying goes, “You can’t make this stuff up!” Thanks Arkansas! Your confessions were worth at least a book or two!
As I listened to stories and met tons of Jonesboro locals, I just couldn’t believe how many of these nice people wanted to shake my hand, hear how I became an author, and get me to sign one of the free bookmarks and posters I had available at the event. I was honored — more than I can express — but also a bit sad that they left with a bookmark and no book to go with it. Even when the children held the books in their tiny hands and begged their parents to buy them, they received a firm “no.” I felt guilty every time and wished I had a stash of books I could just give to these children at no charge.
I can’t thank the kind librarian of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic School enough. She was very kind to include me as a guest in the school’s book fair, and it was a true blessing to meet each of her sweet students. Thank you all so very, very much!