Things have moved fairly quickly since the birth of my paperback baby, but the pace hit a breakneck speed the moment I received notification of a cancellation in my book’s category at the 25th edition of Toronto’s The Word on the Street Festival.
I sat back and thought hard about whether or not I felt it was a worthwhile investment for such a newbie like me. I had already spent invested thousands to have it published and bring my first order of books in. Could I really afford to do this so soon into the game? I ruminated over it for days before approaching my husband to seek his advice and express my hesitation. The look on his face was equivalent to someone staring at a two-headed monkey.
“Are you serious? You even have to think about this? Of course you should say yes!”
I guess that’s that. The boss has spoken. Now I had a month to prepare. So in addition to continuing my education on how to Tweet and Facebook, writing a weekly blog, designing promotional material, working a full-time job, being a wife and mother and grandmother and and and… I needed to prepare for this.
I have one book. One book with a white cover. How the heck am I going to display that to draw interest and attention? Should I hire clowns and strippers to flank the table? What do I wear? What if I sell out? What if I sell none? Can my ego handle that?
My mind raced daily with so many questions, but I put my head down and prepared for every possible scenario but, unfortunately, couldn’t find the money in my budget for circus entertainment or even octogenarian exotic dancers. (It’s surprising how expensive they are even at that age. Then again, I guess they have to supplement their paltry retirement income somehow.)
Fast forward to the day of the event and I had survived the heart palpitations that plagued me the entire day before. We were now on our way, in the worst rainstorm I’d seen in ages; packed like gypsies in our SUV – my husband, daughter, granddaughter, two hundred books, tools, a stroller, and helium balloons.
I’d like to take a moment to boldly take credit for the skies clearing up shortly after we arrived. I had been talking to my dad “up there” and asked that he go and give Mother Nature a strong talking to. He came through for me and all of the hourly thundercloud images on my phone’s weather app changed to bright sunny orbs for the entire day. My dad usually knocks the power out when he wants to get noticed, so his departure from the norm was greatly appreciated. Thanks dad!
Standing at a table trying to sell myself (yes, that’s how I viewed it) came with many mixed emotions. I wasn’t selling a book. I was selling me. I am not one to indulge in self-glorification, and I generally bury my head in the sand whenever kudos are sent in my direction, so this was very overwhelming. I’m a severe introvert, so I wasn’t sure how I’d actually survive such a public event. As I stood on the fairway handing out promotional postcards, my mind wandered.
Wait. Aren’t the majority of writers introverts? Why on earth would they subject themselves to things like this? Why aren’t we all just sitting at home, wearing smoking jackets, in a room full of books and an old typewriter by our side? Why are we out here with clowns and helium balloons? This is insane!
There was something I didn’t prepare for though. Something completely unexpected. I did not prepare for the fact that I would be humbled at the event.
Outside of all of the congratulations I received from the various passersby, there were a few stand-out moments that truly humbled me.
- The man (yes, a man) who told me how brave I was for writing my memoir.
- The teenager who said, “Oh my gawd! I’ve read this! It was awesome! Oh my gawd! Are you Veronica? Oh my gawd!”
- The woman who excitedly informed me that she had seen the reviews for it, had it on order, and was impatiently awaiting its arrival.
- Two different organizations approached me about potential speaking engagements.
- The handful of female authors (and soon-to-be authors – Sara, that means you too!) who told me I had inspired them.
- The three little girls who told me I had “the best display at the whole, entire festival!” And by the fistful of promotional book marks they had in their hands, I could see that they had made their rounds, and were probably qualified to make such a broad-sweeping statement.
- The woman whose daughter sent her to meet me because she lives too far away to attend. She asked her mother to tell me that she had read my book and that I am her hero.
Hero? How could this be? That seems like a pedestal far too high for me to ever reach. I stood stunned and welled up with tears as that mother stood in front of me. I didn’t know what to say (although I know I sputtered out an awe-struck “Oh my gawd. Thank you so much.”). I didn’t know what to feel. She left me in shock. I think I’m still in shock.
I’ve been walking in slow motion for a week now. Did I sell out? No. Did I sell none? No. The sales were good, but the experience was even better. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think that an event could affect me so profoundly. I feel so blessed for being able to display that marker on my life’s path.
I am humbled. I am grateful. I am in awe of human nature.