Corpus Christi report
I had my first Barnes & Noble signing this past Friday night. It went well enough. We didn't sell a bunch of books, but I'm still at the stage that getting to do signings is success enough. I'm glad I did it and I'd do it again. There are many reasons for that, but one in particular stays with me.
A young girl--I didn't ask her age and I'm not good at guessing ages, but let's say somewhere around 11-13ish?--came up to talk to me as we were winding down. She was very serious and her family left her to fend for herself with the author doing a signing. Her mom did hide around the corner of some bookshelves, keeping an eye on the interaction. I imagine it was to make sure her daughter wasn't bothering me as well as to make sure I wasn't some creepy guy. I found it all quite charming.
The girl was, of course, a young writer and she wanted to talk to an author. We chatted just briefly, but I asked about what she wrote and if she was showing it to anyone, teachers at least. She said yes and that she hoped to get something published. I asked her if she was familiar with Stone Soup, and she said she was not. I told her to look it up, as they are a magazine that publishes young writers. I also suggested she go to her public library and just start looking though the Writer's Market, to see who was publishing what. At her age, I had no idea either of these things existed and I hope just this knowledge will help her see her own possibilities.
I wrote these things down on an Able to... postcard I had with me and signed that for her. Her brother came to get her and she said, very politely and seriously, "Well, I won't keep you." I waved to her mother, still watching us, and wished her well in her writing.
And as much as I enjoyed that interaction, there are things I wished I had said and done.
I wished I had gotten up from my table and walked with her (and her mother) to the newstand and looked for Stone Soup. Barnes & Noble usually carries it and it would have been good for her to actually see it. It's not as if I had a line waiting for me to sign books.
I wish I had told her to not give up. Too many people are put off by rejection letters and I wish I had told her that as disappointing they can be, they are part of the work. They have nothing to do with her talent or the worthiness of her writing. I wish I had told her that the story I just got accepted was written 4 years ago and has gone through a few rejections---and revisions---on its way to publication.
I wish I'd told her that I got my first rejection letter the summer after I was in 8th grade and hadn't gotten my first acceptance letter until I was well into adulthood. Well, that may be daunting for a young person to hear. Maybe it's just as well that I didn't say that. Unless I also told her that there were a few years in there when I did let the rejections get to me and I didn't seriously put things out there until I was much older. Maybe that's the thing I should have said. I should have said that getting rejections early in life made me give it up for a time or else just treat it as a hobby. I wish I'd told her not to follow my example in that. I wish I had told her to never give up being serious about writing because only a very, very few hobbyists ever get published.
But maybe what I did say and what I did do was somewhat helpful. I think I can put myself in her place and feel the excitement of someone who has published. Just seeing a real person who does this thing can be an encouragement. I don't think I met a published writer until I was in college. I'm pretty sure I hadn't. I've sometimes wondered what it might have done to/for me had I known a writer as a kid. I think it would have made being a writer seem a lot more possible, would have made "writer" a real person instead of a creature I read about, which made them as real as unicorns, superheroes, and Martian princesses.
This girl lives in (or near) Corpus Christi, which is much larger than where I grew up. She has a Barnes & Noble that has author signings regularly. I may not be the first author she's met and I certainly won't be the last one she has access to in her teen years. But I was glad to have been there that night to talk to her, even as briefly as I did.
Because, in truth, I felt a little validated, too. She came to me because I was a published author and I suddenly have a different appreciation for the responsibility that status gives me.