Around this time of year, I usually start compiling my writing statistics, but I’ve got a month or so before I call the year complete, so let’s move to another subject, one that never fails to make me laugh.
People are really funny even when they don’t mean to be. Every single time I take part in a bookstore signing there are always a few specific moments I’ve come to expect.
- Eye contact: Most people (or, more specifically, most book people) are absolutely, positively terrified of making eye contact. They will do everything in their power to ensure they never lock gazes with the author who is sitting 10 – 20 feet inside the front door. They will look in every direction but at the person who is ready to greet them with a hello and a bookmark. They’ll make sudden conversation with a friend beside them to avoid having to look straight ahead. They’ll twist and turn to face a parent or child behind them. They will do anything and everything to avoid eye contact. I never considered myself intimidating, but apparently…
- The Swerve: This one often goes hand in hand with avoiding eye contact. The people who practice the swerve have usually spotted a visiting author before they walk in the door, and they’ve planned accordingly. Instead of walking straight into the store, they swerve directly to the left or right, ensuring they will avoid a well-planned “hello” and gifted bookmark. Sometimes I’ll stand closer to the door to hand out bookmarks and greet people, and you’d be amazed at how quickly they pivot when they want to avoid. (For the record, I never chase anyone down. If they want to avoid me, I let them. As an introvert, I get it.)
- The Hesitant Admirer: This is usually a woman, most of the time a young woman. They view the pop-up banner, take in my table of books, see me sitting there, give a hesitant smile and move on. I can usually manage to hand them a bookmark and when they’ve had a chance to read it in a quiet part of the store, they’ll often come back to buy one of my books or talk about other YA fantasies. I always recognize this person because she is inherently me.
- Store Questions: “Do you work here?” “Where are the restrooms?” “Do you know if (title of book) is available?” It should be pretty obvious that someone sitting behind a table piled with books and a sign that says “Author Event” or “Author Signing” is not an employee, but what do I know? (Hint: I now always know the location of the bathrooms and where the customer service desk is.)
- The Obvious Questions: “Wait. Are you the author? Did you write these books?” Despite the fact that I am stationed directly beside a sign that pronounces author L. Ryan Storms will be in the store during specific hours on a specific date, and it just so happens to be between those hours on that date, people still ask. “Yes! I am the author. Yes! I wrote these books.”
- The Other Obvious Question: “Hang on. You wrote all of these?” Friends, I bite my tongue every time. Not to mention, this question will only get funnier with time as my books accumulate. One of these days, it’s going to happen. I’m inevitably going to quip, “Nah, I just wrote half of the first one and someone else finished the rest for me. My name is still on all of them, though. What luck!”
- The Talker: This person’s personality varies, but there’s usually someone (and usually a man) who wants to talk…extensively. When the subject of the conversation is publishing and books, I’m game. I could talk forever with new writers about what they need to do to pursue a career in writing. But when it’s movies and weather and experiences that have nothing to do with books or writing, my inner introvert begins to slowly shrivel and die.
- The Excited Teen: This one is hit or miss, but when it happens, it’s MAGICAL. (Yes, bold & caps magical.) I write books for teens. Don’t get me wrong – I love when people of all ages read my work, but I am beside myself with glee when I get to speak with excited teens. I’ve had a few interactions in the past couple of weeks that have put a smile on my face. These are the readers I live for. Last week during a signing, a teen girl and I had an extensive conversation about our favorite YA authors and their books. Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, Victoria Aveyard, all the goodness. So much excitement. And during yesterday’s signing, a boy by the name of Landon walked past my table no fewer than three times, scoping me out and deciding if he was brave enough to say hello. Finally, he dragged a parent to my table, and the three of us had a lovely conversation about books and reading and how awesome puzzle games are. (Hello, The Room?) We had the best conversation. He left with a signed book and I left with an absolute high. (Thanks, Landon!) And he waved again before he left the store. Connections with young people. It’s interactions like these that reaffirm I’m doing what I absolutely love and connecting with young readers who will grow to be empathetic, life-changing adults someday. These are the world’s creators, the dreamers. And I am so damn lucky to be a part of their journey.
I am sure this list is longer than what I’ve come up with, and maybe I’ll add to it in a future post, but for now, these are the experiences that keep me chuckling through my events. I’m so grateful for every book store patron and every reader who stops by, even if it’s just to ask where the bathrooms are.
Friends, this holiday season, remember that signed books make great gifts. Get out there and support your local indie bookstores and your local authors!