Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Book Signing: Writers as Celebrities

I’m a big fan of the show Castle.  And when Rick Castle has a book signing and he’s autographing everything from his adoring fans’ books to bras, I figure that’s how we should treat authors:  like celebrities. 

(At any rate, that’s how the book signing scenario plays out in my head, assuming I finally put pen to paper and become the Margaret Atwood of my generation….)

Of course, that’s not usually how it goes down, and I'm glad.  Authors—even those that have become household names— are still human beings, after all.  They’re just like us—only more so, if that makes any sense.

Case in point:  I met Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn at a book signing and screening last year.  He was a quiet, unassuming man standing in a movie theatre lobby and chowing down on a burger and fries—the guy had won both a Hugo and a Nebula, and seemed to be on a first-name basis with Christopher Lee (yeah, that would be the guy who played Saruman, for those of you who aren’t drinking the LOTR Kool Aid yet), and there he was, just hanging out. That moment of panic that hits you right before you meet someone famous welled up just briefly as I gave him my book to sign:

(Don’t be cliché. Don’t be cliché.)

“Hey!  I loved The Last Unicorn.”

(Cliché. Idiot….)

Peter S. Beagle.  You should go out and read The Last Unicorn.  And then Two Hearts.  Seriously.

He smiled kindly.  I tried again.  “So I’m an English teacher.  Why do you think fantasy doesn’t get taken seriously as a genre in schools?  I mean, I can’t get my boys to take their heads out of Game of Thrones for five minutes, and we’re expecting them to read Dickens….”

This time he lit up, and we had a lovely 10-minute conversation about his parents (who were also teachers), about George (as in R. Martin, with whom he also apparently hobnobs), about Communism and Virgil (oh, man, does this guy have stories!)

I wouldn’t have stopped talking if my sister hadn’t nudged me in the ribs to point out the fact that there was a long line of irritated-looking fans with books in hand behind me.  

Let 'em wait. 

That’s why I love the book signing as a “celebrity” event:  it represents that personal connection that expands from the page to real-life and reminds us of what is universal about the whole experience we call literature.

On a side note, when I do write something brilliant instead of attempting to teach teenagers how to string together two coherent sentences, I promise to engage in scintillating conversation with each and every one of you, my adoring fans, and sign whatever books or appendages decency may dictate in the name of literature.

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