Monday, July 20, 2015

WRITERS NEED THICK SKINS


 Nicholas Sparks,who wrote "The Notebook," was the first author that I met through a book signing. I had never been to a signing  before but when I saw a poster at a book store that he was coming, I thought 'why not'?  Though I hadn't read his book, I had just seen him on Oprah and was enchanted by the man.   

It was  a long drive but the night came and I joined the relatively small group of about 15 people at the store. I was quite surprised there weren't more.  He read some from the book and then opened the floor for questions. When asked how he captured the thoughts so well of an elderly man still deeply in love, he told a personal story.

It seems when he and his wife got married, her grandparents could not attend the wedding due to health reasons.   When the happy couple got back from the honeymoon, they dressed in their wedding clothes and went to visit the grandparents to reenact the wedding, which I thought was adorable and thoughtful. 

Nicholas said as he watched the elderly couple, he was delighted to see them actually flirting with each other.  Most of us growing up tend to think love is replaced by habit and comfort in the elderly. He saw much more  and was able to relate that enduring love so beautifully in the book.  

Anyway, I came away a fan of his with a signed copy of "The Notebook."

It made me, as a writer wanna-be at that time, to think about meeting and talking to more writers. 




My next author meeting was Patrick Smith who had all ready made me a fan with his book, "A Land Remembered."    This is a marvelous saga covering the journeys of several generations of Florida settlers who went from early, very primitive cattle ranching, to oranges groves, and eventually becoming land magnates.

Patrick was a fine writer who had been nominated three times for the Pulitzer prize, 5 times for the Nobel Prize for literature and is a member of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. That is quite a pedigree. 

So when I saw he was going to have a book signing at a The Desert Inn, a quaint restaurant in Yeehaw Junction, I knew I would be there.  Yeehaw Junction is a nondescript, literal cross roads in middle Florida.  It sports 4 buildings with the closest town being 30 miles away. I couldn't believe my luck. It was only a 10 mile drive for me and I could replace my paper back with a signed hard copy. 

I am sure he chose this location for its historical value.





We always enjoyed the Inn for its colorful history. It was an interesting and amusing place to eat and to take out of town company. 




Yes, chickens, including this cranky one, strolled around the property. 
I got there right at 10 AM which was the start time. Lucky me, I was the first one there so I had him all to myself. We were having a delightful one on one session and all my questions were being answered. This man was a wealth of information about the lives of the early settlers in Florida which really interested me.  That I came from a long line of colorful Floridians interested him.

One thing he told me that rather stirred my interest was that the early settlers who drove their cattle to a lower west coast port in Florida to be transported to Cuba, were paid in gold. With very few places to spend money of any sort, the settlers buried the excess in the ground by their homesites. 

This brought up the possibilities of buried treasure in unknown spots around the state. He said if you could find the remnants of an old homestead, wonderful possibilities existed. While I later dug a couple hundred holes around my rural property which had a long history, I eventually gave up. I found nothing but a new set of blisters. 

However as our visit lengthened,  it dawned on me that I might possibly be the only one coming to the signing. Just me and a bad tempered chicken. Selfishly I was delighted to have had his undivided attention for almost an hour and I picked his brain raw but I felt sad for him at the meager turnout. He deserved so much better. 

Eventually, a young couple wandered up, curious about the signs. I told the young couple how lucky they were,  thanked Mr. Smith and  left with my signed copy.  I hoped many more would follow but had my doubts. I think writers must learn to develop thick skins. Even the great sometimes have poor turn outs. In this case, I am sure the problem was location, location.

I ended up reading all his books and was quite saddened to learn Patrick died last year at 86. I feel so blessed to have had that time with him.  

Have you ever met an author you enjoyed and did you come away impressed or disappointed?? 

27 comments :

  1. I have never met an actual author of a book I've enjoyed, although I see them on TV being interviewed. I am shocked that nobody showed up, except for you, for such an accomplished author. We have an independent bookstore here that has authors come for talks now and then, and they are always packed, so I don't go myself. Hubby has gone to a few.

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  2. Good post. I used to attend every lecture and book signing of Stephen Ambrose
    and I liked all that he wrote. Then he was acused of plagiarism and I stilll liked
    him. When you're writing history, isn't it all kinda plagiarism?

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  3. I've never gone to hear an author read from his/her works, but I did spend a summer in 1982 working at the Kerouac Conference in Boulder, Colorado. I heard a lot of poets read, and I did a writing apprenticeship with Allen Ginsberg. Oh yes, that was truly a memorable summer.

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  4. I have heard a number of authors and poets read and discuss their work. It is always interesting. Authors tend to be people like everyone else. Some are lovely, some are jerks. But I judge them on their writing.

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  5. I have met an author, just before he published his first book. We still keep in touch and I have enjoyed watching him hone his craft. He sends me signed copies and I cherish them greatly. A good man and ever willing to go the extra mile for his fans.

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  6. Hi, It's too bad that you didn't have the opportunity to become a writer like these whom you met.. You are SUCH a good writer. I visit very few blogs these days (NO TIME) --but I don't ever want to miss yours.

    Hugs
    Betsy

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  7. I used to go to book signings all the time when we lived in WI. We had a wonderful indie book store that attracted some great authors. I've never been disappointed in meeting any of them. Now I have to drive 25 miles to Asheville to attend signings. I have driven there and met friends and stayed the night. I just love hearing authors read their works.

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  8. I've been to many author talks and books signings from the time I was an English major in college to the present. I've enjoyed all of them. Writing is a lonely craft, and I like hearing the inspirations and routines of other writers. Even now, occasionally a writer contacts me by E-mail and thanks me for a book review I've posted. We chit-chat by E-mail a few times. Writers are people with hopes and dreams who often seem larger than life, but are just glad if their creativity finds an outlet and an acceptance.

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  9. Before I became an author myself, I met many authors -- including the wonderful Nora Ephron -- as a magazine writer who often interviewed authors on tour for their books. One of my favorites, besides Nora Ephron, was James Herriott of "All Creatures Great and Small" fame. He was wonderfully humble, had so many great stories and was excited by life in general. I also remember getting a call from a publicist begging me to interview an author who wasn't getting much interest from the media, even though she was the sister of the President at the time (Jimmy Carter). I agreed as a favor to the publicist and spent a delightful afternoon with Ruth Carter Stapleton who was bright, funny and insightful and her book was good as well. There were some other authors who were terrible company -- but taught me a lot about what I didn't ever want to do if I ever became an author, including the smarmy sex expert who told me much more than I ever wanted to know about all the erotic adventures of his malformed thumb (ewww!) and the best selling author who was so entitled and treated the publicist (who was my friend) like a servant, looking at me and rolling her eyes like "It's so hard to get good help these days, isn't it?" I made a quiet promise to myself and God that if I ever had a book published and was on tour, I would be grateful and gracious and simply share my joy in writing with anyone who happened by. And I've taken care to stick with that. I've done mostly media events. Book signings can be great fun because there is the chance to talk with readers directly and I always enjoy learning about their lives and experiences as well as sharing my writing adventures. But it can be difficult when very few show up or when you're in a major group event and feeling a bit like a wallflower. That's rare, but it does keep one's feet on the ground!

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  10. I met David Morell who authored "Rambo" and is credited with inventing the modern action/adventure genre. He was extremely knowledgeable and hilarious.

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  11. Djan,
    It kind of broke my heart. He deserved a large crowd but it really was in the middle of no where.

    Manzi,
    You know, I never thought about it but you are so right about history. Unless you were there, you are copying someone else's version.

    robin,
    Allen Ginsberg? I am impressed. That does sound like a memorable summer.

    Olga,
    I would never not read an author who is a jerk but I fear it would color his work. Luckily for me, both were wonderful.

    Brighid,
    How lucky that you got to be on the ground floor with this writer. He sounds like a very special man.

    Betsy,
    Aw what a sweet thing to say. I am so glad you think so and you made my day. Thank you.

    NCMountainwoman,
    Oh, that sounds like fun making a night of it. I may try to get some interest here since our closest big town is 2 hours away.

    Barb,
    I too have heard from writers that I have posted reviews about. I am always stunned but flattered that they take the time to contact me.

    Dr. Kathy,
    I have no doubt that you would be a treat to see at a signing. I remember when you told about James Herriott, my favorite author. He is one of the few that I can reread his work. I had a wee bit of a crush on the man.

    Stephen,
    I am so glad you had such a great experience with David Morel. Saw the movie but didn't read the book. Now you have me curious.

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  12. I have not been to that many Book Signings or Readings, but during my lifetime spent in the Business-Of-Show, I have met many many wonderful writers and in some cases got to spend some real quality time. I think it is so tough to be a writer and to get your work published....Recently American Masters, on PBS showed a Documentary on Harper Lee, which had originally been shown a number of years ago---but to which some new material has been added with her new book just being published. One of the shocking things that took my breath away was that 15 publishers turned down "TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD".....!!! One wonders about who was running the store in each of these publishing houses.
    As I'm sure you know, Harper Lee gave her last Interview in 1964! She was not happy with how her words were often misquoted or twisted.
    As you said, a writer has to have a really tough hide....I think that is true in all the arts---Actors, Composers, Painters and Sculptors, Dancers, Directors, Etc....
    I loved this post Patti.....How wonderful that you had such lovely and very meaningful experiences with the writers you met. As to the "location", it sounds like he was trying to do something really special at the wrong Venue....But how wonderful for you, my dear!

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  13. When I was in high school a bible study group I belonged to was adopted by one of the Coke heiresses. She had us visit her lake house once a month. She was also hosting Eugenia Price. My grandmother had every book Eugenia ever wrote and was happy when I read them with the same interest that she did. Eugenia was thrilled that her books were reaching a much younger audience than she had hoped. She encouraged me to write every day. She said that I used such descriptive words and subtle humor. The next year in school my English teacher was a woman without an imagination or a since of humor. She managed to rob me of every ounce of hope that Eugenia had given me.

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  14. I've never actually attended a book signing, mostly because I'm too cheap to purchase a hardcover book at full price. I tend to wait for the paper back.

    However, my English professor in university is a well known local writer of mysteries. I've read one of her books but I'm not a fan of the style. Gail was a great teacher and I certainly enjoyed the class.

    The saga of the Florida families would be more of my preferred choice. I'll have to look to see if I can find it.

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  15. I've never been to a signing but I can't imagine being on the signing side of the table either. I might be too honest!

    Thanks for stopping by!

    We have a gentle shower right now. I am so grateful.

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  16. I've never met an author in person or been to a book signing. I think you should have written a few books of your own. You have a wonderful way with words, you know. Hey, it's never too late to start and I would attend your book signing!

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  17. I have met more authors through my blog than anywhere else. I don't think I have ever been to a book signing, avid reader that I am.

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  18. I have never met an author in person, except for an Arkansas writer who came to my elementary school several years ago to speak to the kids. I can't even remember his name..it must have been one of those days when the kids were acting up and all of my attention was on the noisemakers instead of the speaker.
    Have a great day!

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  19. Naomi,
    You are so right. You hear all the time of famous writers having to send their work to dozens of publishers before any bite. My Mom wrote a book that was refused by the first and only publisher she sent it to. She was horribly offended and just quit. Guess that is what separates the successful from the almost.

    Lisa,
    Welcome to TNS. Eugenia Price was a really impressive writer to meet. I am so sorry you didn't listen to her instead of the English teacher. It's not too late.

    Eileen,
    Look for it in the library. The current editions are a bit pricey for my taste.

    Gail,
    It would take a thick skin to be on the other side. I'm sure most gush but with all the haters out there today, it could get ugly.

    Cheryl,
    Aw thanks, you have me blushing with pleasure but I long ago learned my limits. Blogging is my niche. I don't have the persistence to complete a novel.

    Inger,
    If you have the chance, take it-- especially since you are an avid reader. It is good to see the person who entertains you with their words in person.

    Terri,
    Wonder if that was the same one I met. I saw an author signing set up at Blanchard Springs which is close by. I didn't even check to see what he wrote. I arrived along with a bus load of kids. Seems he wrote children's books. I spent most of the signing talking to his Mother.

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  20. I've been to a few signings and am always surprised by the usually small turnout.
    You feel so badly for the author.

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  21. Interesting experiences. Oh....my favorite author naturally is me:-)
    And since I am on your blog my second favorite author is of course you - and why wouldn't be?
    Best wishes!

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  22. I was jealous of my son who met John Grissham when JG was giving a lecture in the Tulsa, OK Public Library.

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  23. Marty,
    I know, I always feel like I should get in line again and buy another book I feel so badly.

    GQ,
    Ah you always make my day. By the way, I really enjoyed you book and passed it on to my brother who also enjoyed it.

    Grannie Annie,
    I have been "this" close to John but never met. His father lives in the town near me right across from the library. I went to his brother's book signing and saw John in the driveway. Somehow that didn't count.

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  24. I have met Joyce Maynard, author of At Home in the World (my life with JD Salinger), and she was delightful, smart, candid and personable. Also met, several times at readings, David Sedaris. Took my then 13 yo daughter to a reading as well and when signing her book, he was impressed that she'd go to an event with her mom. He is a lovely man. Also met, 3 times, Molly Ivins at readings. She has a daughter or niece with my first name, she also was born in Montery, CA, and she did indeed remember me each subsequent time because of those connections. I miss her voice terribly.

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  25. How I wish but never been that lucky. Me & about three thousand other freshman English students had Robert Frost as a guest lecturer in Northup Auditorium on the Univ.of Minn. campus. This was shortly after he read on of his poems at JFK'S Inaguration...:)

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  26. You actually got my book...I am so flattered especially that you thought it worthy of passing on. THANK YOU!
    I am liking you more and more :-)

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  27. The only authors I've ever met were authors of children's books who came to our school. How wonderful that you got to meet the author of The Notebook. I loved the movie and still think about it.

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