Monday, 18 September 2017

The Stress of a Book Signing...

Preach it, Blanche.
There are many brilliant things about not marking books and planning lessons anymore. Knowing you have four sets of thirty books to mark before the following day as you take your tea-plates to the sink, is the worst feeling. But what to do with all the extra time? Without a job that seeps into all your gaps, there's time for some Interesting and Exciting activities. This could be anything from taking up paragliding to watching five-year old Netflix releases that everyone else has stopped talking about. It could be anything. For me, something that falls squarely into both the Interesting and Exciting category is a book signing and this is exactly where I went last Wednesday. 

Marian Keyes was at Waterstones in Manchester. She chatted away about all sorts for things and then signed copes of her new book, The Break. It was great but more of that in a minute. First, let me explain the stresses that fill my head when I think of a book signing.

I have no experience of book signings as an author. The nearest I've got was a Weight Watchers' meeting in April. At their request, I sold copies of Carry the Beautiful to six of my friends. They all insisted I sign them, and with a mixture of mortification and extreme pride, I did. I suppose it made a change from talking about how much I love mashed potato. But sitting at a desk, signing your name repeatedly and chatting to thousands of fans over the course of a promotional period, has got to be knackering. It must be amazing to see so many people buy and intend to read your book, but I'm guessing hugely overwhelming and scary as hell too. I felt all those emotions with my six fellow WW women so God knows how bigger the extrapolated feelings get.

Enough of the authors' experiences though. Spare a thought for the queuing fan. Marian Keyes' signing was the fourth such event I've been to since I had time for a life. Before last week I've met Caitlin Moran (twice) and Armistead Maupin and the problem is always the same. When face to face with a person whose writing has given me comfort, whose characters have inspired, taught and entertained me, whose words have settled into the most private places in my brain, nothing that comes out of my mouth sounds any good. I'll be clearer. Anything I have ever said to an author at a signing makes me sound like a tit.

Think about it. This is the big moment. The moment I've queued for up to an hour to experience. I've had all that time to work something out. Something pithy and intelligent. Something witty. And then the moment comes and I blow it. The first thing that pops into my head spews out of my mouth and it is gibberish. Utter shite. It's then that I know the dream is over and I won't be going for post-signing drinks with my new best mate that day. I won't have wowed my author-hero standing in front of my with the power of my sparkling personality. Let's examine the evidence for the prosecution...

8th October 2011
Cheltenham Literary Festival - Caitlin Moran

What I Wanted to Say: You write like you have reached into my head and found all my deepest thoughts. Your books are hugely reassuring and make me feel like I'm not the only person who thinks like I do. Thank you.
What Actually Happened...
Caitlin: Hi
*Hangs head in shame as Caitlin gamely talks about her recent Newsnight appearance*

12th February 2014
Liverpool Museum - Armistead Maupin

What I Wanted to Say: Long before I visited, I felt like I'd been to San Francisco because of the vivid and colourful way you describe your town. The reason I chose to spend my 30th birthday there was because of the beauty of the characters you created and the depth of their stories, hooking me in since I was a teenager.
What Actually Happened...
Armistead: Hello
*Goes bright red as Armistead signs his name and smiles despite my randomness*

14th July 2014
Nottingham Playhouse - Caitlin Moran

What I Wanted to Say: Last time I met you I ballsed it up. I wanted to tell you that your opinions and the confidence with which you share them, show me how to be stronger and braver and to share my own opinions in the face of adversity. 
What Actually Happened...
Caitlin: Hello.
(This sort of makes sense because she is the eldest of eight. She high-fived me immediately, making me unsure as to whether I had made a total tit of myself this time, or not. Let's just say not.)

And so to Marian. She was utterly, utterly lovely. Exactly the same as she comes across on her weekly Short Fillums and her newsletter. Warm, engaging, sincere and funny. Her new book was the focus of the interview - it's about a couple that have a six months break in their marriage along with the inevitable fall out it causes - but wider topics covered included feminism and activism, reproductive rights in Ireland, the horror of the current global political environment, and social media. There was a Q and A session at the end, and then the signing took place.

This time I was determined. I really wanted to use my two minutes at the front of the queue to convey to Marian Keyes how much I love her writing, how accessible it is whilst simultaneously tackling huge issues accurately, how much I am drawn to her unabashed feminism twinned with embracing all of femininity, how funny I find her tweets, how her way with words is poetic and lyrical, how I admire her positivity and cheeriness whilst dealing with all that life throws... I could go on and on but I had to be succinct. The moment was approaching. So...

13th September 2017 
Waterstones Manchester Deansgate - Marian Keyes

What I Wanted to Say: All of the above and more.

What Actually Happened...
Marian: Hello there.

OK, so it might have just been my imagination, but I am pretty sure Marian Keyes spoke to me in capital letters. Proper mofo massive ones. Usually it is only me that does that, but I really think she did it back. And even though I didn't say a word of what I was planning, it didn't matter. It felt good. She didn't smile politely and busy herself with the signing. She replied in capital letters! Maybe I've broken the 'Curse of the Book Signing' once and for all. Maybe I was witty and eloquent. Or maybe I was just lucky to be talking to someone that was kind enough to be enthusiastic about the nonsense I gushed.

However it went down, I walked away feeling happy and inspired, and made up that I got to meet an author whose novels I have loved for years. And the best bit is, now I get to read her book.

Have a lovely week, folks.

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