Mar 22

book signing

This weekend I have my first book signing at my local library along with four other local authors. Naturally I am very excited, and anxious to do a good job. I have been contemplating all that it means for a few days and some aspects had started to worry me a little. Now my library isn’t huge at all, but you know as well as I do, that even in a small library, there are quite a few books. And even with five local authors working hard to prove themselves, and trying to break into the big time, it’s going to take a long time to sign all those books, and the librarians have only set aside two hours. So I was thinking, “I have some free time today. I’ll just go over and get the jump on this thing.” Good idea, right? So I found a couple of good pens with plenty of ink, and a clipboard to press on, and headed to the library.

When I walked in I was greeted with that great, cool, calm, library smell, which just happens to be number two on my long list of absolute favorite smells. I can’t even tell you how many smells are on this list because it is under constant revision, but the ones at the top never change. On this day I inhaled an especially big lungful of that rapturous scent before proceeding to my favorite corner. I was drinking it in big time. After all, it’s not every day that I get honored like this. I mean, are you getting this? The library that I love asked me to participate in an actual, honest to goodness, book signing!

But back to my story and my favorite corner of the library. Once there, I went to a shelf near the floor that I knew contained a few of my all-time favorites. You know the kind of books I mean, the ones you read again no matter how many times you’ve read them before. I took down an armload and sat them on the floor by the wall. I repeated this a couple of more times until I had about fifty volumes assembled. Next I sat down “criss-cross applesauce” as one librarian I know likes to say, and took my things out of my library bag. I scooted back until I could lean against the wall just where the sun was coming in, took another big breath of that intoxicating, enchanting air and began. Now I was taking this very seriously, so at first I was not only signing the books but adding little notes as well. Making it personal and meaningful, you understand. I have a few books signed by the authors so I know the sort of things they write. As I finished a book that I had picked up from the pile on my right, I would put it into the newly forming stack on my left. But after about twenty or thirty I was running out of things to say and decided to give my brain a little rest. I figured it would be ok to do a few generically with, “Best Wishes” and a signature while my brain recharged. Now that went really quickly. I was able to finish off the rest of them in no time. I decided to take down the next batch of unsigned books before replacing the signed ones. That way the empty gap on the shelf would show me where I left off.

Just as I had replaced the signed books and was settling back into my spot ready to get back to work the kind children’s librarian came around the shelf with an armload of books that she was re shelving. As soon as she spotted me, her delicate, pretty face lit up with that sweet, unfailing smile that has never failed once to adorn her in all the years I have known her. When she saw the stacks of books next to me she got a quizzical look in her eyes and whispered, “Doing a little light reading?”

“Oh, no,” I laughed, “I just came in to get a head start on the book signing.”

She looked more puzzled and even forgot to whisper. “A head start? How do you mean?”

“You know get some of the more popular books signed ahead of time, so that there’s not so much to do on Saturday.” By this time I had opened one to the title page and, pen poised, was deciding how to inscribe it. My thoughts were interrupted by a squeaking sound coming from the librarian. I thought maybe she had just contracted the hiccups, but when I looked up I almost panicked. It was obvious from the way her already fair complexion was draining to snow white, and the horrified look on her now gasping face, that she had apparently choked on her gum. I sprang into action, scenes from Girl Scout first aid training flashing through my mind. I was behind her administering the Heimlich maneuver in less than two seconds. But before I had given her the second punch in the stomach from behind, she had whirled on me and pinned my arms to my sides, (she’s a lot quicker and stronger than you’d guess from just watching her do story time). She began sputtering incoherently in my face, “You—books—ink—you—you…” Her eyes were all wild looking and there was a tiny bit of drool beginning to run out of the corner of her mouth. Suddenly she just froze, turned and fled in the direction of the circulation desk.

It was my turn to be confused. But not for long. A moment later the head librarian appeared. The second our eyes met my heart quailed within me. Her head was bent low and she was advancing rapidly. Her mouth looked small and pinched and there were tiny puffs of smoke jetting from her ears every time one of her sensibly shod feet hit the carpeted floor with a muffled, yet vibrating thud. All reason had fled. I didn’t know or care why she looked like that, I only knew that instincts were commanding me to RUN! Of course I couldn’t run. The librarian was moving toward me in the only path of escape. And I also noticed that the other six librarians were creeping along behind her. They looked somewhat terrified but unable to look away. Even if I bolted past the head librarian, I would never be able to get past the others clustered behind her.

Too late anyway. She was upon me. I closed my eyes tightly and awaited my dreadful fate. I could hear her breathing like a vicious dog about to lunge at the throat of its victim. Then she inhaled and held her breath for a moment of horrifying silence. Finally, she spoke, “Did you,”another pause so long that I peeked out of the corner of one eye, she saw me look at her and pointed to the bookshelf in the corner, “did you write in those books?”

I shut my eye again and gave the tiniest nod possible and tried to shrink into nonexistence. I heard a long sigh and looked to see her just shaking her head from side to side. Her mouth had become a tiny little line. “This is the worst offense of writing in books that there has ever been in the history of this library.” A chorus of gasps from the other librarians.

I decided that I had to try to defend myself. “But I was just signing the books. We were going to do it Saturday anyway. Look what a head start I’ve made. I’ve already done all the Lemony Snickets and next I was going to move over there and do the Eoin Colfers.

The head librarian picked up a book and looked inside the cover. “You even misspelled ‘Lemony’.” Another round of gasps from the others. I thought if they didn’t stop that, they would pop soon. “Ladies, someone bring me that blue box from the storeroom.” They all scrambled to retrieve it. I bravely looked her in the eye even as I wondered what would become of me. When they were gone she stepped very close to me and said very slowly, “Mrs. Sheets, on Saturday when you come back to the library, you are to only sign copies of your own book. Do you understand?” I nodded mutely, as the children’s librarian came scurrying up with a shoebox, all the more menacing for it’s smallness. Sweat rolled down the middle of my back as I wondered what miniscule horror lay hidden inside. The head librarian snatched it, ripped off the lid and thrust it under my nose. I was shocked, relieved and confused to see it was filled with stickers, touting the fun and joy of reading. I remembered some of them from the summer reading program. “You will take these and carefully cover your vandalous scribblings. I will not be able to detect a trace of them when you are finished.” Then she kind of poked the box into my chest to rouse me into accepting it.

And that’s pretty much it. The prologue to my first, and hopefully not last ever, book signing. It took a bit longer to find the right stickers and position them just so, than it had to sign all those books, but I got it done. And it took a little bit of the wind out of my sails for the weekend, but after it was over I found I was still pretty excited. So, if you get a chance, come by the library Saturday morning and I’ll be glad to sign one of my books for you.

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