Hmmm, gotta be careful with this post. I recently returned from a national literary event. Down South. Lots of well-known authors. Terrific hotel, tasty meals, tons of readers, etc. Loved the conference. Very well done, probably one of the best in the country. Everytime I go somewhere I want to return home making sure I learned something. And boy did I learn. Some lessons are hard ones. They are painful, difficult to digest, nevertheless those lessons turn out to be needed, and good for me.
No more being overly impressed with famous authors. I came across some of the country’s finest writers. And that is always a thrill, right? But no matter what you hear about someone, once you encounter him or her personally, and you have a not-so-thrilling experience, from that point on, you will remember him for what he did to you, how he treated you, what he said, and certainly not from what everyone else says. So,with this particular author, I’ve learned this — if you are at a literary event, and a reader comes up to you with their book asking you to sign it, lay off the excuses, don’t make those ‘i’m busy right now’ faces, and take the 10 seconds it requires to sign your name and be on about your business. Now, I am new at this stuff (author stuff, that is), and from what I understand, if you go to a literary event, you should expect to see readers, and if readers are there, guess what? They are probably going to request a photo, or autograph, or something. And unfortunately, even if you ain’t in the mood, you have to acquiese. You gotta. When people encounter famous folk, whether or not the experience is good or bad, folks gonna tell others about it. If you mess up, you’ve MESSED UP. And that reader will never buy your books, read your books, endorse your books, recommend your books ever ever ever again. Prevent this vicious cycle by smiling for a photo, signing your name, promoting good will. I am 100 percent unimpressed by authors who go out of their way to do something nice for other famous people. That means nada. Impress me by doing something nice for someone that doesn’t have a name. Do something for someone that isn’t in a position to do something for you. Do something nice, and don’t tell anyone you’ve done it. Keep it a secret. Otherwise the motives will be questioned and that ruins everything.
I also learned that fame is something people have only in very small circles. So they might seem huge in the black literary world, but send their butts to China and see if anyone cares or knows who they are. If you are unable to walk through an airport because EVERYONE you encounter is trying to stop you, then you are famous. If you can walk through an airport and some people don’t recognize you, then you ain’t that famous. Get over yourself. Stop tripping just coz you demand that your publisher get you a limo so you can go to the airport and get dropped back off at your crib. We gotta stop thinking we’re soooo important because we wrote a book. LOL.
I enjoyed Terry McMillan this weekend because as famous as she is, she said she doesn’t go around thinking, “I’m a bestselling author” blah, blah, blah. I love that she thinks that way. That she learns to balance things. Not that she’s perfect, but she understands life is more than just how many books are being sold, and how many bestseller lists you’ve managed to crack.
I also learned that putting authors on a pedestal is a mistake, because once you have a bad encounter with one of them, you never look at that person the same. The bright light you used to see becomes a little bit dim. You put their books on the bottom of your reading pile, or you sell those suckers on half.com for 50 cents, just to unload them. Maybe we shouldn’t be in awe of people the way we do; if we didn’t the lessons we end up learning wouldn’t be so hard, painful, difficult to digest, even if the lessons are needed.
ALSO, for the record, I am referring to a guy author that I encountered…