Growing up I was like most kids, flitting from one career path to another. I wanted to cut hair or bake pies or be an acrobat in the circus. My possible future professions were sometimes based on one afternoon’s experience: giving my cousin bangs (whoops!) or baking muffins without a mix or receiving a compliment on my monkey-bars prowess. The passion for this new skill came with a sudden and heady anticipation but it left almost as quickly. I still cut hair from time to time and I’ve been known to do some baking, but they don’t inspire me or give my life meaning. (I’m not much of a monkey-bar girl anymore. My husband does make me watch American Ninja Warrior, though.)
My real and lasting dream job—the one I would barely even admit to myself—was to be an author. In my private moments, I would imagine typing away (on a typewriter, “Murder She Wrote” style) in my writing cabin out in the woods. I would carefully script my interview on Oprah when she would introduce my book as the next “Oprah Book Club” pick. (“Thanks, Oprah! I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it. No, you’reamazing! I’m just a regular gal.”)
So that’s what makes the last few months so special for me. If getting your book published makes you an author, then I’ve accomplished a big chunk of my bucket list. Actually that may be my whole list. (It’s a very small bucket.)
The culmination of this dream-come-true experience has been my book signing events. My first one was at the home of my good friend, Melissa. It was open to anyone who wanted to stop by and pick up a signed book. There was definitely a baby shower atmosphere, with a few alterations. Here’s the formula:
Melissa’s party = (Baby Shower – Baby/Gifts) x (Book + Signature) + tiny pecan pies
It was amazing and a huge ego trip. Everyone who came already liked me and are sweet enough to congratulate me and buy a book even if I’d written one about mold spores.
The next event was at my Alma Mater, Lipscomb University, during their summer lectureship. One evening after the keynote address, I sat at a table and chatted with people next to where the manager from the bookstore sold my books. They were so gracious and encouraging, but this came as no surprise. I was a student at the elementary, middle, and high schools affiliated with the university. Both my parents worked there. I was just a hometown girl who came home. I spoke to many people I didn’t know but my connection to the university bridged that gap.
The next stop on my book tour was at the Vanderbilt Barnes and Noble store. Here, I took a much larger step out of my comfort zone. Though some very good friends stopped by to visit, most of the people I met were total strangers. I was forced to sell my brand, something I’m not very good at. I knew it would be more difficult, so I came prepared. Since my book is set mostly in Tennessee in the 1920’s and 1930’s, I passed out mini Moon Pies to the people who came over to inquire about my book. (According to their website, “The Moon Pie brand was born in 1917” and created by the Chattanooga Bakery. Perfect!) I stamped little bags, slipped a Moon Pie in them with my business card, and Voila! Chocolate bribery!
The most difficult part of the book signing, other than the sweaty palms and awkward small talk, was deciding how to actually sign my books. Down to the final minutes before I left for my first event, I was still trying to decide what I would write. Would I go for something inspirational? “Reach for the stars!” or “Never, never, never give up on your dreams!” How about something a little more practical? “Final sale. No returns.” I wanted to have my own catch phrase like Ed McMahon or Fat Albert, but nothing came to me. I finally decided on something simple but true: God bless. It’s probably overused, especially in the South, but it’s no less true. For anyone who buys my book, even if they just want to use it as a coaster, I could wish for nothing better than God’s blessings. It’s also been a constant reminder to me that, yes, God blesses. He has blessed me more than I could ever deserve or acknowledge and it’s never been more true than with my book. So…God bless, ya’ll!