I participated in my very first public book-signing this past Sunday–a harmonic convergence of wish and fulfillment, of individual efforts and shared rewards.
The event was hosted by the Santa Monica Barnes & Noble at the 3rd Street Promenade. An extraordinary venue by any measure, it’s the cornerstone of a trendy outdoor mall near Los Angeles, where fitting in counts for something but self-expression matters more. We strolled past the dinosaur topiaries at the south entrance, nudged our way past street performers and puppeteers. And as we made our way to the far end of the Promenade, I marveled about how far I’d traveled in my lifetime–me, the daughter of an itinerant preacher, the perpetual newcomer who now found herself included on a panel of best-selling authors, scheduled to speak about an issue that matters a great deal to all of us.
When we neared the far end of the promenade, I caught a glimpse of the giant marquee. BARNES & NOBLE, it read, and it was about that time that the autumn fog finallly lifted. I admired the book displays in the polished windows…and then the poster came into view. There it was: the cover image of DEAR BULLY, and above that, a list of authors. Five names, in bold-face font, and one of them was mine!
The door swung open. “I’m Shane, the community relations manager," said a man with a badge. “Are you one of the authors?” I suspect he already knew the answer. Clue one: my husband was snapping pictures like a paparazzo. Clue two: I was beaming like nobody’s business.
In this picture, Shane’s introducing our panel. On his left: Nancy Holder, Amy Koss, me, and Jessica Brody. Lauren got held up in traffic, but she arrived shortly after. (If you look closely, you might be able to see our Circle of Caring bracelets. The authors wore them, and so did Shane.)
We took turns reading our stories– five unique voices, speaking to a common theme. Full disclosure (somewhat obvious in this picture): I choked back sobs at the end of my story. I was a little upset at myself for doing that, but If you’ve already read “Luz,” you might understand why.
After the readings, we took questions from the audience. They were thoughtful and sincere, and I did my best to answer in kind. The most challenging question, at least for me, came from an aspiring YA author. “What’s your favorite writing tip?” she asked. I soaked up the insights that everyone so generously shared, but as my turn grew nearer, I lowered my eyes and bowed my head. Who am I, to answer her question?
My eyes landed on DEAR BULLY. Four bold-face words leaped off the back cover at me, and I knew with a certainty that this was my answer. "YOU ARE NOT ALONE." I read them aloud, for my sake as much as that writer's. The rest of the answer just flowed from there, so I'd be hard-pressed to recite it word-for-word. But to the best of my recollection, it went something like this: "Writing’s a lonely profession, and in that solitude, we writers tend to go a little crazy. Instead of treating ourselves with compassion, we sometimes bully ourselves into a very dark place. We wallow in worry, regret and recriminations, when we should surround ourselves with positive people, instead. Friends, family members, critique groups and other writers…like Luz, they offer us hope, encouragement, and light. So my tip–one that's also self-directed, by the way–is to post-it note these very words on your computer, in a giant, bold-faced font: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Four simple words, but in the very act of sharing them, I felt my heart grow three times larger.
Reflected light: Jessica's listening to an audience member; I'm hugging Cynthia Williams, the Eureka Director for Girls, Incorporated of Orange County