Book Fair was a good break from sports until the ride homeby J.W. Miller on 11/20/17
This is another Road Trip story with a happy ending. I attended the Kentucky Book Fair in Lexington last week to sign copies of my latest book, “Integrated: the Lincoln Institute, Basketball and a Vanished Tradition.” With smart phones and Sirius XM, sporting enthusiasts are never too far away from the madness, but the trip gave me a chance to get away and remind myself that I have another life out there somewhere. Only Brother Jerry’s offer of tickets to Rupp Arena made me depart from my respite to see Kentucky’s young Wildcats defeat East Tennessee State Friday night. But on the stand I would testify that I was there for the Book Fair.
For a writer, or a general facsimile thereof, signing your book at a book fair is like selling fudge brownies at a Sugar Festival. The patrons don’t need your product, they have a lot of choices from which to select, but once they pick yours, they can savor the sweetness of a good story well told, and you get to drink the cold glass of milk. Of course, some of the things I’ve written might be better enjoyed with a glass of Makers Mark, but a book fair is a great opportunity to talk about your work with book lovers and fellow authors alike as well as doing things a little differently yourself.
This author, who is more comfortable in front of a laptop, assumes a different persona at the book fair, turning into part huckster. My spiel to turn browsers into buyers went something like this: “How ya doin’? Getting all your Christmas shopping done here? If somebody you know likes basketball and its history, then my book would be a great gift.” (Speaking of which, you can click on the icon at the right and do some of your own Christmas shopping right here!)
One browser listened to my pitch but was more concerned with telling me of his experiences. Some browsers like to chat, and the author must beware of the ones who stand in front of your table talking while obstructing the view for potential buyers. You listen politely, at least until a potential buyer leans around Chatty Charlie to pick up a copy of your book and starts thumbing through it. That’s why many folks in retail are googly-eyed, keeping one eye on polite and one eye on potential until you finally offer Charlie your hand and turn to the potential buyer.
Another pitfall that faces the author, especially when the fair is close to his home town, is when old friends come to see you. That’s very nice until you see a familiar face but can’t recall the name. That happened to me at least twice on Saturday, when a buyer whose face was familiar but whose name I could not recall bought a book. If the name does not surface after a casual chat, my flummoxed response is “Who should I make this out to?” You hope they give you a name – a brother, a relative - and not the dreaded “Just address it to me!” That is when the writer employs Plan B and responds: “Spell it for me, because I signed a book once for a guy named ‘Smith,’ and after I signed, he told me he spelled his name ‘Smythe’.”
Overall, the days away were a good break. I sold some books, saw some old friends and made some new ones. And the visits with relatives and golf with Brother Jerry and our old SAE pal Frank Farris, made the road trip, as my beloved cousin Sharon says: “Fuuuuunnnn!”
I returned to my normal world while driving back on Sunday. I found the right Sirius-XM channel and listened in frustration to most of the Saints’ game with Washington. The Lovely Miss Jean, whose patience with long drives is short, endured my ranting at Sean Payton’s mid-game reluctance to hand Mark Ingram the ball. After he ran for a 36-yard TD in the first quarter, he largely disappeared. It seemed to the frustrated traveler that the Saints’ ground game was the only thing working. QB Drew Brees was getting whacked almost every time he dropped back and the crippled defense could do little to stop Washington’s pass or run games.
We were past Tuscaloosa when the Redskins took a 31-16 lead, and we turned into an Arby’s for a late lunch. (Best fast food in America!) When we returned to the car, I was finished subjecting myself to the misery of a lost cause, so I turned the Sirius XM dial to Classic Vinyl. That allowed me to take a breath and gave my bride a little peace.
Brother Jerry called around 3:30 and said he didn’t want to call during the Saints game, but “congratulations.” I said “for what?” He said “for the Saints winning.” I responded, “They got their a---- kicked!” And my brother, ever delighted at correcting me, informed us: “No, they won in overtime.”
And I thought to myself: "Holy s---! I'd better not leave town again. This team is special!"