My stack of signed books is growing. Rapidly.
Prior to moving from West Texas to Boston, I had only a few signed books in my collection, mostly inscribed by Christian authors (Lauren Winner, Donald Miller, Kathleen Norris) who braved the heat and dust to come and speak on my college campus. I love Abilene, but neither it nor my hometown (even farther west) appear on most people’s book tour itineraries, and I never could convince myself to drive six hours, round trip, to Dallas (often on a weeknight) to hear even my favorite authors speak.
However. I may have mentioned (once or twice) that some of my favorite Boston-area bookstores – notably Brookline Booksmith, the Harvard Book Store, the Concord Bookshop and Porter Square Books – regularly hold readings and signings featuring authors I love. (I must also mention the Boston Public Library‘s fabulous author series.) Nearly every week, one or more of their event schedules and/or e-newsletters offers a tempting event or two that gets me thinking about how to rearrange my schedule, talk my husband or a friend into coming with me, and/or juggle my book budget to accommodate the purchase of one (or more) signed books.
I don’t go just for the signed books, though I am fan-girlishly thrilled to meet these authors and tell them how to spell my name so they can personalize the inscription. I don’t go for the treats (though Deborah Copaken Kogan bribed her audience with mini cupcakes from Sweet last week, handing one to each person who asked a question). I go for that moment of connection, for the chance to hear these authors’ work read in their own voices, for the Q&As and brief snippets of conversation, for that brief glimpse into their writing process and how their books and characters came to be.
Sometimes I can only stammer and tell them how much I enjoy their work (as when I met Anne Lamott and the Yarn Harlot, Marisa de los Santos and Jacqueline Winspear and Alexander McCall Smith). Sometimes I can explain that I’m a writer too (as when I met Rebecca Makkai or Molly Birnbaum), or a reviewer (as when Niall Ferguson realized he was signing my ARC of his new book). Sometimes I bond with writers who live or have lived in Texas, like the darling Sarah McCoy and the vivacious Siobhan Fallon. And sometimes I throw my arms around Twitter pals like Rachel Bertsche, Laura Harrington and Erin Blakemore, as glad to see them as any longtime friend.
The authors I’ve met are, without exception, gracious, kind, brilliant and poised, always willing to answer questions or personalize books or listen to their fans’ stories. They love words and books and the creative process as much as I do. They are often introverts who struggle to muster the energy to speak in public (and hug strangers), but they do it because they believe in the power of stories to shape lives.
I treasure that growing stack of signed books. But I treasure these moments – these connections with my people – even more.