Squawk Radio

Thursday, August 17, 2006


When a writer gets that wonderful call and finds out her first book is going to be published, one thought springs to the forefront of her mind — how can I use my talent to improve the world for all mankind?


Sorry, that’s absolutely absurd. Or at least it was in my case. I thought — what if no one comes to my first autographing?

But then, I’m shallow. To me, an autographing seemed like the ultimate high school popularity contest, and please note — people who were popular in high school are too well-adjusted to be writers. (The lone exception to this is author Susan Kay Law, who was an honest-to-Pete perky, blonde cheerleader, but I don’t hold it against her in any way. Really. Not at all. The skinny little blonde snot.)

Of course, even then I knew equating autographing success with popularity was nonsense. I worked part time in an independent bookstore for about five years before I was published, and saw some of the biggest authors in the business come to the store to autograph. Most of the time, we had a great turnout, but sometimes, for no apparent reason, none of our customers would show. Autographings are a random, odd experience for everyone — but, gee, I didn’t want to be random and odd. I had been that in high school. I wanted to be huge. I wanted to be successful. I wanted everyone to know I’d published my first book, CANDLE IN THE WINDOW! So I did the right thing — I begged my boss at the bookstore to give me my first autographing.

Ninety books sold! Seventy people — the people who had been my customers! Flowers! A cake frosted like my cover!
I probably forgot thirty names while I was signing, and learned an author always asks every person how to spell her name (Gan — who knew her name was Georgeann?) It was wonderful!!!!

Since then I have driven three hours across Texas with Barbara Dawson Smith to speak to a readers’ group at a bookstore only to discover the readers’ group was a figment of the bookstore owner’s imagination and the bookstore only sold used books, and we couldn’t even sell a single used copy. I have signed at Wal-mart when it was a hundred and fourteen degrees outside and the only thing any customer wanted was to tell me her kid barfed back by mens’ underwear. Since my first book was published, it’s been fifteen years and thirty books, and I’ve never had as good a booksigning — or a moment as gratifying and as empowering — as the moment I experienced at Carol’s Book Corner in Houston in 1991. That autographing is one of the coolest, most gratifying moments of my life.

So what moments do you remember that marked a turning point in your life? Your graduation? Your wedding? The moment you squeezed that kid out of your loins and held her/him for the first time? Or that private, special moment that no one else has experienced but proved to be a turning point in your life?.
Christina Dodd, 12:41 AM