Friday, December 7, 2012

Author the Grouch

I say it all the time, don't judge another until you've walked in their shoes. That being said, I also believe there are times in our lives that no matter what we are dealing with on the inside, we need to put on our happy face on the outside, at least for the moment. And when our livelihood depends on it, it becomes even more important.

What sparks this comment? There was a book signing at a local bookstore this past week. The author writes fantasy novels aimed at the young reader. The parking lot was packed. The line for autographs serpentined through the store. I would guess there were nearly 300 fans anxiously awaiting their moment to meet the author they revered. I made my way along the line as an observer to see who all the fuss was about. A young man in his early 30s was seated at the table. He seemed to be in an unpleasant mood. He was not smiling. He was barely speaking, mostly just harumphing. The youngster who had just received his autograph stepped away. Two young girls around the ages of 8 and 10 were next. They were clearly excited to meet the man behind the table. He barely looked up; hardly acknowledged their presence.

After each of the copies of the books the girls were holding were signed, their father asked if they could have their picture taken with the author. He didn't look up nor respond to the request. Knowing it was important to his girls, the father asked a second time. Seemingly unheard, he pressed his luck and asked a third. The grouch behind the table finally grunted and nodded his head slightly. The girls moved around the table and stood on either side of him. The father asked if everyone was ready. The girls beamed; the author could barely muster a scowl. What will they remember from their encounter when they share the photo with friends and family?

I walked away wondering to myself what his deal was. Was he having a bad day? Had he just received some awful news? Was he on this book signing tour against his will? Does he simply not like interacting with his readers? Were his shoes too tight? What would make him behave like such a grouch towards his fans? I suppose I may never know, but I couldn't help thinking how short-sighted his attitude. If I were a fan, an interaction like that would probably have me reconsidering my interest in purchasing any future publications. As one who day dreams about being a real writer someday, I can't imagine having anything other than a great sense of gratitude for everyone in that line, for if it weren't for them, my career would not exist. 

Children are impressionable and often have a rose-colored view of the world until someone shatters their fantasy. As he is a writer of fantasy, I couldn't help but be baffled by the alienation he was creating for these young readers, and maybe even future authors. I believe he needed to put on a happy, professional face no matter how tight his shoes may have been. And if he wasn't able to do that, perhaps he should have "scrammed" until he was less grouchy.

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