Monday, May 22, 2006

I've enjoyed reading various accounts of this year's Book Expo America, which comes across, in the reading of them, like some odd, oversize cocktail party, where books and trinkets were to be had by the bagfull, panels and so-forth were mainly excuses to schmooze/visit with friends and celebrity and near-celebrity sightings were the, yawn, ordre du jour. I did a tour of duty at BEA in Chicago a few years ago in conjunction with the release of my first novel, and was too giddy and sort of horrified to really take much of it in. What sticks most with me, besides grinning rather idiotically behind a stack of galleys as mostly not-at-all interested folks streamed by looking to score the hot stuff, was the book signing I did. There were a bunch of tables lined up next to each other and lanes (I kept thinking of sluices) leading up to each of them. I sat at my table, with my grin on, as a drip (clogged sluice, for sure) of people came up to get me to sign galleys (no one wanted their galley personalized -- a sign that they were booksellers hoping the thing might eventually have some value). In the lane next to me was a popular romance author, who had to sign so fast and furiously that smoke seemed to rise up off her table, which of course added to the vibe she had going. Anyway, what thinking of this made me think of was a much happier and weirder experience I had at the Indiana Author Showcase a couple of years ago, which was held in one of the Exhibition Halls at the Indiana State Fair. I was all ready with my grin, which had evolved, over time, into something a touch more jaded, a touch more back at you, but as it turned out, I didn't need it -- I was too busy talking to about every other person who came past (the book was Indiana, Indiana -- total Hoosier bait), as the gentleman running the showcase boomed into the PA system he had set up: LET'S GET READY TO REEEEAD, INDIANA!!! TODAY WE HAVE WITH US A BESTSELLING [sic] AUTHOR FROM FRANKFORT, INDIANA. STOP BY AND GET HIM TO AUTOGRAPH A COPY OF THE NOVEL PAUL OHSTER, ASTER, EASTER, AHSTER (there were a few other pronunciations too) HAS PRAISED AS BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, ETC. It was pretty extraordinary, and all really good-natured, and I actually signed a ton of books, which is, let's say, unusual for me. Most extraordinary perhaps was the sudden, separate appearance of wives of two of my basketball coaches from my Indiana farm days, who had been drawn over by the PA and just had to see if it was the same Laird. It was. Well, sort of.

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