Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Things People Say

     “Wow, I’ve never met a real author before,” a very friendly lady said.
     “My guess is that you have,” I replied. “There are a lot of us, and most of us are just normal people.”
     I shook her hand, and she walked away without buying a book. I guess I convinced her I wasn’t so special after all. A little over two years ago, I was asked to be a career speaker at my former middle school—as an author. I had been a school teacher for over twenty years and a coach throughout my entire teaching career. When I got my nametag, it said: “Jeff LaFerney, Author.” I laughed. I wasn’t an author; I was just a school teacher/coach who had written a book.

     Three books later, and after more public speaking and career speaking opportunities, I now think of myself as an author, but I still don’t see myself as anything special. Maybe I don’t feel special because my own school district turned me away when I volunteered to be a career speaker at the building where I teach. Maybe I don’t feel very special because my own school district reprimanded me for abusing our school’s acceptable use computer policy when I sent out an email to my teacher friends telling them my second book was published. But I digress.

     What helps me accept that I actually am an author? Maybe I feel like an author because of all the great book reviews for each of my novels or because I’ve made money on each of the first three, and I’m well on my way with my fourth. Maybe it’s because of the bookmarks and posters and events I attend where people purchase my books. Maybe it’s because of royalty checks or news articles or blog posts or a growing author page. Or maybe…just maybe…it’s because I’ve managed to complete and publish four entertaining books. Maybe, however, it’s because nobody but an author trying to peddle his books would have conversations such as the following:

     “I’m writing a book too,” a middle-aged man with a full beard and mustache proudly said. “Well, I’ve been writing it for seventeen years, but someday, when I have more time, I’ll complete it.”
     (He’ll be on his deathbed telling people his one regret is he never finished his book.)

     “Congratulations,” a motherly-looking lady said. “I don’t read, so I can’t imagine someone writing a whole book.”
     (Well, thank you….Is that a compliment or a backhanded way of saying I’m crazy?)

     “I’m part of a book club,” another shopper volunteered. “It would be cool to have a published author talk to our group. Maybe you can give us a wholesale price and we can read yours next.”
     (I actually said yes to this, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m ever going to start making more than nine cents an hour on this hobby of mine.)

     “I have a great idea for a book,” a lady said. “Would you consider writing it for me?”
     (Sure. And I have a great idea for a little reader’s/writer’s getaway. Would you consider building it for me?)

     “You’re a writer? You must be rich,” a young boy stated.
     (Oh, yes, for sure. See above.)

     “You wrote all these books?” a stunned, plump lady asked me. “You must have a lot of spare time. Do you have a job?”
     (First of all, I do have a job—a full-time one—yet I also manage to write books in all of my “spare time.” Secondly, do you always say whatever pops into your head? Maybe I should have asked her if she was pregnant.)

     “I always support local authors,” a kind gentleman promptly said as he arrived at my table. “I’ll take all four.”
     “Do you know something about them already?” I asked in wonderment.
     “No, but after I read them I will. I’ll let you know if I don’t like them.”
     (Should I change my e-mail address?)

     A man walked up and looked at my titles. “Do you like mysteries and suspense?” I asked.
     “No, I only read books about Vietnam.”
     “Fiction or non-fiction?” I replied, trying to be conversational.
     “No. War books about Vietnam.” (The look on his face made me wonder if I had food lodged between my front teeth.)
     “I mean real or imaginary?”
     “The war was real, dude.” (And then he looked at me like I was offering him a messy diaper. Needless to say, he walked away in disbelief at how stupid I was.)

     A lady strolled up to my table and scanned each of my books. “These are mystery and suspense titles,” I said. “And this one is a time-travel action/adventure.”
     She said, “I don’t read books. I can’t see.”
     “Oh,” I said. “You seem to be getting around okay.”
     “Well, I can see fine for that,” she snapped.
     (Maybe I should get audio books. Maybe she should get glasses so I wouldn’t be so confused.)

     “You sell them on Kindle? I’ll buy it from there.”
     (Oh, but of course. What are the odds that she’d hurry home and snap up my books on Kindle? 1:1,173,212.)

     “Are there swear words? You people who curse all the time in books ought to be ashamed,” a tiny senior lady said.
     “There are no swear words in any of my books,” I replied.
     “Who would buy them then?” she said as she smacked her lips together.
     (I couldn’t tell if she had teeth.)

     “Wow, I’ll take this one,” a college-aged guy said as he handed me one dollar.
     “They’re ten dollars,” I patiently responded.
     “Ten? Well, I only have two, and I need to go get a slushy.”
     (What if I would have sold him a book for a dollar? Could he have gotten a slushy for the other dollar?)

     “I’ll buy your book,” a young Armenian man said.
     “Would you like me to sign it for you?” I asked before he handed over the money.
     “Sure,” he said.
     “What’s your name?”
     “Pandukht.”(Or something like that).
     (While I signed the book, he walked away…never to return. That book ended up on my school bookshelf, a tax-deductible donation with a kind comment to practical-joking Pandukht—or something like that.)

     “Oh, Skeleton Key. I loved that movie.”
     “My book isn’t the same story, but I’m really close friends with Kate Hudson.” (I sometimes exaggerate.)
     “Ha, ha,” the woman said as she walked away.
     (I was shocked. Who doesn’t like my humor?)

     “Jumper! I loved that movie.”
     “Thank you. My son was the main character.” (I lied because my Skeleton Key humor went over like a ton of bricks.)
     “Your son is Hayden Christensen? Why’s your name LaFerney?”
     “Oh, we must be talking about two different things.”
     (Sometimes sarcasm works and sometimes it doesn’t. Well, mostly it doesn’t.)

     “My daughter’s a writer. Her stories are awesome. Would you read them and give her pointers?”
     (I was thinking if her stories are so awesome, she should read my books and give me some pointers.)

     “Are your books on audio? I listen to all my books since I can’t see.”
     “You’re not even wearing glasses,” I interjected.
     “It don’t matter.” (I hate the bad grammar of that sentence). “I can see far. It’s just the close things I can’t see. Like books.”
     “Can you drive?”
     “As long as I don’t have to read anything.”
     (Like your dashboard or road signs?)

     “Is your book in a bookstore?”
     “A few, but you don’t need to go to a bookstore because I have copies right here.”
     (She walked away, but I thought it was worth a try.)

     Oh, yes, I’m an author. The rampant rejection alone is undeniable truth, but writing my crazy ideas down and discovering people enjoy them makes me title-worthy. Yep…the things people say…both to me and by me is ample evidence.