When I became an author – a split second after signing my first book contract – I had visions of the New York Times Bestseller List, mile-long lines at my book releases, and Capote-like reverence from everyone around me. Instead, I learned the trek is long and climbing each rung that ultimately leads to the NY Bestseller List is a slow process. Those lines take years to form.
I saw it firsthand Saturday… I was an author invited to the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. I watched people walk around like Ken Burns, Joyce Carol Oates, David Baldacci, and the one I waited in line to meet: Jodi Picoult. Regular people who’ve topped that bestseller list, normal folks who put pen to paper and likewise leapt into that “famous” category. What I learned is that they’re just like me…hard-working authors appreciating their fans. Jodi Picoult couldn’t have been kinder. With literally hundreds of people in line, she smiled for pictures, signed multiple books, and seemed to know what every author should remember: without readers, authors end up with day jobs and old copies of their books gathering dust in warehouses.
Encountering 200,000 readers, fans, autograph-seekers – it puts the craft in perspective. I got my first hand cramp from signing my name so many times, it became illegible. What a feat to accomplish! It gives me new fuel for my speaking engagements, new topics I will now be able to cover. Fans of my YA book can get a glimpse of Dregs on a new teens site now, which is pretty cool.
The other aspect to visiting D.C. for the first time encompassed visits to the awe-inspiring Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the most memorable for me: The Vietnam Memorial. With a perpetual lump in my throat, I absorbed our history, our reverence for those who serve our country, and it humbled me. I may write books, but there are people out there inspiring books to be written. The quote that “freedom isn’t free” has new meaning for me now. For every veteran or anyone currently serving our nation’s military, I salute you, and I thank you for the privilege to do so.
Perhaps there’s in book in me about that, waiting to be told.