The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Book-Signing

August 1, 2016 § 6 Comments


Our Editor-in-Chief, before discovering his affinity for nonfiction

I’m a constant advocate of owning who we are, giving ourselves permission, announcing “I’m a writer” at the drop of a hat. But I’ve had the conversation that often follows that announcement, the one where they ask what I write, and if it’s anything they would have read. I’ve felt the way that conversation dwindles into not having anything to talk about. I’ve brightly turned the subject to, “And what do you do? Data analysis? That’s fascinating! Tell me more!”

It’s never been this bad:

The questions start at once. The first guy in line, who may have been here an hour or more, bends down to look under the table, like I might be hiding someone else underneath there. His hair is gelled. It doesn’t move when he bobs down and up, twice. He reaches in his back pocket and pulls out a picture of himself with, I think, the most recent Miss America.

He says, “You are not her.”

He says, “I know her.”

He says, “This is false advertising.”

His face is red. Above his upturned polo collar, a vein pops in his neck like a worm. He stomps a foot. “I’m getting the manager over here now,” he says.

I’ve never had a book-signing at a Sam’s Club, let alone one that mistakenly announces me as Miss America. But Lori Jakiela has. And it was both as bad as one might imagine and a great deal worse. Fortunately, she got an amazing essay out of the experience, one that touches on the complex bargain of being smart instead of beautiful, and how we let others name the measure of our success despite our own best efforts.

Read the whole essay at LitHub–you’ll be glad you did.


Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor and the author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book. Want writing news, events, and upcoming webinars? Join the A-List!

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