My Bizarre Evening, or the New Small Town Highlander Rule


Last night, Salisbury University was hosting the last event of its children’s literature festival, an evening with Holly Black. The shebang started with a movie at four-thirty. After that, the timeline got sketchy, but there was to be a reception/signing and Holly speaking on the creative process at some point. Since I had already seen the movie (and, as I’ve confessed before, I have a packed-movie-theatre-squeamishness that probably goes back to Outbreak), I decided to pass and just show up later. The Architect got home from work right before I left and decided to join me, work clothes and all.

Mistake number one.

We walk into the event room, me and my stupid punky hair and the Architect still in his business jacket. My goal was simple; introduce myself to Holly, maybe get in a moment of small chitchat, then go listen to her speak about writing. The movie ended as we arrived, the lights had been turned back on and parents and children were milling about, checking out the author’s table. One by one, heads started prairie-dogging in our direction. I looked behind me, to see if Holly was about to enter. No. I turn back to find a woman and her two kids standing in front of me, her eyes darting from the snappily-dressed Architect to me.

“Are you the author?”

Chairs in the audience creaked as I opened my mouth to reply. “Uhh, no. She’s much cooler than I am. Besides, you’ll probably know when she gets here because…” I motion towards the mini-stage with its spotlit podium. The lady thanked me with a smile and departed.

“You missed a shot in the limelight,” bellows a man overhearing this exchange.

Big mouth (oh, I do love my big-ol-mouth) shoots back, “No thanks, I’m waiting for my own.” What follows is a seemingly innocuous exchange about what I do, what I write, blah, blah, blah. But, by now people are outright staring. I nudge the Architect and say, “I think we’d better sit down.”

We sit, only to find out the reception/signing thing is happening after they screen some animated short film that won the British version of an Oscar this year. While we deliberate leaving for twenty minutes to check out the campus versus watching, the lady with the kids comes back by.

“Would you sign their books?”

Holyfuckcrapwhere’dthiscomefrom? “But, I’m not the author, I’m not even published, yet.”

The nice lady goes on to say she’s with a program for the county’s at-risk children and the kids heard I was a writer, too, and wanted my autograph. I make a joke to the girl nearest me holding out her Spiderwick Chronicles book about how she’s stocking a lot of faith in the fact that I will eventually be published. She nods solemnly and I take the book, offering to sign the very back of her book, because she needs to save the front for Holly. I sign both books, talk to the kids and their guardian. All the while, a nasty, gloating little voice in my head whispers, “This is what it’s going to be like.” A rush of adrenaline sends my stomach to the tips of my boot, while my growing mortification at both the outcome of this event and my own unwelcome interior jubilation turn my face an unattractive shade of magenta.

The movie thankfully starts and eyes peel away from me to the screen. A few minutes in, the Architect spots the same lady spot Holly. She must have convinced Ms. Black to go outside for photos, because they all exit the room together. The Architect whispers, “Now’s your chance to actually talk to her.” After a moment’s hesitation, I go out into the hallway (this, by the way, is so not like me. My sister had to convince me to even go in the first place, and made sure to insist I didn’t hide in a corner when I did).

This is the point in the evening where I do meet Holly Black. She’s nice. She likes my hair. Her comment turns into me telling her that people thought I was her, but I don’t get to get any further because more moms have noticed she’s outside and she quickly becomes swarmed. I cede my position to some wide-eyed kid being prodded forward by her mother. Finally, her escort pulls the plug and drags Holly away. But not before–oh no, not before–one of the other ladies with an at-risk kid asks me to sign her ward’s book. In-Front-Of-The-Author. I bend down to explain that Holly is the author and he should go to her, but the kid’s doe-eyed, holding out the damn book. So, I sign the back of Ms. Black’s book in front of her. Like a big-ol-ass.

I go back in, whisper the events to the Architect. I sit for about two minutes, then feel the need to get out, as far out as possible. I retreat with a growing sense of sleaziness and shame, wondering just how many of those who hadn’t witnessed this strange encounter in its entirety would go home talking of the crazy girl impersonating Holly and signing books for impressionable, innocent children.

The Architect maintains I did nothing wrong. My sister–bless her misanthropic self–thinks it’s hysterical. She thinks I’m okay as long as no one goes holding a little thing in front of my heart to measure how much it’s shrunk (a little Grinchy humor). I think–well, I think I probably shouldn’t go out. Bad Things happen when I do. And in this small town, I should have known better. It’s easy to seize power, to claim fame, because nothing much happens here.

And there should have been only one punkish, darkly inclined fantasy writer in the room that night. The ‘bury can’t wrap its collective head around two.

I never got to hear Holly speak, or have her sign my copy of Tithe, which is too bad because when I was learning how to write a pitch/query, I studied the back of that book for days; it’s got all kinds of pointy, grabby hooks.

I’m tending to blame this whole event on my mother. Hating how tall I was when I was younger, my mother would tell me, “You’re the first person they see. Walk into a room like you own it.” It’s a great lesson, really. But the only problem is, when you walk into a room like you own it, sometimes people are inclined to believe you actually do.

About Avery

I am a roller derbying, dark fantasy author. This blog chronicles my adventures in life, writing and skating. View all posts by Avery

16 responses to “My Bizarre Evening, or the New Small Town Highlander Rule

  • Avery DeBow

    Lauren — Thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately, people need to put everyone into boxes and categories in order to function. The boxes I find myself in are usually wrong and unpleasant, as well. If I have to say, “I’m not a goth,” one more time…That first woman was indeed very nice and seemed very dedicated to teaching her wards about the heights one can achieve with hard work. That I could be a party to helping them get on the right track was worth any of the mental discomfort I dealt with in the aftermath.

  • Lauren

    So the take away for those kids is that authors have punk-y hair🙂 Way to go to the mom for teaching stereotypes…lol. That’s okay…people usually stereotype me as either mildly brain-dead or spoiled 😛. At least you got stereotyped as something nice AND you are going to be an author :)The first lady who wanted you to sign the book for the kid sounded really nice. I think it was good for the kid to know that people become authors by working and trying and aren’t just poof! author🙂

  • Avery DeBow

    Miladysa — It didn’t feel sweet at the time. My sense of humor over the whole thing has grown exponentially in the past couple weeks.Kate — Far be it from me to get you busted at work. I hope the tea wasn’t too hot in your nasal cavity.

  • Kate S

    Oh, Ave, I’m sorry, but I’m sitting here trying desperately not to laugh out loud or shoot tea out of my nose… I’m afraid my coworkers might catch on that I’m not really working. :-DThis was priceless. And you did nothing wrong.

  • Miladysa

    Aww I thought this was really sweet!*duck*;D

  • Avery DeBow

    Christina — She was very pleasant and self-deprecating. Totally cool. I just wish… Well, I don’t know what I wish, except that maybe she didn’t see any of it, or has a great sense of humor about random weirdness.

  • Christina

    HOLLY BLACK!! That is so freaking awesome! I love that lady. I even spoke about her in my vid-5 Random things. Okay. This is really awesome, though I admit, that whole book signing thing would have had me a little nervous too.

  • Avery DeBow

    Dana — Hey, you found me! I am truly finding it amusing in retrospect. It’s gonna be a good party story one day. Laughingwolf — 6’4″? Although I’d wilt in your shadow, you’d fit right in with the rest of my family.

  • laughingwolf

    nothing wrong done, av… like they all said before meat 6’4″, i DO command most rooms i enter… so why not you?😉

  • Dana

    Ahhh… Salisbury. I’d almost forgotten. smile. I’m glad you were able to speak to Ms. Black and perhaps she has a sense of humour. I must admit that I find the whole thing terribly funny as well. (of course, had I been in your position I might have failed to see the humor right then. I would have found it amusing later, though.)

  • Avery DeBow

    All — Thanks for being so supportive of my misadventures. It’s not that I think I did anything wrong, it’s more that others in attendance (including the author, who I have no idea if she witnessed this or not) might have perceived some wrongdoing. At least I wasn’t wearing a name tag.Travis — Thanks. I do now regret my moment of cowardliness. But, I did get to go have sushi, so there’s some consolation in it all.Lana — I love that last bit, about the horn and, “Ta da!” I feel that way sometimes, and I’m also a shadow slinker.Charles — I’d ask for your scrawl over top of Fabio’s face any day. Sidney — I guess that’s the upside, isn’t it?Pirate — I knew you’d find this funny. I kind of do, too, now it’s all over. You know, if I’m doing something wrong to do something wrong, I never care, but when people think I’m doing wrong and I’m actually behaving myself for once, I get all worked up over it.

  • Steve Malley

    Like the Architect, I see nothing wrong. My own misanthropy is well-documented, so it should be no surprise that, like your sister, I find this hilarious! Thank you for brightening my day!

  • Sidney

    Sounds like a fun evening. I think the takeaway is that you will not be mistaken for a Waldenbooks employee when you do signings in the future.

  • Charles Gramlich

    With my long hair, I always expect to get asked to sign romance covers. I certainly resemble those handsome gentlemen how have so often appeared on such covers. I just can’t understand why I’m not ever mistaken for one of them! Sigh!That’s kind of cool what happened to you. Funny and cool. You did nothing wrong. You were being kind, and you are a writer.

  • Lana Gramlich

    I'm with Travis, & I'd add that, if anything, you've shown a kind side that's not too proud to bow to the whim of doe-eyed children. I doubt the author took offense, really. If she did, it would certainly indicate a high level of insecurity!Although I'm a measley 4'11" tall (& I use that term very lightly,) I seem to have that draw/command power, as well. The ironic thing, however, is that I'm highly anti-social & tend to prefer to press myself into the darkest, most unseen corners of any room. Alas, it is not to be. I walk in & it's almost like the Powers That Be blast some stupid horn, shouting "ta da" with great flourish. Egads.

  • Travis Erwin

    For what it is worth I do not think you did anything wrong. You explained who you were and tried to talk them out of it. You didn’t sign the front. If you did anything wrong it was leaving before doing the things you really wanted to do.

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