So I went into Boston over the weekend with a friend to visit area bookstores. Yes, of course I went to see if Tethered was out and if I could possibly, maybe, sign what was in stock. If you're like me -- and you're writers so I can safely assume you are -- it's a bit awkward to present yourself to the manager of a bookstore and say hi, I wrote this book, mind if I sign it? Luckily, for us, they're used to this sort thing, it happens on a fairly regular basis. In fact, it was happening while I stood in line at the customer service desk at the Downtown Crossing Borders.
To my left was an unassuming man in t-shirt and shorts, a backpack slung over his shoulder, stacks of books in front of him and he's waiting patiently, calmly. To my right, being helped by Dave the manager, was an older gentleman. Now while I should have been paying attention to the man on my left, I was in fact futzing with my outfit, smoothing my wayward hair, and standing there holding tight to my book, grinning like a game show contestant, angling it so anyone walking by might see the lovely cover. Waiting, waiting, fidget, futz, wait. It is lovely, though.
Then the man to my left says to the manager, "Are there more in back?" At which point I look to the stacks of books on the counter, look to the man, who is already heading in the direction the manager is pointing, and then I grab Dave the manager's hand (yes, I did) and say, "Is that Richard Russo?"
"Can you believe it? He just walked in!" I ran after him. No, this isn't the dorky part yet, close, but it gets worse. You may need to stop reading now because it's too painful, but imagine how excruciating it is to write. Here goes:
"I'm a big fan, I love your work, like..." At this point, I'm so excited, I can't remember a single title. Not Bridge of Sighs or Empire Falls, not Ship of Fools or The Whore's Child. Not one. His smile is beginning to wane. "I loved that article you wrote for that Maine magazine, I can't remember the name of it, on Alzheimer's, it meant so much to me..."
He starts to back away, his smile waning. "Oh, I'm sorry. Thank you."
There was more, luckily I can't remember it all. Then I really did it. "Could you sign my book?"
You see I'm still holding my copy of Tethered I'd hoped Dave the manager would want me to sign so he could slap that shiny sticker on it: autographed. But I was waiting my turn and hadn't asked yet and it was the only book I had on hand. It didn't occur to me that we were standing in the Richard Russo Aisle (can you imagine having your own section in a bookstore?) and I should have plucked one of his off the shelf.
Now Richard Russo's smile truly falters. He gestures to Tethered. "You want me to sign this book?"
"Yes, it's mine, I wrote it." I'm beaming, from nerves not pride. Even I can see how this is going, but I can't stop the train wreck.
"Oh, congratulations." He's so very nice. "But I don't think I should..." He's shaking his head, looking from me to the book.
"Of course, that would be silly." I may have stopped beaming here. I may have even gulped and developed a nervous tic.
"Hey," he said, angling my book so he could see it better. "Tethered, huh? And you're Amy MacKinnon?"
I nod. Futz, twitch, tic.
"I'll have to get that. The cover is really great."
I thank him, I leave, and Dave the kind manager, leads me over to my own -- much smaller -- stack of books on the front table and I begin to them. A man passes, he stops and turns to regard me. It's him, Richard Russo. He calls out across the floor.
"Is this your first one?" He's walking backward, toward the exit, that face I know so well smiling, for me.
"Yes." I'm beaming again.
"Good luck with it. I'll be looking out for it!"
And then he was gone and in an instant, he made me feel like I wasn't quite the big dork I knew myself to be.