Thursday, April 26, 2007

signing books

I know, this is post number 3... but I just had a thought.

I can't stand signing books. I don't mind doing it when it's for a stranger because all I have to do is sign my name and draw a little picture... but when it's for someone I know I always groan (on the inside of course). The reason is that I WANT to write something meaningful! When I'm put on the spot my brain shuts down and I can't come up with anything too great. Then there's the spelling problem. I'm a bad speller! God forbid I spell a word wrong!

Do any of you other authors have this problem or is it just me? I think it's as bad as asking for a thank you card or happy birthday card but wanting it on the spot. Who could do that?



Libby Koponen said...

I hate to do it too -- again, not for strangers but for anyone I know. Even kids I've met at a school visit: I want to write something REALLY GOOD, something that they will look at later and like as much as they liked me....alas, I never can think on the spot in that way.

It doesn't bother me at ALL that people ask, but it really bothers me that I can't usually think of the perfect thing -- or even ANYTHING interesting!--to say. So, I usually just settle for something's weird, I'm not at all tongue-tied in conversation, usually. But signing a book....

I'm really glad you brought this up.


Anonymous said...

When I have a new book out, I sit down and think about what I will write -- everytime -- for that particular title.

Fly High with Reading! (Wright brothers)
Will Spring be Early? or Late? (Groundhog book)
What can you do with your toes? (Busy Toes)

Then I'm all set. Hand me the book,
I find out the name of the person to dedicate it to. (write it down on a post a note so that I can copy it as it write.)

For (name)
(Insert cute phrase here)
signed -- me -- this year.

For spelling problems I have that handy-dandy post-a-note where I can practice writing it down, first. I am not shy about asking how to spell something.

I learned the hard way to ask how to spell, even the simplist words -- when I autographed a book TO the students at the School of Angles.

ooops. The school principal thought it was amusing -- everyone makes that mistake. (yes, it was the School of Angels.)

Now, about the mix-ups that happen when we're doing a mass signings of many different titles? I was half-way into "Fly High" one day when I realized I was writing in a Groundhog Day book. Came to a complete stop, desperately trying to figure out how to re-work that to refer to groundhogs.

Other than that, I do like to sign books and try to remember to:
1) talk a little to the person while I sign
2) ask them what grade the person the book is for is in. This way I will know to print for early elementary kids and to write cursive for older ones.

-wendie old

Anonymous said...

Dear megan
Dear Megan
Dere Meghan
Dear Meghen
Dear Meghan,

I have this problem all the time, and now that I know I'm not alone I feel ever so much better...

I do exactly what Wendie does: have paper ready so they can print out the exact spelling of their name and have it ready for me, and in advance figure out the usual thing that I want to write. Often I have prepared a variation on the theme that is a little longer, so I can make it slightly more special. And the other thing I do is make sure the sign-off reflects the relationship (your favorite aunt, BFF, I loved having you in my class, etc.)

If it's for a really special person, I'm usually giving the book, and then I have lots of time to write the perfect thing. Or mess it up completely.

fusenumber8 said...

Yeah. I always wonder that when I hand an author or illustrator a library copy to sign. Cause usually I accompany such an action by saying, "It's our PERMANENT LIBRARY COPY!" No pressure, there. No pressure.

Meghan McCarthy said...

Permanent library copy isn't any pressure. It's only bad when you say something like "It's for me and your last book has helped me get through my depression..." Okay, no one has said that but that would be some pressure!

Anonymous said...

Um... you're right, Fuse, signing permanent library copies IS major pressure. I keep wondering, where are the temporary copies and can't I practice on some of those, first?

See, we writers are often weird and reclusive little flowers who work hard at our social skills, so that when we have to show up in public we appear halfway normal. Put pressure on us and we fold our petals inward and freeze. When I autograph, I absolutely insist on writing the spelling of each name, even if it's "Sam"-- because when I'm signing, I'm doing many things that may not be immediately apparent to the casual observer (see below), and I have to keep track of things on paper or I'll mess up.

Things I Do While Signing That Are Not Apparent To The Casual Observer But Which Occupy All My Energy:
1)Attempting to look intelligent and creative and stylish and a bit artsy-funky and yet somehow normal and approachable and down-to-earth (this does not come naturally to me)
2)Coming up with something clever to write so the person will not go home, look at the autograph, and say "Wow, she's funny in her books but in person she's, like, a piece of wet bread"
3)When the autographee insists on talking to me while I'm writing, which they always do, I must decide: Do I stop, look up, and have a nice conversation, thereby infuriating the others in line, or do I keep my head down and mumble while continuing to write? (I no longer attempt to really converse while writing. Sad experience has taught me that I am capable of misspelling not only "Sam", but also "Ben", "Meg", "Smith", and don't even get me started on Kaitlyn
Kate Lynn
Oh, forget it.

Linda S. Wingerter said...

I know you do, Meghan, because you slipped away from me multiple times when I tried to get you to sign your book for me.

But, being that I have the exact same trouble, and have resorted to simply apologizing beforehand for my superficial, simply signed books for friends I love and adore, it would have been no problem for me had you only just signed your name!

I'll get you next time. :D

Anonymous said...

Robert Sabuda once made hilarious comments on this during an SCBWI-LA talk, all about the pressure of being asked to sign children's bookstore walls. And, of course, by sign, they meant draw. While they all watched. And he was given a stepladder and a dying Sharpie--and all the good spots had been taken.

It was funny!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting about this issue! I really thought I was the only one with this embarrassing signing and public event block. Its good to know people really do prepare lines in advance. It is completely ironic that a profession that involves so much alone time also involves such skilled public functioning!

When I've been at group signings, I've often looked over at the others who seem to be easily making up brilliant things on the spot, while I just feel lucky not to knock my water over while saying things like "is that Ned with an N?"

Things I've done:
Met a way more successful author at a group signing and immediately tripped.
Met a different way more successful author at an event and hit teeth together [hard] while attempting an air kiss.
While washing my hands in the public restroom before a signing, turned on the water so hard that it hit my hands and shot down the front of my skirt.
Misspelled an extremely simple word on a book for an award committee member.

Its like my evil twin takes over!