WRITER DO’S AND DON’T’S
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The answer to the trivia question, “What was the gift that Michael Moscovitz gave to Mia Thermopolis at dinner, the night of her fifteenth birthday?” was a necklace with a silver snowflake hanging from it (from the book PRINCESS IN PINK).
I realized the other day that I have posted (numerous times) suggestions for how readers ought to behave at book signings, but I have never posted any suggestions for how AUTHORS ought to behave at these events.
I apologize for this oversight, and, because I will soon be attending many author-related events (for instance, Book Expo America, a massive convention for booksellers, librarians, teachers, and publishers, which this year will be in Washington DC, May 18-21), I thought I should offer my two cents on this subject.
(Please note, I don't have many author friends, and after this, I expect I will have even less. But I don't care, because the following HAS to be said by someone, because I don't want the next generation of new writers to adopt these bad habits):
MEG CABOT'S BOOK SIGNING DO'S AND DON'TS FOR WRITERS:
1) DON'T BE A SLOB
Writers, I recognize that you are sensitive artists who want to be known for your creative writing, not your fashion sense. But for the love of God, people, you are at a book signing. Your readers are seeing you live and in person for the first time.
SO WHY DIDN'T YOU BRUSH YOUR HAIR?????
Seriously, it bugs me SO MUCH when I, a reader, go to an event featuring a favorite writer, and that writer has made NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to look good for his or her readers.
Look, I know most of us were not blessed with unbelievably good looks, and if we were, we would be on TV or in the movies, not writing books.
But you can at least groom yourself properly. I never thought I would quote Sylvester Stallone's mom about anything, but she was right to be so outraged when Sean Penn and his then wife Madonna showed up at that awards ceremony that year looking all skanky and unwashed. It's just rude!
And please do not go on about how we as a society are too preoccupied by physical appearance and ought to concentrate more on intellectual concerns. If your book won a literary award, would you show up at the award ceremony in your pajamas, with your hair looking all ratty, like you just rolled out of bed (and please do not bring up Lauren Hutton at this year's Academy Awards)?
Well, a book signing is like an awards ceremony. People are rewarding you with their presence. So show a little respect for them, and try to look nice–even festive. Sparkles are never NOT appropriate (except at a funeral).
Authors who will be attending future events with me: I have noticed that large numbers of you have hairs growing unchecked out of places where hairs should not be growing unchecked. I want you to know, I will have my tweezers with me. Do NOT make me have to use them on you.
2) DON'T BE A WEIRDO
If there is anything that burns me up more than an author who makes no effort to look nice for his or her readers, it's authors who act all weird because they think people in the “creative arts” are “special.”
I am not talking about throwing on a tiara and a feather boa, either. I am talking about authors who pretend their books aren't written by them, but by their characters. As in, “I didn't want to kill off So-and-So, but Name of Main Character insisted on it! There was nothing I could do!”
I realize that some readers love hearing this kind of thing—that you, the author, are just a puppet whose strings are pulled by your characters. Because it makes it seem like the characters are real, and people want to believe characters they love are real.
But I fear that some authors say things like this so often, they are actually starting to believe it. I know this because authors are saying it to ME, in private conversations, with no readers present.
And I find myself going, “Uh-huh. Really? Your characters actually talk to you? That's so interesting, because you know, I made my characters up, so they can't talk to me, because they ARE NOT REAL.”
The truth is, authors, characters cannot act and think independently of you because they are FIGMENTS OF YOUR IMAGINATION. When your character says or does something, it is because YOU MADE THEM DO IT. Your characters DO NOT ACTUALLY EXIST except on paper and in your head.
So, authors, please stop blaming your characters for what YOU did. At least when I'm around. Because I should warn you, I will be armed with tweezers, and I'm not afraid to use them.
3) DON'T TALK ABOUT YOUR SPIRIT GUIDE (subgenre of Don't Be a Weirdo):
Okay, I know a lot of you authors are highly sensitive beings who are super in touch with your inner creative life force, etc.
But if you have a spirit guide, I do not want to know about it. And you know what? I am guessing the rest of the world doesn't want to know about it, either.
Particularly if your spirit guide is a nineteenth century Native American brave who slipped through a time portal to be with you. Okay? And not just because you sound like a whacko banana pants (although you do) when you go on about him, but because MY spirit guide might just be a twentieth century Clinique makeup technician who doesn't go anywhere without her tweezers.
And she might just use them on YOUR spirit guide if you don't shut up about him.
4) DON'T BE SUCH A BIG BABY:
Often when I go on a book tour I hear from booksellers about authors who were in their store the night before, who are also on a book tour, and who signed so many books that they had to ice their hand. Very often, these poor, tender things needed to have a bookseller stand next to them to flip the books open for them, because their little author fingers are too precious and weak to do this task themselves.
Authors, seriously: Unless you are physically challenged, Harper Lee, JD Salinger, Beverly Clearly, or some other beloved but aged author, YOU MUST STOP DOING THIS. It just confirms what the rest of the world already thinks about us: that we are a bunch of badly groomed little namby pamby prima donnas with spirit guides who think our characters are real.
If you are too weak to open your own books or to sign more than a hundred copies of them at a time without having to ice your hand, you're a big baby. Please do us all a favor, and just stay home.
5) DO REMEMBER WHAT IT WAS LIKE WHEN YOU WERE UNPUBLISHED:
Sometimes when I am around authors who have made the big time, I notice that they treat booksellers (and other authors who haven't made the big time) as dirt beneath their feet. As a matter of fact, when I was first starting out, several big name authors treated ME this way.
This is not a smart move, authors. Because what could happen is that the smalltime bookseller or author you are being so snobby to COULD become a bigtime bookseller or author, and she will remember the time when you treated her less than courteously.
And she might just end up sitting next to you at some function or other.
And she might be carrying her tweezers.
I'm just saying.