The IRA Annual convention is in Orlando this week and I’ll be there on Tuesday and Wednesday. I love IRA, I think the convention is always filled with so many great people who really have so much to offer – especially if you’re a geek like me who loves literacy. Books, data on reading stats, strategies for reaching the hard to reach learner… this conference is just rich, rich, rich.
Plus, it’s always filled with a ton of authors. Some are the biggest of big are always in attendance – and a host of first-timers, too. I’ll never forget when I was a first-timer.
The Hoopster had just come out and Disney had orchestrated my very first book signing at this, my very first convention under the bright lights in the big city. I was showered, dressed, caffeinated and so, so excited that I could hardly sleep. From 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. I’d be signing at the Disney booth. It was a “next level” in my career moment for me.
I had even bought six new pens (just in case 1 – or 5 – ran out of ink). However, there was little if any need for any pens at all. I sat there at a table and watched as people filed right on past. All of my excitement, all of my preparation, all of my hopes and dreams were now being met by a very harsh reality.
The Hoopster was only about 9 days old, it hadn’t swept the nation in a frenzy of Harry Potter-esque acceptance and the line for Avi, Walter Dean Myers and Laurie Anderson were clearly a wee bit longer than the line for Alan Sitomer. (And, trust me, this is taking liberties with the use of the word “line”. Occasional dot is a more apt description.)
But Disney wasn’t dismayed. The person in charge of school and marketing, Angus Killick (who has since become a a Big Kahuna publisher as well as a friend) basically said to me, “Don’t worry, one day they will line up for you. Being an author is about putting together a career, not just one book. You’ll be fine and one day you’ll remember this day as a mere stepping stone along the journey instead of the journey itself.”
At the time, the words of Angus were like most words of wise mentors who offered philosophy in the face of disappointment. And really, I couldn’t tell if they were just balm for my wounds or if they were actually genuine words of truth and inspiration.
Well, now I am at IRA again, years later, with a new book that will be launched in about 6 weeks, NERD GIRLS (Note: they will be giving out free advance reading copies at the Disney booth where I will be signing at noon on Tuesday in the Exhibit Hall but I think it’s a “while supplies last” type of thing because they have become so popular already) and, as Angus predicted, now I am the YA author who has people lining up. It’s incredible. And back in the day when I was the “new guy” I gotta say, I hoped to make it to this point, I busted my tail to make it to this point but until you actually make it to this point, I am not sure you ever believe it really is going to happen.
So for all the “new guys and gals” who ever hope to do a book signing and actually have people show up and wait in line for you to autograph a copy of your latest novel, all I can say is… keep writing, keep working and yes, it too can happen to you.