Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pick a Cliche, Any Cliche (SD Book Fest, post 1)

If you've read the title of this post, you probably have some idea of what this is going to be about.

So let's just jump straight in with "You can't judge a book by its cover." That's an oldie but a goodie - especially at a Festival of Books.

First of all, I think that that adage is both true and false. I think that a lot of book covers are definitely wrong for their interiors. I've seen a lot of great covers on crappy books, and a lot of crappy covers on good books. But I've also seen a lot of crappy books with crappy covers, and those are the ones where I find myself thinking that I should have just judged the stupid book by its stupid cover.

At the Book Festival, there are a lot of books to look at. There are also a lot of people around. And, as a result, you make a lot of very fast judgments based on... well... covers.

Here's something that I was reminded of pretty quickly: A lot of authors do much better in writing than in person. But - here's the catch - some of those same authors also do great when they're working from scripts (or reading from their books). It's just when they have to truly interact that some of them falter. It's kind of endearing, really, but can also be rather frustrating when you're in a schmoozing situation.

Or... Let's say that you are meeting an author you've always wanted to meet, and you see her speak and she's dynamic and vibrant and all sorts of exciting, but when you actually chat with her later she's much more withdrawn. It's a strange feeling.

Believe me, though, I've worked in the Arts long enough to understand the differences between public and private personas. I know that probably 80% of people in the Arts (be they authors or actors or singers or painters or whatever) would really rather spend their down time alone. And the other 20% tend to be really out there and "on" at all times (based on his social media presence, I would suspect John Barrowman falls into that latter category, for instance).

What I'm trying to say is that I really enjoyed meeting all the people I met. And I took a number of those meetings with a grain of salt. (And I hereby vow that if I'm ever the one sitting on the other side of that table, I'll do my best to lean more toward the gregarious side - for better or worse.)

Now, how about a little "Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" versus "Out of Sight is Out of Mind"?

You see, I graduated from college in 1989 - 25 years ago. At the time, I graduated with degrees in English and French. As some of you know, I see one of my French professors a few times every year, and we've kept in touch pretty well. On the other hand, I've really never kept in touch with my English professors. I read about them in the college newsletters, and I tell stories about them (either reminiscing with old friends or just boring Christopher), but even though they've stayed on my mind, I haven't seen them in years.

Well... This weekend I ran into three of my professors from back in the day. I got a fairly solid look of "I have no idea who you are, but keep talking and I'll see if anything clicks" from two of them. The third was incredibly charming and openly admitted that she had no idea who I was, and asked a few questions, to one of which I responded "No, I wasn't in that course track, but my sister took one of your classes, although she was in Engineering Physics..." To which she replied, "OH. Sure. I remember her! Tell her I say hello..."

Bubble. Burst. Ka-blooie. >sigh<

Finally, there was the "Are you sure you're not...?" person I ran into in the middle of the second day. (Yes, I know that's not an old adage, but it is kind of a "meet-n-greet" cliche to have someone come up to you and say that they're sure they know you, because you're supposed to be... Even when they don't, because you're not.)

So, I was walking through the main exhibitors' hall on Saturday, looking at the different small publishers' tables, and authors' displays, and the SD Poetry Society table, and the South Dakota Graduate Women in Science table, and the woman sitting behind a table of books gave me a very familiar "Hi! How is your day going?" Good, thanks. Yours? "It's going okay. How was your session, today? Did it go well?" I'm actually not a presenter. But I've been having a good time. "You're not? I was sure you were... I must have you confused with someone else."

It was fairly uncomfortable. Not gonna lie. But - with my vow to be more gregarious in mind - I replied with Oh. Yes. My presentation. It was great. Everyone loved it. Except there was this one guy in the back who kept coughing. But he eventually quieted down. Not sure if he got up to get a drink or if he just keeled over, but either way the rest of the talk went great. She laughed. I laughed. I moved along to the next table.

What does this mean we've learned about the SD Festival of Books, today? If you want to, you can meet a lot of people - who may or may not be exactly who you expect them to be. You can run into people you've known for years, and you can become fast friends with people you've just met (who also may or may not be exactly who you expect them to be). 

Tune in next time for what it's like to be a Fanboy at a very non-Fanboy kind of event.

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