Book Signing

I'm sitting here watching the Titans with John and thought I would share some details about the book signing yesterday.

I have to be honest that I was not looking forward to it. I have never written a book or done a book signing. I'm an unknown author. I pictured myself sitting at a table all alone, not one person buying a book or making eye contact with me. I knew I had to do it and I couldn't wait to get it behind me. I told John I was nervous and he told me later that he had prayed for me all day.

This book is so much more than a book for me. It's my life. It's my testimony. It is a deeply personal journey. My heart is on the pages. Although I am naturally an open person and I don't mind being vulnerable, by putting myself out there as I have in this book, I'm vulnerable in a way I have never experienced before. And not just vulnerable as far as the information I share about myself (which is not all pretty). The most excruciating vulnerability in this book is connected to the reactions of readers; because I am intertwined with this book in ways that I could not possibly be intertwined had I written a work of fiction. I often translate a person's perception of the book or its content as their perception of me. This extends to what I included in the book as well as what I did not. Some people think it is horrible that I wrote this book and others think I was kind. Translation in Shari's psyche: Some people think I am a horrible person and some people think I am a kind person. (Except when someone says I was too kind and then that becomes a negative, too.)

Although the reactions I personalize the most are from people who know me, I still felt very vulnerable going into this book signing. I knew it would be hard not to personalize a disappointing response. And I did not go with great expectations. I went thinking; this could wind up being very embarrassing.

I arrived a few minutes early and sat down at the table displaying my books and a flyer. The staff at Hastings were so helpful and warm. Tony, the store manager, told me people had already been inquiring about the book and several copies had been sold. Within five minutes of sitting down, a woman approached the table, picked up a book and said she had come to the store to buy it and have me sign it. She told me that when she was made aware of the book her first thought was, "Someone has written my story."

This got things off to such a positive start that I relaxed and felt good about being there. I was seated at a table just inside the entrance where customers had to walk past me as they entered the store. I was amused at how many people went out of their way not to make eye contact. This is just human nature. We do it even when we see sweet little girls selling Girl Scout cookies outside the grocery store. If we are in a hurry or we don't want to be engaged in conversation (or an attempt to sell us something), we pretend we don't see people. I was not even tempted to personalize this. It's something I have done so many times.

One older gentleman handled the awkwardness with a joke. As he walked past the table, he smiled at me and said, "Would you like to sign a book for me?" I said, "I would love to sign a book for you." And he said, with a chuckle, "Well, you can't because I don't have one." He cracked himself up, and this cracked me up too. I wished him a Merry Christmas and really meant it.

And then an angel walked in the door. A new friend who shares my roots made quite a drive just to support me at the book signing. This is not a person I grew up with, though. I'm actually a little older than her dad. We were never peers or even friends in CGT because of our age difference. And I left the church before she did. But the book has been therapeutic for her and has facilitated her in sharing her heart with loved ones and feeling more understood than she once would have ever hoped for. It brought tears to my eyes as I listened. While this kind of dialogue and understanding with loved ones may not happen for me as a result of the book, it is profoundly rewarding for me that it is happening for someone else. I told her that whenever I am struggling with the consequence of personal rejection for writing the book, I will think of her and feel joy.

Another friend also popped in to say hi and show support shortly after the event began. And then a little later John came to check on me and see how things were going. By this time, I had been approached by a number of customers and engaged in conversation. I had sold several books and was feeling energized by the day. I stayed a few extra minutes to sign the remaining copies before leaving and wound up selling two additional books.

I then came home to an email from the rep at Barnes & Noble letting me know that she had ordered copies to carry in the Murfreesboro store and would also like me to do a book signing for them, as well. She told me they were planning a local author event in February and invited me to be a part of it.

I felt inspired and compelled all year long to write and publish my testimony. But I have not felt any real drive to promote the book. Because of the intertwining of myself and the book that I have already described, promoting the book feels like self-promotion to me. And the last thing I have any desire to promote is myself. If God has a plan or purpose for the book, He will have to open the doors because I can't picture myself knocking on them. I have been anxious at every turn. I am a person who is easily overwhelmed with self-doubt. But although there have been challenges and some painful repercussions of sharing my story, the rewards have already far outweighed them.

As my friend described to me how the book is bringing greater understanding for her own feelings because of the communication it has provoked, I realized that I could not be happier if that were happening for me personally.


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