Earlier this year esteemed YA author Sara Zarr (before she went on blog hiatus, that is) wrote an interesting post about the changes in her blogging habits. I am not even close to being on the same playing field as Sara Zarr, of course, but I was digging around in the big teetering stack of books on my desk this weekend, feebly attempting to impose some sort of order on them, and out of nowhere I remembered that old post of hers. I think it was because I was looking at a handful of my autographed books, which include some recent additions from signings, blog contests, and the scant handful of books I got signed at SCBWILA.
I’m feeling good about my prospects as a children’s author, you know? Not to be all braggy and stuff, but this feels like an exciting time, one during which I’m very aware how much I’m being lifted up by the aid and encouragement of the kidlit community as a whole. I actually don’t have a lot of trouble seeing a time when my blogging habits change in the way Sara Zarr’s have, because the possibility of an honest-to-gosh kidlit career feels more real than it ever has.
If I manage to attain the kind of career I want – writing productively, publishing regularly, developing a strong presence in both the inner workings of the industry and the outer workings of the marketplace – it’s very likely that I’ll experience changes in big stuff, like how I perceive myself, interact with colleagues and readers, and prioritize my resources. But I’m often a guy who looks through the micro lens, so I’m also aware that I may experience changes in the little stuff too. Like how I feel about the phenomenon of autographed books.
I’ve undergone a certain amount of change already! If I admired/respected/just-plain-liked someone’s work, that was enough. Getting the signature was never meaningful in any big way, even with books, which have always been more meaningful to me than most objects. This changed when I began to pursue a children’s writing career in earnest, however, because I started to meet people, in both the virtual and corporeal worlds. I went to Cindy Pon‘s SF Bay Area launch party for SILVER PHOENIX, and I now happily and appreciatively consider Cindy a friend. So when I won a signed copy of A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS on her blog, the prize carried an extra measure of oomph because Cindy went to the trouble of dragging Megan Whalen Turner into an ongoing inside joke about my participation in Cindy’s contests! Similarly, the signed copy of NEIL ARMSTRONG IS MY UNCLE that I won in Nan Marino’s contest really meant something to me because I think well of Nan, love her book, and had fun howling at the moon (and nearby lurking miscreants) late one night in an Oakland park in celebration of her book’s 1-year anniversary.
Which I think is why I only came home with two signed books from SCBWILA – there were a ton of authors and illustrators there whose work enthralls me, but most of the faculty were people who I haven’t had some level of personal connection with, even if it’s as fleeting as a pleasant Twitter exchange. (Although I did miss out on Cynthia Liu and Tammi Sauer, which I regret, because I do think very highly of them both as writers AND people.)
I confess to a degree of questionable show-offiness in this endeavor, a tinge of “woohoo, look at me with all the famous writers and illustrators I know, wooo, I’m so awesome, look at aaaaaaall these personalized autographs!” You’ll forgive me, I hope – I do get quite starstruck, despite my nearly lifelong disinterest in autographs, and I’m no better than anyone else when it comes to self-administered ego inflation. Geez, is that a bigger problem than I realize? One of the things you see and hear a lot when trying to grab the brass ring of publication is “don’t be a pinhead and blog, tweet or otherwise publicize stuff you might regret.” I wonder how easy or hard it is to predict what those things will be? Maybe my new-found fondness for personalized autographs is one of those things! I don’t believe I blog about stuff in a naturally inflammatory or indiscreet way, but then again, I’m also kind of a putz in general. Time will tell, I suppose.
So what does all this portend for the future? If all goes well, I’m only going to get to know more and more children’s book creators as I pursue my own career. While I feel differently about getting autographs as I get to know more people? Will I grow jaded and cynical? Maybe it’ll become less meaningful as the novelty wears off, or as it becomes more commonplace. Or maybe it’ll become more meaningful as I develop more attachments to people in the industry! Wouldn’t that be great? Maybe I’ll continue to meet writers and illustrators, and I’ll get more and more signed books with the weight of personal connection behind them, and I’ll have to buy more shelves and get rid of other furniture and fill the second bathroom up with books and make it hard for overnight guests to go take a whizz, but wouldn’t it be worth it? I kinda hope that’s how it’ll go.
Yours in ever-changing splendor,