Unless you are John Grisham or on trial for murdering your spouse with a dull spoon, the answer to the title question is “not many people at all.” Only a few times in my twenty plus years as an author have I had actual lines forming to obtain my signature, and then only when I’ve had a chance to speak first. But regardless, I packed up my low expectations and gratefully accepted an invitation to have a signing at the Barnes & Noble in Pueblo, CO, recently.
Was it a wasted afternoon? Not at all. How encouraging it was to walk in and see two of my titles, Take My Hand Again and The Hope of Glory, all piled up and waiting on a cloth-covered table by the door. Friendly employees offered a comfortable chair and any assistance I needed. Then I sat expectantly.
I did think most visitors to my table would be human, but was delighted when the first one to show any interest at all was a young golden doodle. She didn’t want to read the books, but didn’t chew on any either, so that was good. I loved seeing her pink bows.
At one point in the afternoon I thought I should check to see if someone had posted a sign on the front of the table reading, “Leave your best advice here.” First a gentleman stopped to peruse my books, then looked at me and asked, “Are you a Christian lady?” “Yes, I am,” I replied. “Well, do you know what EGO stands for?” he asked. “Edging God Out. We all have the power of the Holy Spirit in us but we don’t always tap into it because of our egos.” I agreed with him and he wandered off.
Next I was approached by a woman who also took the time to look at both books before offering, “Life’s a journey. We shouldn’t focus too much on the past or we’ll miss the present and the future.” Good advice, that.
The two visitors I enjoyed the most, however, were two older ladies who wandered by looking for a place to sit while their families shopped. I was happy to stand for a while, and they were happy to sit and visit.
The first woman, Faith, had owned an independent bookstore in Pueblo for years before retiring in her eighties. She cheerfully predicted a swing back to a preference for hard cover books, and her parting advice was that whatever our political persuasions, we should all write Congress hand-written letters—“the only ones that make a difference!”
And then there was the guest that made the whole afternoon worthwhile. Sadie accepted my offer of the chair as soon as she entered the store with her husband, daughter and son-in-law. “I don’t know why,” she said, “but when you turn 90 things just start going to pot. My feet hurt and I can’t shop like I used to.” Over the 30 minutes or so she kept me company, we shared details of our lives. She told me she was born in the US but raised in Mexico, returning to Pueblo in the Seventies. She and her husband of 72 years have 10 children, 30 grandchildren, and wait for it, 94 great and great-great grandchildren! I sheepishly told her that my first great grandchild was due any day.
Sharing that she couldn’t read my books due to macular degeneration, Sadie said, “I accept whatever the good Lord sends, but sometimes it makes me sad.” It made me sad, too.
While Sadie was sitting in my author chair, a young woman and her family entered the store. “Grandma!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing here?” Sadie rose to give hugs punctuated with kisses on both cheeks to the girl, her husband, and her son. They went off to shop. Sadie sat down, turned to me and said, “I know that’s one of my granddaughters, but I can’t remember her name.” Understandable. When Sadie’s daughter came to reclaim her, she cleared up the confusion. I got a Sadie hug, we said our goodbyes, and they left.
I did sell two books to other shoppers that afternoon, but driving home I realized that the Lord hadn’t sent me there to sell books, just to remember why I wrote books for the elderly and those who care for them in the first place. It was an afternoon well spent…and a success in that not a single person asked me if I knew where the bathroom was.