Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Best Author In the Room

Recently, I had the privilege of being nominated for a Silver Birch Award and, being the earnest children’s author that I am, I decided to cash in on my 15 minutes of fame and fly to Toronto for the big event–the announcement of the winner followed by the author signing where I was promised I would be "treated like a rock star." And who can pass up an invitation like that? Especially when you’ve never won an award!

Okay, I still haven’t actually won an award. That honor went to Linda DeMeulemeester for her book, The Secret of Grim Hill. And it was almost worth losing just to see the look on her face when she won. Her hands flew to her face and she sort of swivelled around as if her knees had gone a little weak. She looked like one of those beauty pageant winners! You could tell she was genuinely thrilled. It was great to see such a deserving writer rewarded.

But then came the signing–and you know what? They really do treat you like a rock star–except your fans are smaller. If you don’t have a table in front of you, you’re mobbed! They come at you mostly with scraps of paper, but also notebooks, official forms with the names of all the nominees, running shoes, and even, occasionally, a copy of your book.

There was a cold wind blowing off lake Ontario at the Harbourfront Centre and we were in a tent, so a lot of the young autograph hounds were shivering by the time they stepped up to my table, having waited for a good 90 minutes for the lineups to die down. To these hardy young souls, I apologize. I have a slow pen. It’s an honour to have somebody wait around in a howling wind just to have you sign your name.

The very next day, I attended Durham County school district’s own celebration of the Forest of Reading at the Iroquois Park Sports Centre. After a delicious lunch of pizza and ice cream, where I got to mingle with the kids, more autographs!

Once again, thanks to my slow hand, I spent about an hour signing. They brought me everything from shoes to notebooks to copies of books by some of the other nominees. David Poulsen was the favorite, the logic usually going something like this: "Well, he isn’t here and you have the same first name so . . . could you sign it?"

At last I looked up and saw that I was actually making a dent in the crowd. My line had dwindled to only about four or five students. It was a good thing, too, because I had to drive to the airport soon to fly back home.

And then the highlight of my Silver Birch experience: A young man who had been waiting for a long time finally reached the head of the line. He put a copy of Baboon down on the table and said, "Mr. Jones, you’re the best author here!" I tried to muster all the modesty I could while savoring my moment in the limelight and muttered something like, "Well, thank you for saying that, son. You’re very– "

But before I could get the rest of the sentence out of my mouth, some wag at the back of the line leaned over and said, "You’re the only author here."

I stood up and looked over the line blocking my view of the arena. Everyone else had left, except for two guys stacking chairs and carting the folding tables away. I’m assuming that neither of them was a children’s author, so I’m taking that first kid at his word.

What’s that saying? "All glory is fleeting."

Four seconds, though. That’s got to be some kind of record.

David Jones
author of Baboon and Mighty Robots

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