Monday, October 27, 2008

On being a writer

I write books, and yes, I hear voices in my head, but aside from that, I don't think I'm much different from anyone else. However, I'm scratching my head about something that happened after my library presentation. The organizer had suggested I bring about ten handouts, so when the had to bring in extra chairs to accommodate about 15 people, I was delighted. I ran through my "How I Got Started Writing by Mistake" anecdote, and proceeded to run down all the things I was clueless about when I started writing, and what I've learned. I stopped after about 30 minutes and asked for questions, and those went on for another 30. I handed out goodie bags with chocolate (hey, I'm a romance writer, we live on the stuff), chapter booklets, magnets, bookmarks, etc., and even sold a few books. Everyone seemed satisfied, and I felt pretty good. After everyone was gone, the chapter member who'd come to make sure I had at least one person in the audience introduced me to her daughter, an exchange student from Germany. Since one of my daughters had been and exchange student to Germany, we started chatting. As we spoke, another woman who'd been at the program came back. She indicated that she'd wait, because she wanted to speak to me privately.

Once my friend had left, the woman proceeded to tell me that I had been very rude during my program. I was astonished, because I couldn't think of anything I'd done or said that might offend anyone. She explained that she'd come with her daughter, and I'd skipped right over her while I was chatting informally with the group as we were getting started. I absolutely could not recall doing so, and apologized profusely, and told her it was inadvertent, and probably due to people arriving, and my getting them handouts, or pointing to empty seats, that I must have lost track of where I'd left off and missed her daughter. She then said she might have overlooked that, but then I 'cut her daughter off' when she tried to speak. Now, I'm an old schoolteacher, and everyone in the group was raising hands to ask questions, so if her daughter had said something, I certainly didn't hear it, or notice. Again, I apologized.

The woman would not leave. She went on and on about how I had offended her daughter (who wasn't even in the room at this time), how her daughter studied Creative Writing, was a writer herself, and edited for a publisher that the mother was sure I'd be impressed with if I knew who it was. She told me I could never tell who was in the audience and how important it was to pay attention to everyone, repeating again that I had slighted her "important" daughter. I tried again to apologize, and suggested that I would have to come up with a way to make sure that I never overlooked anyone if I did another introductory "are you a reader or a writer" segment. At that, she rolled her eyes and said I'd just insulted her for the third time and she stormed off.

Now, things like that will get to me. I had no idea I'd done anything 'wrong', and normally, I'd have stewed over it for a while, because I don't like people not to like me although I know that's an impossibility. I know not everyone will like my books, and it's hard enough not to take that personally, but this was definitely an attack on me as a person. I've tried going over it again (and again, and again), and I still can't figure out what pushed her buttons so badly. I had slighted her daughter, she told me over and over, and she was coming to me as a mother protecting her young. All I can think is that maybe she wanted me to apologize by giving her a free book, and because I wasn't offering to do so (because to me, that would have been like buying her approval), she kept harping about how rude I'd been.

But, the kicker for me is that to me, the woman is a stranger. I have no idea who she is, or who her daughter is. However, she knows who I am, and she can give me negative publicity and she has the power to do harm to my career. It's one thing to have to smile and accept whatever the "public" says about you, but what can you do if they just won't go away? You certainly can't tell them they're wrong.

1 comment:

Ray said...

The woman just might have been scamming you for a free book. A friend of my wife's used to carry objects in her purse that caused her to "trip." She generally got free groceries for promising not to sue.

I would be willing to bet that the daughter was out of the room because she wasn't offended.

My dad used to tell the story of going to a football game at his high school. When he was presenting his ticket one of the students tried to get in free.

The boy struck and angry tone saying, "Do you know who my dad is? He owns half this town."

The ticket taker said, "He doesn't own this half. Go buy a ticket."

Great blog.