Forget fame and fortune, which is convenient for me as I have neither. My greatest moment as an author occurred at the back of an independent bookstore where four rows of folding chairs were set up, the first two rows striped with yellow crepe to mark the “Members Only” section.
To the left of the small foot-high stage, a display table held several copies of “Dead Jed: Adventures of a Middle School Zombie,” arranged neatly in low stacks. In the middle was a photo of an old guy attempting to look important. A short biography under “Meet the author” described this gentleman as me. It was all fairly embarrassing.
Until I saw the girl in the front row, sitting on crepe paper and not caring, flipping through various screens on her phone. It wasn’t who she was or what she was doing. It was the paperback book on her lap, the cover creased, the pages fluffed like an accordion.
That was a book that had been read. And it felt amazing.
A month ago, I’d been invited to Club Read, a monthly meeting of kids who loved to read. Changing Hands in Tempe urged members to read “Dead Jed” before my appearance, but I had no idea if they’d follow instructions, or if it would be like the mom-based book clubs that were popular more for the excuse to start drinking in the early afternoon.
I brought a copy of “Dead Jed” with me, marking passages I intended to read. Arriving 15 minutes early, I met Eddie, the Club Read post. He told me to be prepared for anything, and that while it was smart to read certain passages, the kids usually asked enough questions to keep it going for the full hour.
The members slowly filtered in, parents telling them to be good as they headed back home. And nearly all of the kids carried “Dead Jed,” each one looking beautifully ratty.
Eddie started the meeting with the grand unveiling of the next month’s book, written by a rich and famous Newberry-Award winning author. The kids oohed and aawed. “I absolutely LOVE her!” one gasped. Eddie said he would try to get her to Skype in, but in the very least he would lead a discussion of the story. “I’m sorry, but it’s almost impossible to get such a big-name author to appear, and never in person.”
And then he introduced me.
The kids, however, treated me like a big-name author. They asked informed questions, and the hour flew by. I never touched my copy of “Dead Jed.” Nor did I get to all the questions.
About halfway through, when someone asked what it felt like to write a book, I was honest.
“As you know, I’m not a big-name author. I have yet to see a dime from ‘Dead Jed.’ Last year I went to a big book convention in New York, signing postcards of the book because it wasn’t out at that time. With so many talented writers there, I felt so small.
“I can honestly say that meeting you, seeing you with my book, especially which each book looking very well-read, is the best moment I’ve had as an author. It reminds me why I write in the first place. The fact each one of you devoted a few hours to a world I created, losing yourself in the characters, maybe even learning something about yourselves, absolutely blows me away. I thank each an every one of you, I really do. If you remember one thing when you leave here, remember that.”
At the end, the kids lined up patiently as I signed each book. A few had their photos taken with me.
It was my greatest author moment ever. If I never sell another copy of “Dead Jed,” all I have to do is think about Club Read and know that the months of writing, the years of finding an agent and publisher, were worth every second.