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I open an email from Bent Pages Bookstore, a sponsor of the Jambalaya Writers Conference, and read, “Can you bring books? The distributor canceled our order.” At first the message did not register. I read it again. Unbelievable! At last, a bookstore will buy books for me to sign and the distributor canceled the order.

“Yes, I can bring books,” I replied, then called my marketing representative.

He was also mystified. “The distributor has four of your books on their shelf.”

He resolved the problem by calling the bookstore and selling them the books they needed.

I arrived at the conference to find ten copies of my book on my assigned table. If I had brought books, I would have made more money. Bookstore sales yield a small royalty, but I didn’t write a book to get rich. Having a book in a retail store made it easier for the consumer to find. I arranged the books on the table, laid out some postcards, and picked up the conference program to find something to do until the book signing began.

I have attended many writing conferences. The workshops had become different faces, giving the same information. No longer in need of an agent or publisher, I had grown weary of attending them. But I had four hours to kill. I choose several workshops on marketing, hoping to learn something new.

I exited the second session on marketing and saw the author of the Ask Him book series and host of Jump Start with Jane on The Daily Mass.

“What have you learned?” she asked.

“Everything I already know and am doing,” I replied.

The exception was the session with the keynote speaker, Tim O’Brien. The colorful Vietnam veteran strode to the podium. A hybrid of comfort and business, he wore a baseball cap, black tennis shoes resting on an orange sole with bright yellow laces and a business suit. I will never forget the theme of his presentation: What your character does will be remembered. His appearance may have repelled some, but the greatest wisdom tends to be hidden in unusual packages. I would not have read a story about the Vietnam War. After hearing O’Brien speak, I added The Things They Carried to my reading list.

I left O’Brien’s session and took my place at the author’s book signing. The room quickly filled with people seeking to make purchases. The hour flew by as I chatted with visitors at my table. Most of the crowd had left to attend the next workshop when two Asian men approached my table. One man clutched the Program of Presenters.

He smiled broadly and spoke in broken English, “I want autographs of famous authors.”

O’Brien, who was signing books directly across from me, had already left, so I pointed to a friend sitting to my right. Her book had been picked up nationally by Barnes and Nobles and many university libraries, and she was a presenter at the conference.

He obtained my friend’s signature and then returned to my table.

“I want autographs of famous authors.”

He smiled. I returned his smile and wondered why he was standing in front of my table again. Then I had an epiphany. He thought all the authors at the conference were famous. I do not fall into the famous category, but didn’t know how to convince him of that fact.

After a second request for my famous autograph, I signed one of my postcards and handed it to him. His face lit up as he exclaimed, “I will treasure this forever!”

I watched him walk away, tenderly clutching the postcard to his chest. Then turned to my friend, who had just signed his program, and laughed, “He didn’t say that about your signature.”

I learned three things that day. Delusions can produce happiness. Persistence pays off. The harder it is to get something, the more valuable it becomes.


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