Being invited to speak as a featured author at the Southern Independent Bookseller Alliance (SIBA) trade show was the dream part.
What happened next was the nightmare part.
First, let me say that SIBA ’16 (held September 16-18 in Savannah, Georgia) was an awesome experience -- and one of those experiences that I feel might only happen to me. Oh friends, this one is for the books, specifically one called “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.” This story requires that I preface with the fact that I'm in the process of having two dental implants "installed." While I await the gum area to fully heal, I'm wearing a temporary bridge.
So, I was driving to the lovely Hilton Savannah DeSoto Hotel at 6:45 Sunday morning, September 18, 2016, where I was scheduled to speak to 100-plus booksellers and others in the industry at SIBA’s “Breakfast Buffet of Books." This was my golden shot to put “Watching the Water” under the spotlight and try to convince independent booksellers to carry it in their stores. But as I headed towards valet parking, I heard/felt this "crunch" inside my mouth. What, you ask, was this crunch?
Straight from Hooterville Hades, ya'll, the bridge had broken ... as in ONE OF THE TEETH POPPED OFF. Yep, just up and jumped off the bridge like it had somewhere better to go. It wasn’t a front tooth that came off, but was an eye tooth, making it the second worst place to have a GAPING HOLE IN THE MIDST OF YOUR SMILE. Truly now, this was a legitimate and most understandable moment of WTH-ness???????!!!!!! I mean, really? REALLY??? This day, this time, this particular event of incredible opportunity -- and I WAS MISSING A FRONT ROW TOOTH?????
One plea dominated my thoughts: Dear Lord … kill me now.
On the bright side, I didn't swallow the rebel tooth or lose it in the car. Long story short, I ended up in the Hilton ladies room with a tube of Super Glue. I know some are gasping and saying "you should NOT have put Super Glue inside your mouth!" Oh, but I respectfully disagree. Praise God for Super Glue because desperate times call for desperate dental bonding. Okay, granted -- while other ladies were applying lipstick, I was prying my stuck tongue from the roof of my mouth -- but once we got past that little issue, I was totally willing to endorse SG for emergencies.
Though the nightmare was pretty much over with at this point, I wasn’t quite out of the woods.
I've spoken in public before, but never to a packed room with my dreams riding on every single word. There were eight authors there to speak -- a New York Times bestselling author, an established illustrator, an award winning poet, two published and polished-at-speaking attorneys, a cook book author with a strong following, and a professor of creative writing from the University of Virginia who was about to release her next book.
And then, there was me. Unknown newbie making her debut from a community named Ducktown. Seriously, I was asking, "where are the other NEW authors like me?" Well, there weren't any others at this event, and I've never felt more like the most non-athletic kid on a team, fresh off the farm with my first book by Who-the-Heck is Donna Gentry Morton and my basket of giveaway rubber ducks with my website slapped on their butts. And I had to follow right after the poised, confident and proven successful NYT's author. Could it just get any better?
I was about 10 words into my presentation when I was kindly asked if I could speak more directly into the microphone. When I did, I flinched as my voice echoed and boomed (to my ears) much like the wizard hiding behind the curtain in Oz. I actually scared myself a bit but managed to say, "See, I'm such a newbie that I don't even known how to use a
microphone." Suddenly, the whole room burst into laughter! And it was cool, just so cool! I relaxed then and talked freely about my book, read an excerpt and closed by saying I hoped they loved it as much as I loved writing it for them. They clapped! Yay, they clapped and I was just so happy and relieved! Afterwards, my publisher and numerous other people, including a toastmaster, told me the presentation was well done ..so here's hoping that orders from booksellers will come, taking me back to the dreams-come-true part.
Something most interesting happened, too. That Sunday morning marked three weeks since the unexpected passing of my sister, Becky, who “Watching the Water” is dedicated to. (Thankfully, I had told her several months earlier about the dedication, being too excited to wait and surprise her when the book is released in November.) We were very close and she had invested her heart into my dreams of seeing "Watching the Water" transition from a raw manuscript to a published book. The fact that she won't be here to see it in print and join me on the rest of the journey feels quite cruel. And it was feeling especially cruel that Sunday morning I had to speak.
As I sat at my table missing her, three women I had never met approached and asked if they could sit with me at the breakfast. Turns out, they were booksellers from Pawley's Island, South Carolina, and the name of their store is ... "My Sister's Books." (http://mysistersbooks.com)
Is this the part when we enter music from The Twilight Zone? No, more like angelic harps because these women were so kind and encouraging, helping put me at ease about speaking and assuring me afterwards that I had done a great job. Just like Becky would have. Their company was such a gift and blessing that I can only accept that Becky had something to do with this coming together.
I don't believe in coincidence. I just don't.
Oh, but I do believe in Super Glue.
Don't leave home without it.