I had the honor to represent Barnes and Noble at the Garrison Keillor performance yesterday here in Saginaw. Other than sitting by the front doors when it was negative five degrees outside and not really getting to see any of the show, it was a good time. B and I entertained each other throughout the long haul of the performance itself and we were able to attend a post-show reception with Mr. Keillor and the Premier audience members who paid more for their seats.
Having met countless “celebrities” and so-called “famous people,” B was comfortable standing in the short line to have about ten books signed. I, however, was mortified. Ten books? You’re kidding me, ten books? I have to stand here with ten books in this line of people that paid good money to meet Garrison Keillor while I just happen to be a Bookseller attending the reception for free? The face was red from the bottom of my exposed neck to the tips of my ears (of course it could have been the constant cold temperature they encountered all day, too). Chatting easily with Mr. Keillor about grad school as he smoothly opened each book to its front cover for easy access, B flew through his pile of about six books to sign with no problem. I, however, shrank back with my four (one of which was my own!) and hid behind the camera lens to take their picture.
After their pictures were taken, I tried to follow B with my (unsigned) four book but Mr. Keillor wasn’t about to let me off so easily.
“And what is your name?” he asked kindly, extending a hand. The man is like eight feet tall and if you think his voice is formidable on the radio it’s even more so when he’s standing over you.
“Kate,” I said softly, reddening even further, “I’m a bookseller too.”
He must have asked me something about what I did because I told him that I, too, was about to start grad school for an MFA, in fiction.
“I’m going to give you some sound advice,” he said, holding my attention completely. “Don’t ignore trying genre fiction. Those literary types don’t give it enough credit.”
I thanked him for the advice and after he shook my hand again breathed a sigh of relief as I caught up with B.
“Get your book signed?” B asked.
I looked down and frowned. “I”m sorry. I didn’t get these signed for you, either.”
B raised an eyebrow and gave me that “you know you want to” look and shoved me back toward Mr. Prairie Home Companion. “Just stand over there and get it signed.”
Knowing I didn’t have to capacity to argue with B (especially since he was arguing for me to get what I wanted), I inched back over to where Mr. Keillor was signing another’s book. I made eye contact with the people still standing in line and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”
“Mr. Keillor?” I said, mouse-like, “I’m sorry, I forgot to have you sign my own book.”
“Yes,” he said, taking it from me, “and would you like this personalized, Kate?”
I watched him writing, trying not to see what it was as I was still trying to make “sorry” eyes at those in line behind me.
Finally he finished and handed the book back, possibly shaking my hand, possibly not. I don’t remember. All I remember is being very excited to be back across the room with B.
“Get it?” he asked.
I nodded. “Thanks for making me.”
“You looked like you needed the encouragement.”
I opened the front cover. “To Kate, on the twisting path to authorhood. Garrison Keillor”
I left, head held a little higher for going back for this signature. It was worth it to add to my collection. I really did suck at meeting him – I was too shy, too mousy. Too unlike myself. I couldn’t believe that just hours before I had been picturing us having drinks with him. I hadn’t remembered being this stupid when meeting the couple of other “famous people” I’d met, like Jonathan Pryce or Richard Griffiths. But I also didn’t ask them to sign anything, get a picture with me, or anything else I would have deemed intrusive. Maybe that’s my problem – I’m so worried I about them seeing me as different from an average, bumbling fan that I forget to see them as average people.
All in all it was a good event. We were exhausted when we arrived home eight hours later after ringing all the sales back at work. But I’m glad I got the experience. Maybe the memory of it will help me next time to be a little more at-ease next time I encounter someone famous. Maybe.