Sign on the line

Anna Scott: “Signed by the author, I see.”
William Thacker: “Yeah, couldn’t stop him. If you can find an unsigned one, it’s worth an absolute fortune.”
– Notting Hill, 1999

It’s an odd thing, the signing of books. It’s not enough to meet the author, to hear him read excerpts from his work, to see him in the flesh, in all his awkward, disheveled glory (no, not you, Jonathan Franzen; you’re pretty, so relax). It’s not enough that the author has already poured his soul and quite possibly several kegs of wine into his work. The reader wants more. The reader wants the voodoo of the signature, a piece of the author himself, a personal dedication, a pledging of his troth that this work, this mass-produced work, was in fact produced just for you.

But that’s cool.

From a writer’s point of view, there’s no greater compliment than a reader asking you to deface her book.

When last I was whining wrote about my two book launches, I was fretting that my jokes would crash to the ground like lifeless unfunny birds. I won’t lie; there were casualties. In Quebec City, about 40 strangers gathered to hear me read and watch me run around the room high-fiving the audience to wild applause (that I had requested they provide on cue). The fact that people didn’t run screaming for the exits and in fact stood around to purchase books and then have me desecrate said books, well, it felt all right.

Or at least it did at the time.

The next morning, though, I woke up in my publisher’s spare bedroom thinking, “That was terrible. I can’t do that in Stanstead. They’ll see I’m a fraud. I am a fraud. I’m terrible. The book is terrible. The fact that there is no coffee in this house is terrible.*” I was quite frankly sick of me. I was decaffeinated and sick of me.

Then, on the drive back home, it hit me: what if it wasn’t just me?

I had already invited a musician to perform. What about that piece about the conversation I had with my daughter? What if Abby actually read it with me? And the other dialogue, the one about the imaginary conversation at Canada Customs. What if I had my friend Annie read that one with me?

And so, this past Saturday, in front of about 40 friends, associates, people I knew, people I could not run away from forever, I quite literally straddled the Canada-U.S. border in the Haskell Free Library and, with the help of said friends and family, I oversaw a pretty wonderful afternoon of words and music and cupcakes and wine and amazement that a public building built on “the line” can still exist at all. It was a relief sharing the stage. Sure, there were feathers all over the place, but I realized, particularly later when I saw the photos, that I truly was among friends. I realized too that writers, readers, family, friends, countries, none of us are isolated, no one goes through this alone, but we are all intertwined and, what’s more, really, really need each other.

Afterwards, I sat and chatted and signed a bunch of books. And with this signature, we made our pledge…

The publishers described it as an "international book tour."

The publishers described it as an “international book tour.”

Abby joins me on stage, where she read like a boss!

Abby joins me on stage, where she read like a boss!

My friend Annie played the comic Canada Customs agent to my straight-man American. I didn't realize it at the time, but we were on appropriate sides of the border line.

My friend Annie played the comic Canada Customs agent to my straight-man American. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were on appropriate sides of the border line.

Sarah Bigs was plain delightful.

Sarah Biggs was plain delightful.

And these are the cupcakes that Annie made.

And these are the cupcakes that Annie made.

And this is the cupcake that Ross ate.

And this is the cupcake that Ross ate.

All photos Media Trois Canon.
*This was completely ungracious of me and not entirely true. I did, in fact, enjoy a morning cup of tea with my wonderful, generous host who is an all-around good bloke and undeserving of any aspersions that spew forth from my self-loathing.

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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32 Responses to Sign on the line

  1. Katie says:

    Not one of those coffee ingrates!

    The cupcakes look delicious, an it looks like a great time overall. Congrats and good for you!

  2. awesome! Yes, as a fan, I want a bit of your soul in the signature.

    And there’s always a song to express it…

    I was sitting there in a comfortable chair
    And that was all that I needed
    Then my friend offered me a drink for us to share
    And that was all that I needed
    Well, then I felt at ease
    But then I’m not too hard to please
    I guess you couldn’t call me greedy
    Then I was shocked to look up
    And see rita hayworth there in a place so seedy
    She walked into the bar with her long, red, curly hair
    And that was all that I needed
    And I said to my friend, “good god, we’re lucky men just to even see her”

    Take, take, take
    Take, take, take
    Take, take, take

    And I could not resist, I just had to get close to her
    And that was all that I needed
    I walked and loomed around her table for a while
    And that was all that I needed
    Then I said, “i hate to bug you, ma’am, but can I have your autograph?”
    And that was all that I needed
    She pressed her lips against a white piece of paper
    And that was all that I needed
    Then I saw what she wrote, my heart is in my mouth
    And that was all that I needed
    Then she handed it to me, and I think that she could see
    That that was all that I needed
    I started to walk away but then I remembered ‘hey, I forgot to get a picture’
    So I asked her one more time, “could I have another favor?”
    That was all that I needed
    She was kind and posed with me
    Then I knew my friend would see my celebrity meeting

    Take, take, take
    Take, take, take
    Take, take, take

    She turned and said to me, “I need to go to sleep,”
    And it seemed so mean
    It’s almost as if she could not appreciate how cool I was being
    She said, “good night” and walked away
    And I didn’t know what to say
    I just couldn’t believe it
    Well, it’s just not fair
    I want to get a piece of hair
    That was all that I needed
    Or maybe a kiss on the cheek
    I wouldn’t wash it for a week
    That would be all that I needed
    But she didn’t even care
    That I was even there
    What a horrible feeling

  3. Mooselicker says:

    When I read “….associates, people….” for some reason in my head it looked like “associated press” and I was very impressed.

    Sounds like a blast. Were the cupcake topping edible? Did you eat your own mini-book cover?

  4. twindaddy says:

    Looks like you had a good time. It must be a great feeling to sell you own book and have people ask for your autograph.

  5. calahan says:

    This is really cool, Ross. It looks like it was fun evening. Are you coming to California, by any chance?

  6. Ohh, this is just great!
    The cupcakes look delicious.
    And I found this song about Maine.

  7. Well done! See, you’re not a fraud, what were you worried about? I think it’s hilarious that the library straddles the US and Canada. What happens if you inadvertently cross the line? Do sirens and bells go off? Are there US Customs goons standing around the perimeter with M-16s?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Nothing happens inside the library if you cross the line. And Canadians can cross the border without reporting to enter the library on foot (the books are back in Canada…). But you can’t drive across the border without reporting or you will get hauled away. In fact, you can’t drive across at all any more since they installed (yes) flower pots at the crossing. Border Patrol vans sit there, though, just in case. Crazy fun, eh?

  8. pinklightsabre says:

    Very cool little story, Ross.

    Sent from my iPhone

  9. Pingback: On interviews and intolerant views | Drinking Tips for Teens

  10. Ned's Blog says:

    Without a doubt, if/when I make it back to Canada, we have to at least bump cupcakes. I swear, that’s not some kind of northwestern slang for anything homosexual. It’s just a toast to your success. With those really fantastic looking cupcakes. I guess what I’m really saying is, will you save me one? Congrats, Ross. This looked like a lot of fun 🙂

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