Sunday, August 24, 2014
Book Signing at Summerfest
I think most would consider a ten hour day, suffering through a heat index of 95 degrees, among thousands of South Carolinians, during a book signing and paperback sale only to sell two books and one T-shirt, an absolute fail. Add into that, having your booth situated between Obama's definition of "God and Country." The Gideon’s handing out mini, Clemson colored bibles to everyone and anyone who passed by, whether the unsuspecting "passerbyers" wanted them or not. And a couple of hunting club members raffling off, what I think may be the largest shotgun I have ever seen, as if they were carnival barkers on meth. In fact, most potentials arched wide to avoid the biblical giveaway only to be driven, like heat stroked cattle, to the Jurassic Park size dino-hunting gun on the other side inadvertently avoiding me altogether. So epic fail right, I mean by my own description, it seems like an awful, vaguely hilarious, unbelievable ironic Peter Griffin segue at best. However, and you knew that was coming, and if you didn't, I can only say, really? In that near half day of giving away numerous one sheets and explaining to festival attendees, who would lend me their brief, sweaty ears, about why I wrote the novel and a deeply abridged summation of its characters and story, I discovered a small group of individuals who were willing to share with me their own stories of trial, pain, loss, and triumph as cancer invaded their lives and the lives of those whom they love and loved.
A woman who proudly and defiantly announced her 20th year of surviving both breast cancer and then battling Myeloma. The family celebrating their son's remission from Leukemia sporting neon green graphic T's to memorialize their gratefulness. The woman who fought, through tears, to tell me about her mom's recent passing. Then her rape, at sixteen years old, and the subsequent the daughter, created from that assault, that she had to surrender for adoption because of her drug addiction. She wept as she confessed to me the comforting vision she had just a few weeks ago, her deceased mother, looking healthy and at peace consoling her, telling her that everything was going to be alright. The myriad of precious souls battling this disease and its nightmarish hydra of forms, standing strong despite their prognosis, wanting not just to survive, but to live. Stories that constrict the heart and both inspire and torture the spirit. I gave them each an armband emblazoned with the slogan that was first spoken by my own mother. One that I have since adapted to my own life and hope to instill deep into the minds and hearts of my children.
It is within that stretch of oppressive humidity and capitalistic defeat that I realized why I wrote this book. Maybe I knew it all along. To tell the story of characters that may be not so fictional after all. They are images, symbols, shadows of the people I know and meet everyday who wage war, moment by moment, against a monster, a machine, that possesses no mercy or distinguishes between its opponents and victims. An immortal entity that seems to fear only one thing, the undeniable strength and perseverance of the human spirit. It may not, in the end, be the cure to its physical toll, but it is without doubt, the indestructible force that overcomes the mental, emotional, and spiritual assault that this predator utilizes as it tries to ravage the body. I saw it in the eyes of every one of those wonderful people who took a moment to recount their own stories. I saw Alex, Kayla, Rick, Tara, and Jude visit me time and time again as the day progressed as the sun relentless cooked the asphalt below us. And as we spoke, laughed, consoled, and baked, I watched a simple science fiction tale transform into something very special.
The story of hope, not just as a tag line, or catchy literary slogan meant to grab the attention of my potential audience, but real, unadulterated hope. An evolution I am not worthy to call my own, extremely humbling, overwhelming gratifying. And although, my dream, is to become a successful, and yes, a bestselling author, even though I know that is taboo to admit and many of my peers would cringe to have a fellow pen pal admit to such a selfish thing. Because we are all doing this for the mere pleasure with no intention of renown, and if you believe that, let me dig into my magical bag of beans because I know I have a sure thing of sale. No, I do want to leave a legacy of literature that gives something unique and treasured to its audience, and at the same time, make a career of writing that I have dreamed about since I was sixteen.
But after today, I was given the privilege of witnessing that words and ideas do matter, they can matter in a way that defies preconception and careful planning. They matter with such depth that they transcend entertainment and interest and, sometimes, engage the most secret, fragile, and intimate parts of our essence. And with that new revelation, that sudden enlightenment, I realize I have a huge responsibility to that knowledge, to wield it with the utmost in care, concern, and caution, as not to ever abuse or trivialize it.
So, I failed in the most productive and amazing way ever, and I can't tell you how deeply moved and satisfied I am about that. Not in a way that would do it justice. I embrace failure, it is the most effective teacher, wisest professor, and keeps our ego and humanity in check. Those who are afraid to fail will never truly succeed. And if I fail in a way that gives gentle souls an opportunity to express their innermost tribulations and victories, then what a spectacular and beautiful failure that is. So, with all of that said, I move on to the next book signing, eagerly anticipating my next education.