Monday, June 14, 2010

Guest Blogger Hannah Dennison

Happy Reading! All Best Wishes!

My co-worker Tamara has been one of my staunchest supporters from the very beginning of my writing career. Over the past ten years she has lived through my painful relationship with screenwriting in the ever fickle world of Hollywood; listened to my “I’ll never get published” cries of anguish during the dark years of writing into a black hole and—at last—graciously bought a copy of each of my three books.

So it was with a sense of deep shame that her comment “You have written the same inscription to me in each book,” cut me to the quick. Guilty as charged. It wasn’t deliberate. In fact, I only have six different “personal inscriptions” that I trot out at book signings. If someone buys all three books at once, I practically have a coronary. One author bemoaned the fact that someone dumped 18 books on his table (I’d kill for that kind of problem) and asked that each one be inscribed differently.

I sigh with audible relief when someone says, “Just sign your name” which is immediately followed by a subconscious, “Why? Is he or she going to sell it on Amazon? Give it to Goodwill?”

If friends compare inscription notes, I cringe with embarrassment. I see disappointment on their faces. How can I have written novels of 85,000 words but I am unable to come up with an original, witty, personal-to-you one-liner? And what about fellow authors who buy my books? There can be no lame “Happy Wishes” or “Enjoy!” for my kindred spirits. It’s insulting. Surely, they deserve some more thought?

Who started this inscription lark anyway? Do author signings illuminate the bond between writer and reader? Do inscriptions give a sense of responsibility? Are there rules? Is it arrogant to sign one’s full name when inscribing to a family member or a close friend? Are inscriptions supposed to give an air of permanence?

We’ve all heard the horror stories. Rumor has it that George Bernard Shaw once inscribed one of his books “To ---, with esteem.” Years later he found the book in an antiquarian bookshop, whereupon he bought it and sent it back to his friend with the addendum, “To ----, with renewed esteem.”

The next question is—where do we store all those signed books? I have a friend who devotes an entire closet to “author friends’ books” that she admits she will probably never read. Another says she rents a storage space. As for me, I always keep personalized books and yes I do read them all, eventually. There is a something very magical in meeting the author—friend or stranger—that makes that book come truly alive. A personal inscription is very dear and cherished. It’s one thing I intend to improve upon for my fourth book release Thieves! (January 2011). And Tamara—I promise, my inscription to you will blow your socks off.

Hannah Dennison is the author of the Vicky Hill Mysteries chronicling the adventures of obituary reporter extraordinaire in the British market town of Gipping-on-Plym. Her most recent book is Exposé. Please visit her website.


Alan Orloff said...

Ha! I thought it was only me who wished for the "just sign your name, please" request. It's a lot of pressure to come up with original inscriptions, especially knowing there's no revision allowed!

Dru said...

I'm just happy that I get a chance to meet an author and have them sign my book.

Hannah Dennison said...

Phew! What great comments to wake up to this morning (I live on the West coast). Alan - I am so relieved to not be alone .... and Dru - your comment is music to my ears!! Thank you!
I forgot to mention the horror of misspelling someone's name as WELL!

karen said...

I love my signed books! It's such at thrill to meet an author of a book I've enjoyed. And an even greater thrill is to have my picture taken with the author. I've informed my children of these wonderful heirlooms. So Hannah, don't sell yourself short... those autographed books are precious to your readers. No matter how you inscribe them.