We'd never experienced a book signing.
Well not from the nervous-that-no-one-will-turn-up angle anyway.
|I Love You Natty book signing
We'd queued up with our copy of books for respected authors to sign once or twice before. But they were experts, they belonged in book shops scribbling their signatures into pages.
Today was our turn, our turn to sit by a table full of I Love You Natty: A Sibling's Introduction To Down's Syndrome while people came and scrutinised it, and we had no idea what to expect.
Last night as I tried to prepare by working out what we would all wear and gathering props for the table, I read an article by an accomplished author on signings. He said that if you meet one person and chat about your book at a signing in a local store then the event is a success. It's about meeting people and not about selling books.
Wise advice I thought.
I then saw a poster on Pinterest that said;
"If I inspire just one person with my book,
if I change just one life, then my life will be complete."
That is my motivation exactly. I nodded at the screen.
And after reading these two things I decided that it didn't matter if we just chatted to one person today and that person didn't buy our book but went home with a changed perception of Down's syndrome. That was the aim.
We arrived early, with bucket loads of chromosome-shaped jelly beans, a box of books and Mia's favourite teddy Huggy, who makes an appearance in the book. Natty and Daddy and our screenwriter frend Peter Cadwell joined us later.
And from there the next 3 hours were a blur.
A wonderful happy, emotional blur of chatting to families on holiday, local families, regulars in the shop, staff, parents and classmates and those who kept dropping by for another handful of jelly beans (I will respect the anonymity of those members of staff who are particularly partial to fruity confectionary!)
At one point there was an inspirational Mum who runs a Down's syndrome support group up country, and couple with a grown up son with DS, a new local Mum and a friend who had made a huge effort to bring her son who has other disabilities that make town a tricky place to be. And we all chatted and hugged and took photos at once and simply knew on a deep level that we understood each other's lives somehow. Waterstones began to feel like the venue for an old school reunion even though most didn't know each other.
|I Love You Natty book signing
Mia and Natty signed books, pen got on posh frocks and perhaps one too many jelly beans were consumed, but nobody cared. For this was a book signing Downs Side Up style.
And I realised that book shops are just as Meg Ryan describes in You've Got Mail. They are community hubs, so much more than simply sellers of words on paper. They provide a place where regulars congregate for coffee and buy a new dream to take them away from their own lives for a few hours at a time. They are welcoming and inclusive. They feel safe.
One lady who the staff knew by name, described how the team there had helped get her through bereavement when her husband passed away. They actually cared about her well-being.
And yes, there were folk who scrutinised our precious work and turn up their noses and put it down and walked away, those who tutted because we were taking up too much floor space. But that is a levelling experience, we all need to know exactly how books are greeted by Everyone.
And so to our local Waterstones, I cannot thank you enough for believing in our little book on what many would consider a niche topic. For creating window displays and mobiles and putting the book in pride of place. Thank you for suggesting the signing and giving us the confidence to go through with it. We have learnt so very much today.
We're home tired and with aching cheeks from smiling so much. And no, we didn't eat all the jelly beans, we'll save them for another book signing of I Love You Natty. We are another step closer to covering our self-publishing costs and being able to donate books to where they are needed most, and just as importantly we have come home with a renewed sense of being a part of a global team, who are there for us as much as we try to be there for others.
I Love You Natty: A Sibling's Introduction to Down's Syndrome can be ordered into any branch of Waterstones
It is also available from Amazon £5.99 + P&P