I Yam Who I Yam*


A few days ago, I went through one of those vignettes that make me smile for no reason at all–it might have been embarrassing at another time in my life, but I am comfortable with my imperfections–most of them, anyway. Like Popeye, I am who I am, and not everyone else is cool with that. Or at least not as cool as I am with that.
I called a library to arrange a book signing for my new book, Raw Art Journaling, that’s coming out in a few days, maybe a week.
We join the conversation in progress, as it slides inexorably downhill:
Me: . . . so I wondered if a book signing would be a good mix for your events this summer.
Librarian: Well, I don’t know, maybe if you did a children’s program. . .
Me: The book is really for adults who keep a journal.
Librarian: We are looking to do more performance art this summer, with guests from far away.
Me: Oh. I would have thought you’d be interested in your local writers, too.
Librarian: Look, it’s not like you are exactly J.A. Jance.

What a great praise for J.A. Jance, a writer of mysteries and suspense books who used to live in Tucson and now lives in Seattle. I’m a fan. So I wrote her and told her the story.
Her reply?
Years ago, the same thing happened to her–except she was told “You are no Norman Mailer.” And then, incredibly, she told me two lesser-known libraries that had been helpful to her before she had several books on the New York Times best seller list.

None of us are all everyone wants us to be. What makes us great is the willingness to be who we have become. With some work, that is better than who we used to be. Because, great or not great, we can’t be anyone else.

-Quinn McDonald is happy about her book, Raw Art Journaling that is being shipped as soon as the 4th of July holiday is over. She did not tell this story for sympathy, as she knows librarians have to do what makes money. She told the story to show the kindness of another writer. That counts.

15 thoughts on “I Yam Who I Yam*

  1. THIS librarian ordered your book (for the library) this morning and can’t wait to see it (for herself!). If only you could do a program here, in far-away Long Island. Don’t judge all books (librarians) by their covers!


  2. Hi Quinn, I’m a new fan. For the past two years I’ve been head of programs for the Friends of a small public library in Massachusetts, a completely volunteer position. I would set up a speaker once a month, mostly local authors. I would have booked you in a heart beat.

    Occaisonally, an author would call me and ask to speak, and if it was something I was interested in and thought would draw a crowd, I’d say yes, but I’d say not at this time if I didn’t think it was a good fit. My predecessor turned down an author who had written a book about his wife’s family’s flight from the Nazi invasion of Belgium, because she was tired of the plethora of books on WWII. When I took over, I had him come speak and it was a packed house. On the other hand, I had another self published author contact me about her book on her parents alzheimers and her experience caring for them. That book had no interest for me as it was too close to home and the thought of it just depressed me. I couldn’t even open the copy she sent me. So I passed it off to the next chairman and suggested they combine it with a talk on alzheimers resources at the Council on Aging, which I think they will do.

    Anyway, I’m so glad you got a great connection out of your rejection and hope you have better luck with other libraries.

    • Welcome, Merry! I do my best to keep it interesting. I’m from New England, and small libraries are an important part of my heart’s history. I love your story, because it reminds me of how personal and subjective choosing books and authors really is. I love the way a bookstore manager’s face lights up when I say my book is published by North Light, because they are easy for bookstores to work with. But the final decision is the librarians, and I actually trust that. She knows her audience. I love that Jance replied, and I loved that she gave the some other libraries to go to. Now THAT was gold!

  3. Oh, dear! It does sometimes happen, doesn’t it? Its the library’s loss for the librarian suffering from foot-in-mouth disease! She will feel so foolish when she has to catalogue your book in a few weeks time! And finds there is a long waiting list of people who want to borrow it!
    In the meantime you have come out ahead with a new friend, and can add it to your entertaining stories about writing and publishing a book.

    • I actually think the librarian knew her audience, and maybe I’m not a good fit. I’m going to trust her on that. The sentence about J.A. Jance delighted me, because for her, it was true. But the response from Jance herself was priceless–that was my real lesson. If not here, where else? Success is always there, sometimes you just have to chase it harder.

  4. Are you going to be at the artists’ book signing at Art Unraveled? Linda is having a special event just for the book signing and I can’t remember the date. She would probably love to have you there.

  5. Loved this entry today. I got a good chuckle on this, our Independence Day. And we’ve already had a little bit of rain this morning, however, it is clear now for the 4th of July Parade in Flagstaff, AZ. I was in Scottsdale yesterday and the 110 degrees didn’t make me want to journal at all. Maybe today after I get some other projects done. Thank you for your sense of humor. And a special to J.A. Jance who I’ve never read but know people who absolutely love her work.

    • The heat is a special thing for us–it requires a lot of effort to stay cool, you can’t hike or even walk outdoors. Journaling works for me as long as I’m indoors. J.A. Jance’s series about Tucson taught me a lot about the Tohono O’odham Indians, and I’m grateful for that. in Tucson, I find so many ancient stories.

  6. Somewhere, sometime, this must have happened to somebody:
    X: “Would you be interested in me attending?”
    Person in charge: “No thanks, it’s not like you’re X.”

    • Well, I got a close call when someone once asked me, “Are you THE Quinn McDonald?” and I said, “No, you must be thinking of someone else. I’m a writer.” And she, in fact, HAD meant me. She knew me from a column I write for Somerset Studio.

  7. Oh my goodness. You can tell the librarian wasn’t even listening to you. Sad, so sad. We all have preconceived notions and it’s hard to tune those out and tune what’s really being said in. I’m glad J.A. Jance put a better spin on things for you. Can’t wait to study the book from cover to cover.

    • The librarian has almost nothing to do with this story. The wonder of it all was that J.A. Jance replies (she does–to every email) and gave me a tip. I am as much a stranger to the librarian as I am to Jance, yet she remembered her days of phone calls and helped. It is such an uplifting experience. The book mails this week. It won’t be long now.

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