I’ve heard that most writers are introverts. If this is true, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that I differ from the norm. I am a people person. I am a people person on steroids.
I will give you a hug without even knowing your name. I will introduce you to everyone in the room without you even knowing my name. It makes some people scared, but twelve years ago when my shy husband and I first met, this extroversion bowled him over like a tsunami. He knew that if he married me, he would never have to talk to a stranger again.
For that matter, he might not have to talk again.
Now, I don’t believe in rubbing crystals or playing Enya while turning myself into some origami pose, but I dare say that I get positive energy from people. I cannot get this energy from my dog, Kashi, or from our defunct garden with its soggy plants. I know this, because I’ve tried.
Therefore, it took my strongest willpower not to pounce on the lady in Sam’s Club who paused for a millisecond in front of my debut novel, The Outcast. I was standing near her, “reading” a Paula Deen magazine (how much longer can we say that?), and simultaneously watching her from the corner of my eye.
Buy it, I said in my mind. Just buy it.
The woman even stretched her hand toward The Outcast’s cover. And then she withdrew it and walked away.
I sighed and clapped the magazine closed. I walked over to Sam’s Club’s food court and ordered frozen yogurt and a soft pretzel for $1.99. Slurping off the spoon, I stared at it cross-eyed and wondered how many books I would have to sell to repay my comfort food.
My husband came and sat across from me, dipping into his own swirl cone. I tore off a piece of steaming pretzel and dipped it into the yogurt. I fed it to our sixteen-month-old daughter, who flapped her arms and opened her mouth for more; a little bird.
“What’s wrong?” My husband’s a man of few words, but he sure uses them well.
I told him about the lady in the book aisle.
“I almost had her,” I said, realizing that it sounded like I was trying to reel her in.
“You should’ve told her you would sign it.”
I looked up, my mouth smeared with dairy. Now why hadn’t I thought of that?
“You don’t think it’d be weird?” I asked. Just as I help my husband navigate a crowd of strangers, he helps rein in my overly golden retriever ways.
“If you were standing there, looking at a book, and some author said, ‘Hey—I wrote that.’ Don’t you think that’d be cool?”
I gave my daughter one more spoonful and jabbed the spoon down into the melting yogurt. Dusting pretzel salt from my hands, I stood from the table and said, “Doggone! You’re right!”
My husband smiled. “We’ll go check out,” he said. “Meet you at the car?”
I nodded. “Do I have chocolate on my face?” Then I bared my teeth. “They okay, too?”
“You’re good,” he said.
I marched through the food court and went over to the book section. A man and woman were standing near The Outcast, but they were focusing on a children’s book instead.
I picked up a book and flipped through it. The man and woman moved closer and closer to my novel, and then they began to turn away.
I gulped. Now or never.
“Actually—“ I said, picking up The Outcast. “I wrote this.”
I held it against my chest and smiled. I should probably mention that I am short and therefore look like I’m twelve. The couple just looked at me. I don’t even think they blinked.
“No, really,” I said. I flipped the book around and pointed to the thumbnail-sized picture. They moved closer and squinted.
“It is you!” they said.
I smiled again. They smiled. I think we both breathed a sigh of relief.
In less than a minutes, amped by sugar, I told them about being born in Lancaster, having a Mennonite background, and moving when I was three. I told them about the true story that inspired The Outcast’s fictional premise.
“I want to buy it!” the lady said.
Even I blushed. “Please don’t feel any pressure!” I said. “My husband and I were just talking about this as a . . . as kind of a joke—telling someone in the aisle that I wrote the book.”
“I want to,” she said, holding the book close. “I’m on break; I have plenty of time to read.”
“You’re a teacher?” I asked.
She nodded. “7th and 8th grade.”
“May I sign it for you, then?”
She nodded. I realized I didn’t have a pen. She procured one from her purse. I uncapped it and wrote on the first page: “Thank you for making my night at Sam’s Club so very special.”
Then I asked to take a picture with her.
“Shouldn’t I be asking to take a picture with you?” she said.
I shook my head as her husband lined us up in the sights and we held my book-baby between us.
Bless her heart, she should’ve known by then that I never do anything close to the norm.