Because I’d never done a five-week book tour (44 days including the World Fantasy Convention), I decided to bring a copy of my writing strategy guide Booklife with me that anyone I met could sign–at the events and outside of them. Even though I forgot to take it to a few of the 30-plus gigs and even though not everyone at the events signed the book, I wound up with an amazing memory of the tour–over 800 signatures, many with drawings, several of the personalizations hilarious. The vast majority were also huge morale boosters, with people wishing me well and pointing out some aspect of my talk or reading or presentation that they’d enjoyed.
Especially early on, a few readers were puzzled when confronted by the idea of going to a reading and signing a book for the author. A few declined to sign. A friend’s father basically said he didn’t sign anything he hadn’t read first and spent the next half-hour scrutinizing Booklife before finally signing it. In general, though, most people really liked the idea and got into the spirit of it. (The only folks who said mean things were good friends who were being cheeky.) In many places, it also added to a kind of party atmosphere, especially since at most events I would encourage everyone to join me at the bar afterwards. I honestly think more writers on long tours should do this–it’s a lovely way to get more of a sense of your readers.
Here are a few of my favorite scrawlings (with attribution where legible), followed by some photos of some others that have to be seen in context or involve drawings. I’m planning on getting someone to bind this copy into hardcover boards, as it’s beginning to fall apart a bit…
â€œWhile you Twitt, I will Knitâ€ â€“ Drea
â€œJeff is a fungus among us.â€
â€œJeffâ€”[Booklife] is great. It was also delicious.â€ â€“ Keyan Bowes (referring to the Booklife cake at the World Fantasy Con)
â€œNo matter what, donâ€™t look for filarial worms on Youtube.â€ â€“ Zak
â€œSurvival Tip #1: There are no survival tipsâ€”MARRY RICH.â€ â€“ Louis Phillips
â€œMore Torture Squids, please.â€ â€“ Mason
â€œThis is a great ideaâ€”make the readers do all the work.â€ â€“ Jennifer
â€œYouâ€™re friendly even before coffee.â€ â€“ Joy
â€œThis is a formal apology for Greensboro.â€ â€“ Nadine
â€œZombie boy doesnâ€™t need brains.â€ â€“ Chris
â€œI totally put my poetry on Myspace and, like, nobody has offered to buy it. I think Iâ€™ll write a poem about it. Then they will be sorry.â€ â€“ Randy
â€œNow I know hamsters are a good thing.â€ â€“ Eirk Allen
â€œJust imagine I wrote something pithy and insightful on page 47.â€ â€“ Eben
â€œMaybe the next edition will allow for something about dealing with people who call you Vanderberg.â€ â€“ Tim
â€œSome things are unGoogleable!â€ â€“ Kathy Sedia
â€œIt was nice meeting you at Thanksgiving.â€ â€“ Raquel, aka â€œcholera girlâ€
â€œDid you get your fucking coffee? Thanks for coming to Joisey.â€ â€“ Jeff F
â€œDonâ€™t forget the undead fetal pigs.â€
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Booklife–mostly from Jeff!”
â€œOne foot on orange ladder. One foot on nonfunctioning big TV hovering over mile-high stack of PBR to do your reading: Priceless.â€ â€“ S. Parsons
â€œAre Appendices even legal?â€
â€œThank you for letting me spend an hour telling you what your books are about.â€ â€“ Ron Hogan
â€œJeff VanderMeer is a curmudgeon and does not get any ice cream.â€ â€“ Tessa
1 – A few full pages that I find aesthetically pleasing in their chaos and confusion…
2. This page is particularly cute because Jay Lake drew the squid, and his daughter drew the little monster peeking up from the center…and then there’s the failed pawprint attempt from Lizzie, a beagle who owns my friends Darin and Rima.
3. The beagle kinda corrected her signature on this page…
4. Artist Scott Eagle said he wasn’t going to draw anything, but then this face kind of spontaneously rose up as we were talking, like his hands were working on something even as he was elsewhere.
5. A couple of bookstore managers signed in inventive ways: Ray from Copperfield’s outside of San Fran and Kelly from Fountain in Richmond.
6. A couple of inscriptions from students at CalState San Bernardino (Glen Hirshberg’s students) bear reproducing in full for their hilarious eccentricity.
7. Still others require a photograph to capture the full context (with the name hidden on the first to protect the guilty; yes, that is Scott Edelman re the second…).
8. Tiny drawings have proliferated in my copy of Booklife…
9. Three very cool signatures.
10. Two of my stalkers showed up at the SF in SF gig in California. (Well, okay, friends pretending to be stalkers.)
11. Other reactions to me and the book ran the gamut from supportive to faux hostile to shy…
12. Finally, some were topical to the reading in question, as with this signature pertaining to the infamous and hilarious closet reading in Atlanta, for which I am also embedding video. (More on this and other tour topics next week.)
(Thanks to Kenneth Meade for the video.)