Give an Author a Dirty Book

by Sally Swift

Despite having done a book tour before, I'm still out of sorts with the book signing part. There is something slightly embarrassing about it for me that I can't quite put my finger on. Part of it is being a co-author, (as the other author is the main event, and rightly so), but it's also squirmingly intimate for me at times, almost like I'm watching myself, not really inhabiting my body.

We've had photos taken with twin infants and we've had people describe in exacting detail the steps to a recipe that went awry 10 years prior. We've been given grimy shopping bags of foraged mushrooms and odd fruit, T-shirts, aprons and phone numbers. We've been invited to dinner -- once, even a wedding -- and this last time we had a lovely 20-something break down in tears missing her mom. Do you see what I mean about intimate? People are lovely and generous.

I have been schooled in the art of book signing by one of the very best, my co-author and partner in crime, Lynne Rossetto Kasper. She loves them and has rules about how to conduct yourself. They are good rules. You must be utterly present; you must genuinely say hello; you must look the person directly in the eyes and you must carry on a real conversation despite the pressure of a line of people behind them. Lynne is a master. People never feel rushed, and, I believe, leave with a real sense of having gotten her alone -- no small feat. While I'm someone who generally has to jiggle my leg like a 13-year-old boy to keep from leaping out of my seat every 10 minutes, Lynne is the master of serenity. Calm, centered, in control, sailing a placid sea of signing and chatting. She revels in it and they revel in her.

A few weeks ago, at our first signing in Washington, D.C., for our new book, How To Eat Weekends, something happened to me. The line was beginning to dwindle and someone handed over a copy of our first book, How To Eat Supper. I was suddenly, keenly there, at full attention. The book was tattered and dirty with bent pages and hand-written notes in the margins. I could not have been happier, nor more moved. Forget about getting on a scale and it registering your dream weight, forget about being on the New York Times' bestseller list, and forget about your child becoming a combination neurosurgeon/super model/Chief Justice. Bring me our book, all mussed up and used and you will make my day.

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