Next week is BEA (Book Expo America) and I want to go. Last year I went with a friend of mine, one of my closest from college whom I hadn't seen since then. We met amid the chaos and confusion before the doors opened and within 10 seconds it was as if I'd seen him every day since I was 19. We wandered the aisles, picking up books and galleys. I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Kinney, who wrote the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and got to tell him his books were the reason Jack started reading. My favorite part was the fabulous bags everyone was giving away. To be honest, that's one of the reasons I wanted to go back.
Apparently things tightened up this year and my friend's contacts wouldn't work so I called my editor and volunteered to sign books, to be a part of their team, to do whatever I could to help out. She very politely explained that since I'm not a best-selling author, that wouldn't be happening. I then came across a request for articles about BEA from a publication that's all about the publishing world. I pitched a story about what it's like to be a writer these days, about how everyone's talking about the companies, the profits, the future of the industry while no one's talking about how hard it is to be an author in this environment. Along with my (free) article I asked if they could get me into BEA. If I was willing to report on the convention, then sure I was told.
I sent off my piece. No response. I emailed again and he said we needed to talk, the gist of that conversation being that since he didn't know me, he didn't feel comfortable with me representing his magazine. I can understand that and had he stopped then, I'd never have given it a second thought. But, he continued. They had a certain image to uphold and I could, potentially, be quite damaging if I didn't live up to their standards. Ok, it wasn't quite as harsh as that, but he got stuck in this negative place and couldn't quite get out, rehashing several times how I could potentially make such a bad impression it would be detrimental. I thanked him for the consideration and said I understood his point. No worries.
He then said he could get me in as a volunteer, if I'd distribute promotional materials for a couple of hours.
It was hard not to laugh. I politely declined and got off the phone thinking about how in spite of the many things I've accomplished, to him I'm a potential source of embarrassment and inappropriateness.
I figured he hadn't seen me hold my own on The View, with Dr. Oz, on FOX news. He must not have checked out my website and all that I've done. Doubtful he's read anything I'd written or interviews about me. While on the one hand, it was thoughtful he offered me anything at all, on the other (and I know this sounds ridiculously egotistical) please.
How much do I have to do to get to where I want to be? To be recognized? Appreciated? To get a pass to a book fair without jumping through hoops or doing menial labor?
This isn't an easy place to be. But at least I'm appreciating the irony of it all.