Now that I am down from my chocolate high, I can take a moment to reflect on my experience at the Martinsburg Chocolate Fest.
Writing is somewhat of an introvert activity. An author is fortunate if she or he has an extroverted personality or a flair for marketing. I have neither. I enjoy people, places and things as much as I am able, but I get my energy from quiet endeavors. Needless to say, the Chocolate Fest was not something I actually wanted to do.
Besides being a great opportunity to get some visibility for my book, it is an annual community event people enjoy. Chocolate, books and kid-friendly activities. What’s not to like? (That was the argument I used after I talked myself out of it twice.) I applied late, yet the sponsors went out of their way to fit me in. As a local author, they wanted to help me in spite of my best self-sabotaging efforts.
So, what did I get for stepping out of my comfort zone? Lots and lots. Elsewhere, I mentioned the special visits, the support, the networking and the sales – a surplus of the things a writer hopes to accomplish. Beyond that, I have two memories that are mine to treasure. Two moments of personal awe.
The first was gifted to me by a young lady I guess to be about fourteen or so. She and her mom came in to get their chocolate and chat. Her mom chatted. She picked up my book, read the front, read the back, and started reading the book. Having secured the candy and paid her greeting-dues, mom was ready to move on. I watched the hesitation in her daughter’s movement. The wistful longing. Her mom saw it too. Mother’s eyes darted to the price signage.
I suddenly knew things I had no business knowing. I knew this was not a greedy person who got everything she wanted or asked for very much. I knew her mom would give her the world if she could afford it. I knew two minutes was not enough time for any sensible mother to gauge the value of an impulse buy.
I offered the printed-out first page. A stack of which, I had on hand to tempt readers. My young friend informed me she had already read beyond the first page. (That fast, she was five pages in!) Our kindred spirits clicked and I said, “Well, then you should have it.”
Her mom agreed and with a sigh reached for her purse. I shook my head and said it was a gift. There were squeals of gratitude and excited appreciation, and look of sheer joy when I handed E— her very own signed copy.
I came to the Chocolate Fest for her. I wrote my novel for her. During that short exchange, accomplishments didn’t matter. Jobs didn’t matter. The next president didn’t matter. All that mattered was a story and a beautiful, bright mind to fall into it.
My other treasured pleasure came from a sister who was unafraid of herself and who loved me for me.
We were stationed at a restaurant. My girl came in looking for lunch but paused when she saw me. In her mind, I am a black success story. I wrote a book. I accomplished something. I am a point for the underdog. In her excitement, she left me to hold her things while she rounded up her crew. A few minutes later she returned with two brothers who had to see me for themselves before they became true believers. All three purchased books in a show of solidarity and support. One gentleman even gave me a tip because he was so proud to have me there. Another teared up when he asked me to write something encouraging for his granddaughter because she likes to write too. My girl showed everyone in the room the inscription because I signed it: to my girl, G—. You made my day! She wanted people to know she was My Girl. They shook my hand again as they were leaving the restaurant and promised to ‘show me off’ to everybody.
It felt like undeserved star-treatment, to me. For them, it was a chance to celebrate life.
I wrote my story for them. I write all my stories for them. I grew up in the inner city without basic necessities. Last Saturday, I ate chocolate and signed books. Of course, I write for them.
As introverted as I am, and as much as I like my house, I can honestly say, I am glad I chose to participate in this year’s Chocolate Fest. I wanted to sell books and I did. But I received more than just money. I had more than just fun. I was fortunate enough to meet the people I write for.