I miss craft shows. Actually, I miss seeing real people with their faces visible, but that's another story.
I miss the busy craft show atmosphere of talking with all variety of folks and selling books to interested readers. Craft and trade shows on the Prairies have been part of my life every fall since 2009 when I published The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story by Alan J. Buick. That fall, the author and I and our spouses (Carol and Al) went on an epic author tour through parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta to launch this wonderful book about a Canadian soldier from Olds/Calgary and a Dutch girl who received his troop's wartime gift of a child's coat made from a Canadian Army blanket.
The Little Coat is still one of our most popular titles - for good reason, including the fact that the coat is now an artifact in the Canadian War Museum thanks to Alan's writing efforts - and it launched us into the world of selling our books at trade shows and craft shows as well. We had a trade show booth at big events like Canadian Western Agribition for many years and we took our books on the road to various craft shows in all regions of Saskatchewan as well as southern Manitoba and Alberta. Fun stuff for sure.
But people do say the darnedest things sometimes.
One of the funniest - or maybe strangest - moments that happened came during a show in a Saskatchewan town in November 2012. The craft show was held in a large gymnasium-like room and there was plenty of space for craft tables and for customers to wander among them. (Sigh. Did I mention that I miss people?)
Anyway, I returned to the room after a short break and an older woman greeted me at the door. She called to her friend to follow her and they both walked behind me, following me for the entire length of the large room until I got to my table. They stopped in front of my table and waited until I sat down in my chair behind the table.
Then the woman picked up my Never Leave Your Wingman book - about fun-loving, inspiring, seven-time cancer survivor Dionne Warner and her wingman husband Graham - and held the bright pink book up for her friend to see.
"They say this is a really good book," the woman said to her friend.
Then she put the book down and they both walked away.
What... was... that? I wondered for a long, long time - when I wasn't laughing and shaking my head, that is.
She never did buy the book. Not that weekend anyway.
At another craft show - in a city this time - a woman came up to my booth and asked if she could buy "that big book."
I was confused. All the books I publish are of a standard size - either 6 inches wide by 9 inches high or slightly smaller. I have published only a couple of books that are 8-1/2 inches by 11 inches, so I didn't understand what she was wanting. I asked her to repeat herself.
"I want to buy that big book. There!" she said as she pointed to the 12-inch by 18-inch poster of a book cover that was hanging on the booth wall behind me.
"Um... those are just posters of the book covers. The books are here," I said as gently as I could while I motioned to all the books covering the tables between us.
I don't remember if the woman ended up buying an "actual" book or not - I think she did - but I distinctly remember that she was not the only person who asked if they could buy one of the book posters. One other person inquired at a different trade show a few years later.
So maybe there's a market out there for oversized books. Hmmm...
As my publishing business grew and my display table of books by various authors expanded during the past 10 years, my routine of briefly introducing the books on my table became more complex. Sometimes the words that came out of my mouth were confusing for craft show visitors and for myself as well. (I'm better at writing than I am at talking.) As I honed my publishing preferences to focus only on non-fiction books and other genres related to non-fiction, it became easier for me to describe the books on my craft show tables. At least that's what I thought was happening.
"Hello. These are all books I publish," I'd say. "They're all written by Saskatchewan and Prairie authors, including me. These ones are all true stories (as I pointed out the books), these are healing and wellness, these are children's fiction and non-fiction, and these are humour and cowboy poetry over here. They're all true stories or based on true stories."
It sounded simple enough to me but, then again, this is my business and I deal with these books daily, so it should sound understandable to the person who creates the books. Let me tell you, it definitely boggles the minds of some folks who wander up to my craft show tables. Usually, I can sort out their questions and help them understand whatever it is that they want to know about the awesome books written by awesome writers. (Shout out to my authors!)
But sometimes, nothing I say really matters.
I recall spending five or ten - or maybe it was a hundred - minutes one day talking to a man about the different books he appeared to be interested in on my craft show tables. He had asked about some of the story lines, whether this one was a Saskatchewan story or not, whether these people were still alive... and more. Then came the question that floored me.
"So, have you read any of them?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied, trying to keep him from seeing how astounded I was at his question. Hadn't I just told him about almost Every. Single. One. Of these books?
"I edited and published all of these books, so, yes, I've read every word in every one of them. Many times," I said.
The guy eventually walked away. I was glad to see him go. Sometimes you just can't help people.
The final memorable funny moment came when two young girls, about 10 years old, stopped at my booth one evening and began looking at the children's and young adult books. They picked up one kids' book and then another and began conversing with me.
And that's when my "I've read every word in every one of these books" line came back to haunt me.
One of the young smarty-pants girls picked up The Inquiring Reporter by Clay Stacey (a book that is still available as an e-book, by the way) and randomly opened it up. "Okay, I'm on page 68. The word starts with a p and ends with r. What is it?" the youngster brazenly asked as she looked straight at me.
"Publisher," I replied, without hesitating.
The little girl's eyes opened wide as she looked at her friend in shock. "Wow! She really does know every word in the books!"
She quickly put the book down and they almost ran as they left my booth.
Yes, of course I got lucky with "publisher", but it was a pretty easy guess. The book's author, Clay Stacey, was a publisher, editor, and reporter in all four Western provinces for 50 years - so "publisher" seemed like a reasonable option for a word that starts with p and ends with r - in a book about a publisher!
However, I am glad that she didn't look a little farther down the page and pick out the word starting with a u and ending with a y...