The best worst book signing ever

Bopping around my old stomping grounds in Helena today, I passed my old self on Last Chance Gulch, saw a younger Joni reflected in the window of Rock's Western Bar and the No Sweat Cafe, and bumped into the disc jockey me on my way into Montana Book Company. One of my favorite bookstores anywhere and scene of the best worst book signing ever.

Back in the day, before I was (or even knew I wanted to be) a writer, I went to Montana Book Company to get A.B. Guthrie's autograph on Gary's dog-eared first edition copy of The Big Sky. I hiked down the Gulch, thinking I'd be standing in line for at least an hour, but when I got to the book store, there was only a kindly old guy sitting in a rocking chair, reading a fly-fishing guide. I sat on the floor and chatted with Mr. Guthrie for almost two hours. He seemed glad for the company.

Yeah. A Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Sat there talking to some chippie kid about fly fishing and forest fires and books for two hours while nobody else showed up to get his autograph. Seriously puts any poorly attended signing I've done since then in perspective.

Guthrie's best advice to writers:
"If you are inclined to leave your character solitary for any considerable length of time, better question yourself. Fiction is association, not withdrawal. Fiction is love and hate and agreement and conflict and common adventure, not lonely musings on have-beens and might-have-beens."


Another reason publishing's not for wimps: book signings, which can be either Happy Happy Joy Times or Dark Nights of the Soul. But even one devoted fan can make a difference.

Glad you made it to Helena safely. Hope you're having fun!

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