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Book signings rock! March 9, 2010

Posted by Conventioneering in Uncategorized.
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So, my very absolute favorite thing to do at work is book signings.

We do book signings about once every two weeks to once a week. I’m told this is kind of a new thing – we used to do them maybe once a month, but someone up top (a director, or something) decided that she wanted to draw more visitors (more!? Must be trying to take our title of Most Popular back from Natural History). We’ve had various Tuskegee Airmen several times, though they had to cancel their Saturday appointment, and people keep talking about having Buzz Aldrin, but he keeps canceling. One wonders if he’ll even have the time due to his stint on Dancing with the Stars.

This Sunday, I was asked to help with Mr. Flint Whitlock‘s book signing. He was selling Turbulence before Takeoff, a book about the first black commercial airline pilot, and then Captain Jepp and the Little Black Book, the story of the man who created what has become pretty much the standard in aerial navigation (not to mention went from being poor as dirt to a millionaire in the process). I didn’t know anything about either of the historical figures involved before, or about the author, but I certainly walked away knowing more.

My actual assigned duty was only to ring up the books that were bought, but heck if I was just going to do that. I instead decided to talk to Mr. Whitlock about what it’s like to be a nonfiction author, what’s involved in the publishing process, and also his books, aviation, writing, and life in general. I’m afraid I may have babbled a little too much (I have a bad habit of running my mouth faster than my brains), but Mr. Whitlock was a fascinating person to talk to, and if he was at all annoyed by my steady stream of questions and odd anecdotes he certainly did not show it.

Most of the advice he had were things I knew, but still needed to hear – that writing is time consuming, difficult, and requires a great deal of patience. My problem still remains first getting ideas on what to write about, particularly in nonfiction, and second finding venues once I do have something written. Indeed, this very blog is partially an exercise in steadily writing about things and keeping a steady stream of words going. He also gave some excellent advice about finding a target audience and not trying to write for everyone. You can’t please everyone, it’s impossible, so find a select group of people and wow them.

I ended up actually buying Captain Jepp and the Little Black Book, and I recommend it to everyone here. I am, at present, only halfway through, but Elery B. Jeppesen’s life is fascinating. Mr. Whitlock and his co-author, Terry L Barnhart, bring the good captain’s world to life with clear and entertaining prose that is a pleasure to read. I haven’t looked at Turbulence before Takeoff as extensively, primarily because I couldn’t afford it, but from what I saw it also looked like an interesting read.

I also got to talk to a few airplane pilots who dropped by, one of whom seemed quite happy that I expressed even a passing interest in aviation. I got his email address, but haven’t quite yet gotten up the courage to email him back (perhaps he’ll see this blog entry, perhaps not; perhaps once I stop wiffling on it I’ll send him a link)

Ultimately, this was the best day at work I had. I learned a lot about a career I want to go into, had wonderful conversations, and even got a signed copy of a book out of it. I hope that my manager will assign me to more book signings, because I’d love to do this again!



1. Elizabeth van den Berg - March 10, 2010

Hey – if you become a professional writer (i.e. get paid for writing something), you can write the cost of all these cool books off your taxes as “research in your field”. :0
In the meantime, there’s always the library!

Jensen - March 10, 2010

But airplanes aren’t really my field…

Even so I guess that’s true. Kind of like how you can write conventions off if you’re trying to get a job!

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