Peg’s Hand

In an effort to simplify the most gruelling part of the book-publication process – the dreaded Authour Tour – I dreamed up the concept of a remote book signing device. The author would be able to relax at his or her home base, and could see and speak with a book-buyer in a bookstore thousands of miles away. That much can happen already.

But in addition, the author would be able to actually sign – in real time, and with real ink – the book-buyer’s book.

Margaret Atwood, Me and My Monster Hand, The Globe and Mail, Saturday, January 22, 2005

You go, girl! If any person deserves not to be put out, to be comfortable and calm, complete with mimosas and fuzzy slippers, it’s you, Ms. Atwood. You’ve done your share of ground breaking, barrier busting, literary stuff (invisible hand included), paving the way for fem-lit newbies, like me. Run with it, sister. I salute you.


I’m still a doe-eyed writer caught in the headlights of the publishing biz, daydreaming of her first book tour. Never having had a ‘following’, I see the dreaded author tour differently. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, adore my husband – but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m the mother of a high-powered three-year-old and I haven’t had more than three hours of uninterrupted sleep in almost four years. I’m not looking forward to my first book tour for the Pringles (my mother always taught me to take a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jam, and a loaf of bread wherever I went). I’m in it for the sleep.

I’m also interested in seeing who might be out there. (Even if it’s just two people who have wandered into the bookstore to get out of the cold.)

Darned if I can’t remember his name, but I once heard an author say, “If there’s less than five people at one of my readings, I ask them where the nearest pub is, and we grab our coats and carry on with it over a pint or two.”

Barkeep, make mine a rum and coke.

And I think some authors actually enjoy the obligatory tour.

Once, while visitng a Target store outside of Evanston, Illinois, I happened upon a major book signing event. I had gone there to pick up lightbulbs and toilet paper, and wound up in the middle of an Anne Rice signing for Servant of the Bones. The place was packed and at first glance I thought, “Oh God, you poor woman.” Then I saw the look on her face as each person stepped up to meet her. There in her weird, wild headdress and get-up, she was beaming, her countenence, down-right rapturous. She seemed to be thriving on the whole affair. I’d like to think she wasn’t faking…but then of course we all know that women can fake more important things than a smile when the situation requires it.

Is your invisible hand creepy, Ms. Atwood? Nah.

Smart? Yes.

But maybe a little too detached for me.

I’ll be honest, I had a nightmare about it last week.

I was in grade four all over again. Miss Feller, my wide-hipped english teacher glaring over my desk. “You’ll stay after school and write 5000 times, ‘I will not question authority.’

As I sat in the cold, empty classroom, a beautiful, golden pen with a long pink ribbon appeared on my desk. Attached to the pen was a note that read, “choose me”. I picked up the pen, my world went Alice, and the desk started to contrict around me, holding me tight. I couldn’t let go of the pen. It forced my hand to sign my name over and over again and with every signature a part of me dissappeared. My toes, my feet, my hair, my eyes, until all that was left was my hand. Signing, signing away.

So, good luck with it, Ms. Atwood. Maybe I’ll be singing a different tune one day, but for now I’m just a sucker for a touchy-feely experience.

Oh, before I forget…I’ve been picking up all kinds of literary tips in preparation for my some-day tour and I came up with something that might interest you. (In case the whole detached hand thing doesn’t work out.)

The only difference between the author-at-a-distance and the author-in-the-flesh would be that no author’s DNA would get onto the book, and no readers’ germs would get onto the author.Margaret Atwood, Me and my Monster Hand

Some authors pass out sticky-notes to the audience before a reading/signing. This way, the fans can put down whatever they’d like for an inscription ahead of time. Less times you have to say, “Is that John with or without an ‘h’?” Instead of sticky notes, you could pass out surgical masks. They are inexpensive, and just for the hell of it, you could sign them in the privacy of your own home, in your fuzzy slippers and all.

Writer’s Blog/web site of the Week

Ms. Atwood, of course!

Check out her wonderful essays and lectures in the “On Writing” section of her website. The Margaret Atwood Refernce Site

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