Last night I did a signing at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Reston. I spoke to a lovely and enthusiastic crowd. We were seated near the children's book section. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a young lady, at most maybe eleven years old, watching me and listening in. Eventually she slipped into a seat in the second row, as her papa watched from his spot by the YA (Young Adult) books stack.
She seemed thoughtful, quiet, and the expression on her face told me she was obviously absorbing the entire scene as I held up pictures of the debutante ball that makes up part of the mystery in Photo, Snap, Shot.
This young lady wore a knee-length rust colored dress, with a ruffle on both sides of the buttons down the front of the bodice, and a sewn-on sash tied around the waist. Her hair was long, dark walnut brown, and it formed waves as it ran down her back. It had been pulled back very neatly with a rubber band.
In so many ways, she reminded me of myself at that age.
At the end of my presentation, she waited until most of the adults had their books signed. Then she brought up a book, and I asked if she would like it signed. (I never assume anyone wants my signature. That's a choice that's theirs to make. I would never be so presumptious.) When she nodded and spelled out her name, I signed the book with deliberation, taking the time to ask her if she liked to read and what she read. She said, "All sorts of things." I asked if she liked mysteries, and she nodded. I asked if she liked Nancy Drew.
No. She'd just read one of those, and no more, because "it creeped me out."
Her language was so vibrant, her words were so emotional and heartful, and her thought was so unexpected that I laughed out loud.
After I finished signing stock for the bookstore, my young fan came back again. Her face full of solemn expression. "What's your name?" she asked me.
I told her. She nodded and walked away. Heel-toe, heel-toe, heel-toe. Hands clasped behind her back.
I hope that she likes my book. I hope that she'll find something inside to encourage her to be a lifelong reader. I hope that if she wants to write, she'll remember that she once met an author...and that this particular author was kind and interested in her.
Because I was. Of all the people there last night, I cared most about that little girl.
She's the future of this industry.