At art fairs, I’ve often wondered how it feels for artists to sit by their work as they watch the world pass by with barely a glance. Must be what I felt at the BABF this weekend, as we sit in our outdoor booth hawking our wares: two anthologies of our plays, three novels, and a memoir. First day, two books sold.
We exhibited here two years ago, with not the slightest illusion of breaking even to match the exhibit fee. And there’s the issue of stamina: getting up at 5 a.m. to drive down to the East Bay, set up the booth, sit there all day with lunch and porta-potty breaks, say hello to anything that moves, tear down and pack up at 5 p.m. to make the drive home, then do the same thing on Sunday. But it’s a kind of fatalistic fun.
First, the booth looks damned good, with some of our puppets, stand-up book racks, beautiful signage, and Elizabeth. Lots of conversations and hopes that some of our proffered brochures will result in online sales. This year we had the inspiration of printing 4-1/4″ by 14” broadsides containing two of our flash fiction stories to give away free—more relevant than offering free lapel buttons or breath mints, and hopefully at this very minute someone is reading five minutes of our words and freaking out.
But it is a humbling act to be among 280 exhibitors offering thousands of books—a small fraction of the nearly one million published in the USA in a single year. With our plays, we could either produce them or find another theatre to hoodwink into doing it for us. With books, it’s pissing against the wind.
Which I remember. As a small child, maybe five or six, my mom and I took a road trip to Denver. Nebraska’s a very long state, and about the 15th time we crossed the Platte River, I had to pee. Badly. Once she got started driving, my mom didn’t like to stop, so she just told me to stand up on the passenger seat, roll down the window, and pee. I complied. Never try it. It blows back all over the back seat, not to mention your face. Ah, the trials of manhood and authorship.