Preparing to Launch Part 2 – guest blog by Harold Macy

Whatever the occa­sion, going to town requires thought as to dress, or could require thought if one was given to care. A quick run to the feed store or Central Builders is pretty straight­for­ward. But for such an event as a book launch, espe­cially if it is one’s own book launch, may call for a bit addi­tional consideration.

If it is a high-brow lit­er­ary event, would I wear the tried and true tweed jacket with suede elbow patches, pos­sibly over a sweater vest?—how time­less is that combo? Or is it so dated to be pathetic. Or per­haps I could try the po-mo look—lots of black, maybe even a fake pier­cing and a temp ‘tat.’

My cri­teria are not driven by the whims and caprice of the Style Section of the Globe and Mailwhich we buy each Saturday, but rather by neces­sity. Something that doesn’t show dog hair is high on the list. There is enough black hair in the seat crevices and cranny’s of my truck to knit a new hound. Something that relates to the weather, usu­ally water­proof, rein­forces the gum­boot archetype.

Harold Macy is the author of The Four Storey Forest, As Grow the Trees, So too the Heart

But really, I don’t care. I take les­sons from my Grandpa. His long legs were per­petu­ally clad in blue denim over­alls. Annually, upon Grandma’s urging, he bought a new pair, stiff as boards, which he ini­tially saved for church. After a few months, they became his town and house pair. Eventually they were worn in the shop, on the tract­ors and in the calv­ing barn doing the chores he loved. After a year or so on this duty, they were fit only for wipe rags. Grandma made quilt squares from any sec­tion that was not thread­bare, grease stained or soiled by the wet but messy mir­acles of anim­als, but there were only few.

But it is not your clothes that are noticed at a book launch. It’s your fin­ger­nails.

I gave a talk recently and was set­ting up to sell and sign books to the good folks in line, money in hand. I glanced down at my hands and saw the half-moon of cargo delin­eat­ing each and every nail. Not only that but there was a stub­born smear of chain­saw oil giv­ing the edge of my hand a del­ic­ate blush of purple, not unlike a fresh bruise. Various scratches. Enough grit in my fin­ger­tips to make cop prints and a dust­ing of Merville Silt, appar­ently a par­tic­u­lar nox­ious ele­ment accord­ing to the Sears Carpet Cleaning Technician who does our rugs once a year.

So, as the first pink-fingered, smooth-handed lady passed me my book to sign, I almost felt the urge to make some glot­tal grunt to match what really mattered, my hands there on the page. Now her page. Soiled. She glanced down at the vir­ginal page, at my stub­born grime and made a small silent “Oh” with her mouth. I felt her gaze, looked up, and gave a wan smile.

Don’t worry about the clothes, check your fin­ger­nails first.

Paula’s note: Harold originally sent the above in as a comment to Preparing to Launch, a guest blog by Susan Ketchen. It’s so well written – and funny – that I decided to run it as Preparing to Lauch Part 2.

The subject of clothes, fingernails and potentially embarrassing moments that happen to authors at book signings seems to have struck a chord for many writers. Check back in a couple of weeks for Preparing to Launch Part 3 & 4.



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One Response to Preparing to Launch Part 2 – guest blog by Harold Macy

  1. I laughed when I read Susan’s and Harold’s experience with book signings – loved the telescopic view right down to our fingernails!

    “Outfit anxiety” – so true! I’ve packed multiple outfits to accommodate short-range weather forecasts and my best guess on the venue mise-en-scéne. Scarf no scarf? Bare legs or black legs?

    I’ve seen male authors show up in jeans and broken-in boots, topped off with a practical brimmed hat. At the recent CNFC conference in Vancouver, keynote speaker John Vaillant wore blue jeans and a weathered jean shirt. Easy peasy. And looked great. Probably pulled the first pair off the clean laundry pile. He did mention that he’d been up past midnight the night before working on a pitch. Not peering out the window, trying to guess the whims of clouds and fashion.

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