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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