• The Hub

    News, Notes, Talk

    A guide to the people you run into at every reading.

    James Folta

    April 2, 2024, 12:59pm

    If you’ve been to enough book events, you start to recognize some distinct archetypes. See how many you can spot at the next reading or book launch you attend.

    The Nervous Writer
    Some authors are confident and poised behind a podium, but some show up already drenched in sweat. Telltale signs include a crumpled knot of nearly illegible pages in one fist and in the other, a paper coffee cup being compressed to the density of a diamond. Avoid looking directly at The Nervous Writer until the light returns to their eyes, usually an hour or two after their reading.

    The Lit World Celebrity
    If you hear an excited whisper of, “Can you believe they’re here…” there’s a Lit World Celebrity around. This marquee name could be a famously reclusive author or a writer with a stable magazine job that everyone is jealous of. They will either be the best- or worst-dressed person in the room.

    The Partier
    There’s always someone who’s trying to turn up, regardless of the vibe at the reading. The Partier will be the person asking where you should all go next and trying to figure out if there’s a way to do shots in the non-fiction section of a bookstore.

    The Big Fan
    Clutching their coolest statement tote bag that they cleaned and ironed just for this event, The Big Fan is just excited to be here. They’re a little intense and they did bring an author’s entire bibliography to be signed, but it’s hard to get mad at anyone who is enthusiastic about books these days.

    The VC Guy
    He just bought and strangled your favorite website, and no one is happy he’s here.

    The “This Is More Of A Comment Than A Question” Guy
    The scourge of every Q&A, talkback, and workshop, this man—always a man—arrived with something to say and will stop at nothing to get it out. His diatribes can be polished or rambling, but are always way too long. You can spot these guys by their inability to read a room: they’ll obliviously plant themselves anywhere that people are trying to walk through.

    The Networker
    Steer clear of anyone lugging around a printed copy of their manuscript—they’re angling for a career leg-up. If someone asks you about how you got your agent while scanning the room over your shoulder for someone better to talk to, you’ve been lassoed by The Networker.

    The Confused
    The couple on a first date at a bar that suddenly filled with writers. The bookstore shopper trying to figure out how to react to a poem while they check out. The writer’s dazed partner who thinks a conversation about N+1 is an algebra thing. Thank you for sticking around.

    The Heroic Staff
    The real heroes of any bookstore reading are the staff who are forever shuttling heavy stacks of hardcovers around and making sure that the display table you’re leaning against doesn’t topple over. And no one works harder or puts up with more overheard lit gossip than the bartenders at a bar reading. Thanks for being patient while two people who took a workshop together years ago catch up right in front of the pass, and thanks for not rolling your eyes too hard after hearing so many people say, “I can’t wait to definitely read your manuscript!”

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