Monday, February 15, 2010

Don't Write in Books

I wrote the following five years ago, in the aftermath of a slew of book-signing events for my first book, Comic Book Character. For the record, I've continued to write in books--mostly my own, but occasionally others'--and my niece is now an even more precocious nearly-nine-year-old. But the unfortunate reality remains, even now that social media have become normative: the act of writing our ideas sets us at a distance from our conversation partners--our readers--and perhaps more important, sets them at a distance from us. Writers be warned: don't forget to occasionally talk to people.

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We're not free to interact with authors; we simply accept or reject what they inject into our lives. Likewise, in most cases authors get no opportunity to hear their readers. An author casts an idea out into the world and hopes that it's given some attention, that someone somewhere will take the idea to heart and make some use of it. For all their depth, books are two-dimensional artifacts in a three-dimensional world.

My three-year-old niece offered me a strict warning at one of my signing events that continues to perplex me: "Uncle Dave, don't write in books." She's speaking from experience, having learned in her short life that librarians don't look favorably on such behavior. But if books are anything, they're written in, and for that matter, what do you do at a book signing if you don't write in books?

Perhaps a three-year-old born into a postliterate world has some ideas on the matter, but until she writes a book on the subject I'll be left in the dark, nursing my poor, carpal-tunnel threatened hand back to health.