I had a greatÂ signing last night at my hometown bookstore, the Owl & Turtle.Â Friends and family showed up, the bookstore graciously set out lovely platters of cheese and crackers, and I was reminded again whyÂ I live in this great town.Â But I came home feeling badly about a dilemma that arose during the evening. It’s a dilemma that comes up again and again, and usually I deal with itÂ the same wayÂ almost every other writer deals with it.
This time, though, it felt wrong.Â And I regret it.
A young woman came to buy my book, and it turned out she went to school with my son.Â She’s been working on a writing careerÂ and has written a book, but she’s not having much luck getting it published.Â She brought the manuscript last night, hoping to give it to me.Â I gave her my automatic answer: “I’m sorry, I can’t take it.”Â Which is what I always say.Â I’m offered scores of manuscripts at booksignings, and I just can’t accept them because I’d be overwhelmed by having to read them all.Â Also, there’s the nagging legal issue ofÂ reading unpublished material that might be similar to something I just happen to beÂ working on.Â And then I’d get into trouble when my own book comes out and it looks like I copied someone else’s work.Â
So my general rule is that I don’t even take a peek at unpublished work.
The young lady was very disappointed, of course.Â It was busy with a line of customers, so I didn’t have a chance to give her advice on agents or submissions.Â I could have done at least that, especially since she’s my son’s classmate.Â And since she lives right here in town.Â I regret not takingÂ the time to talk more with her.
There are times when weÂ have to break our own rules, and I wish I had last night.Â So Brittany, if you’re reading this, email me.Â Let’s talk.Â