Tonight was my first book signing. I was invited to come sign books at the Redding NAMI meeting last month and agreed to do that. With the release of their monthly newsletter, it became clear not only was I going to be signing, but I was the main speaker as well. Public speaking has never been my fave; I’d rather write out my thoughts which probably makes sense since I’m a writer. But I have endured my share of Toastmasters meetings during my marketing career (I would actually sit in my office and cry before I had to do my speeches–true story)so I was okay with the evolving role I would play in the meeting. As my daughter had written in the anthology in a side-by-side perspective of what living with bipolar disorder during adolescence feels like it only seemed right she would be with me to talk. But she was working 3 hours away, in work she’s loving, and I did not want to interrupt that in anyway. I would speak alone (and drag my husband along for moral support.)
The day of the reading, the NAMI President told me they would be expecting 40 people, more than their usual group. I had ordered books from LaChance Publishing, but really was not sure how many to order. All I knew was I couldn’t have a book signing without books to sign. But I also didn’t want that “inventory” writers are always talking about trying to clear out.
We got to the meeting and I wondered how I was going to fill up two hours. I didn’t so much have a speech as index cards with bullet points. Those bullet points never got read. Fifty five people came (helpers were scrambling to find chairs)and after I read, there were so many questions people had to take numbers. I signed far more books then I had planned. People traveled from outlying rural areas. And everyone was so thankful.
What this says to me is that there is a thirst for knowledge about bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. My husband and I often say the statistics are inaccurate: the prevalence of mental illness in our society is much higher than is talked about in the literature. At least it seems that way from the street. Stigma can prevent people from speaking up, but once people know I write mental health material, they often open up with their stories or concerns about a loved one.
What I am always struck with at NAMI meetings is the incredibly, heroic work that is being done by people who have a mental illness, and people who love people that have a mental illness. It feels rock solid honest and it’s inspiring.
If this is what all book signings are like, I’m in. Especially the NAMI ones.