By Deborah Sharp
I had a lovely Author's Tea last night in Okeechobee, the small, countrified Florida town that's the real-life inspiration for my books' fictional setting. Pretty china teapots and a hand-crocheted tablecloth transformed a meeting room at the public library into a parlor. My friend and fellow author Jan Day generously promoted me on her home turf. And the readers couldn't have been warmer, or more welcoming.
Which makes the contrast with another event earlier in the week all the more jarring. A friend who runs a bookstore has a theory: The number of candy wrappers she spots on the floor always predicts the level of rudeness in the crowd. Let's just say I waded through a sea of wrappers at this earlier event, held in the much more urban setting of South Florida, where I live.
A woman in the front row smacked and popped her gum so exuberantly, I feared I'd have to stop talking to pick bubblegum-pink flecks off my face. Someone else took a cell phone call in the middle of my presentation. One brazen old gal cut to the front of the signing line, and then kept pushing books at me from her cronies near the back. I was prepared to shove the line-cutter back to her rightful spot when an annoyed cut-ee did it for me. We were lucky, I guess, the police weren't called.
Where are people's manners?
And it's not just readers. I've also seen plenty of authors behaving badly. One Florida writer I know got drunk at a signing and tumbled off the podium. At the crowded, confusing Miami Book Fair, another author snapped at a fairgoer who spotted our official-looking table and innocently asked for directions:
''We're here to sign books, not help you find your way.''
She could have just pointed out the Book Fair volunteer standing three feet away who could have provided assistance. And how about those panel-hog authors at conventions? On they drone, as eyes glaze over in the audience and their fellow panelists drum their fingers on the table and seethe.
Why don't people behave?
Yeah, I know public venting isn't polite, either. But I have a final rant before I open the floor to comments. I'm the first to say booksellers deserve a special place in heaven, and I've met some truly wonderful ones in the year since my first Mace Bauer Mystery came out. Except for the one I met recently who acted like I was too insignificant an author and Midnight Ink was too obscure a publisher for this store to possibly carry my books. When I suggested she might want to see one of our catalogs, she said, ''I'm not bored. I don't have to comb through catalogs and search out new books to sell in my store.''
Really? Isn't that your job?
Okay, enough. What's your favorite example of an author, reader or bookseller behaving badly? Names can be withheld to protect the ill-mannered .... or not.