Saturday, February 17, 2007

On Display

Exactly one week ago, I unexpectedly walked into a whole bunch of them. Hopefuls. It was easy to tell who they were, too. Numbers pasted to their shirts, that gleam of hope in their eye as they scoped out the competition, assessed their appearance, weighed their chances... Which weren’t good.

I mean, I have no actual idea how many hopefuls showed up for the Calgary auditions of Canadian Idol, but I saw far more than would be handed a gold ticket or whatever it is they do anymore to invite people to Toronto to compete as part of the 100.

Now, I didn’t plan to go to Southcentre Mall to see them. And as soon as I realized what was going on part of me wanted to get out fast.

But I was just too curious. What drives each of these hopefuls to line up for hours, to scrutinize the competition, to be a spectacle, knowing that the Canadian Idol judges can be completely merciless? I mean, I’ll admit to seeing part of one season on TV, the first year. Ouch.

When we put ourselves out with our writing it’s a bit different. Usually done with some degree of privacy. I’ve known people who’ve subbed, got deals and not even told anyone until closer to the release. Some people keep things really quiet.

Writers can cover a lot of ground without public humiliation. Not these singers. They have to put themselves out there. I can read a review in private in my office 99% of the time, and cope privately if it hurts. If they suck they get told to their face.

And it’s an interesting thing, because I understand the reason American Idol has been so popular this year is that they’re showing the rejects for a portion of every show.

Boy oh boy, some people love to kick a person when they’re down. And some people just love to kick others, period. This is one of the things Kevin and I have talked about at length, how our society seems obsessed with creating ‘heroes’ and then tearing them down. Always looking for the great story, the waitress who gets discovered and becomes a millionaire acting in some movie, or cutting an album. We’re all over any rags to riches tale…

Until a person makes too much, is a little too successful or whatever. Yes, it’s possible to lose your sweetheart status and be, essentially, dumped.

I’ve always had my own philosophy where all this stuff is concerned. It’s about the readers. The coolest thing is hearing that someone has read the book and enjoyed it. And yet…

I have to admit that I have no idea how to handle the compliments. When someone comes up to you or emails and says they loved your book do you just say, “Thank you?” Seems a little hollow. But really, what can you say? I’m pleased? It means a lot to me? Glad you enjoyed it?

To be honest, I’m still getting over the shock that anyone’s read the book. Because it isn’t like singing on a stage and we don’t get those immediate reactions. You never know when an email or letter will come, or someone will walk up to you to talk about the book.

Anyone have any stories to share about that, from either side of the fence?

I can only say one thing: I hope the thrill of hearing that someone enjoyed my work never fades, because I really believe it’s the highest honour.


Jersey Jack said...

I'm a first-time author whose book was published last week, and I just received my first review--the first time anyone has read the book and commented outside of friends, family, agent, and editor. The reviewer liked my book, but I kept wondering who she was talking about. A bit unreal.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yeah, those first reviews are a bit surreal. Congratulations on the book!