Tuesday, September 2, 2008


See, me and The Fair, we got us some history.

Back '94 or so, when I just had one book published (The Missionary Position, which was later reissued by Avon with a new title- Funeral Food), and a self-published one at that, financed by the auction sale of our sheep, The Fair asked me to come and sit for a couple of hours in the un-airconditioned Arts and Education building, and sign copies of my mystery, which I did, despite my long-standing dislike of unairconditioning. Back then a booksigning consisted mostly of me smiling at people who were curious as to what I was doing but intent on avoiding eye contact, and directing children to the bathroom. Not a whole lot different from book signings now, when it comes down to it.

Fast forward to '97 , after my second and third books (Sex and Salmonella and The Hotel South Dakota) had been published by A Real Honest to God New York Publisher, who paid me (not a lot, but that was fine because we had no sheep left to subsidize my career). The Fair called and asked if I would sit with a round-table of South Dakota Authors, and sign my books. I said, "sure," and made plans to attend.

A week or so later, The Fair's Assistant called and sheepishly (heh) said that there was a small problem- that whoever makes those sorts of decisions for The Fair thought it would be inappropriate for me to bring a book with the word "Sex" in the title, into the Education Building. I thought about that for a moment (remembering that I had already signed copies of The Missionary Position in that selfsame building), and then waited for The Fair's Assistant to suggest a solution, which she did. Her notion was that I could sit with the Other Authors, but that I could not put copies of Sex and Salmonella on the table with my other books (including, amazingly enough, Missionary, which had not been reprinted yet, and of which I still had boxes and boxes of copies stacked in the corner of my dining room)(Note to Aspiring Writers: don't sell your sheep to self-publish a book). I could, she suggested helpfully, wrap them in brown paper if I liked.

I am hoping that I turned The Fair's Assistant down politely, and that I didn't tell her where to put her brown paper wrappers (I don't remember my exact reaction). But since then, The Fair and I have been avoiding each other, except for one quick trip about 6 years ago, to pick up a raw fleece (see- sheep again) for spinning.

So I was mildly surprised a couple of months ago when The Fair called me out of the blue, to ask me to sign books on Labor Day. I figured it was time to put the past behind us, and so I agreed, though I did tell The Fair that I could not sell my knitting books (contract restrictions and all- I have to pay retail price plus shipping, and who in their right mind is going to pay more for a book just to get it from me?), and that the mysteries were all out of print. The Fair said that would be no problem.

So, yesterday I schlepped copies of all 10 of my books, plus 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders, to Huron, to sit at a table and direct people to the bathroom. We hit a small snafu when I realized very late in the game, that they expected me to sit at said table, in the unairconditioned Arts and Education Building, for 8 full hours. I did demur politely, and said I'd stick to my original understanding, and be there from 1:00-3:00 pm.

It was way hot yesterday. Not as hot as it can be on Labor Day, but still it was in the mid 90's, with high humidity, and incredible winds (steady 30-35mph with gusts higher- check out the flags in the photos), and I was stationed in a front corner of the building, out of any air movement, so I had to consciously remember to smile when people asked where the rest rooms were.

But before I hunkered down in the hot building, I wandered. I never did find the sheep or the goofy chickens- they were there, but out of my path, and I was hot and hungry (and there were storms predicted, so I wanted to hit the road immediately after the signing). I explored the food court, and settled on Crab Fritters (which, for a carb counter, is pretty much a no-no), after being sorely tempted by the Trifecta offered by one booth (Indian Tacos, Elephant Ears, and Funnel Cakes, with a mystery beverage called Peps). And yes I had a Funnel Cake. It was wonderful, though the wind blew powdered sugar all over me, and very nearly upended the whole plate, so I wore a White Badge of Shame for awhile (and I couldn't eat it all- those suckers are huge. And sticky).

I did look at the quilts, which were lovely, and at the pickles and jams (my crab apple jelly still hasn't set, by the way. sigh), and the lone knitted item that I saw- a lovely cabled sweater. At least it won a ribbon. I have no desire to ride any rides but I like to look at them. Ditto the Midway, still packed solid with cheap stuffed animals. And I thought it was nice of the man to render aid to the lemons.

At my table, I mostly knitted, and smiled, and watched people (News Flash: mothers and daughters often look alike). One nice gentleman sat with me for awhile, and asked who taught me to knit. I told him that my mother and grandmother had. He sighed wistfully, and said that his own mother had died before she was able to teach him to knit, as she had taught his older brothers. Only a lack of needles and extra yarn kept me from offering to teach him then and there. A young boy asked a very serious writing question (How old were you when you knew that you wanted to write?). I told him that I knew when I was 8 or so, but that it took me a long time to get around to actually doing it. He nodded and left. I hope that was the answer he needed to hear. Skinny Santa wandered past my table a couple of times, but did not stop to chat. A few people demanded more Tory mysteries, and a newbie knitter had some felting questions.

If it had not been so blasted hot and sticky, and if I would have found the sheep, and if I had not been intent on getting ahead of the storms (which hit shortly after I got home- 2" of rain and lots of crash bang and boom), it would have been a perfect day. But it was pretty good anyway.

So Fair, if you're reading this, give me a call. We'll do it again some time.


joannamauselina said...

Sounds like an awful day to me. I used to love to go to the fair, but I always seemed to get sick - either eating too much, or sniffing too much animal dander. If not those, then someone would convince me to accompany them on some awful ride, which would tip me over the edge - tummywise. I went again the next year anyway, hoping for the best.

danielle said...

I love Fairs....and we go to at least 2 every year....sad to see some of the older ones dwindle. Finally made it to our State Fair a few years ago and was soooooo disappointed! Even tho I knew better, it just wasnt like the one in the movie! LOL

Always have to have funnel cake - and hubby has to have what he calls 'grandma cakes' (the ones handmade usually by church groups) and yes, I always give in (no matter how much I try to talk myself out of it) to cotton candy!