A woman that I had had a cooking class with came into the bookstore. A friend that was also taking the class had told her about my book (I would never have told her myself) and she came in with the express purpose of getting it. Kind-hearted soul that she was, she was so excited that she never even noticed me at the back of the store.
"I took a cooking class with her!" the woman said proudly, " I just saw her last week!"
"Uh, great," my co-worker said, with a definite lack of enthusiasm, "I see her everyday."
Don't tell her I work here! I thought to myself, Don't tell her I'm here!
My co-worker, who was almost as socially awkward as myself, offered no more information and the woman just gave a puzzled smile as she bought the book. And I breathed a sigh of relief from behind the bookshelf I was hiding.
I look back at this memory with quite a bit of amusement. Somehow, I had felt if customers knew I worked in the bookstore the "author mystique" would be ruined. I'm not sure why. If I went into a bookstore now and was told the person behind the counter was the author, I'd be thrilled-- not disappointed. But I guess ten years ago, I had this ideal of what an author was supposed to be like and if I didn't fit the ideal then people would know that I was a fake!
The truth is before 1999, I had spent so much time concentrating on trying to get published, I had an extremely hazy idea of what came afterwards. I guess I thought after getting a book published, I'd be set. Transformed. I would be rich and witty and sophisticated...not eating instant noodles, awkward, wearing dirty sneakers and working as the lowest rung of a bookstore (I was an extremely bad bookseller).
So how have I changed since then? Not too much, but enough. I'm not rich, witty or sophisticated but I am less awkward (I hope!), I have clean sneakers and I don't work at a bookstore. I do sometimes still feel like I am faking the author thing but usually realize in time that there is no author ideal to pretend. But most of all, I am profoundly grateful that everything seems to be working out-- that the path I began ten years ago was allowed to continue and that I see it stretch out before me.
And I don't eat Ramen noodles anymore either. That stuff can kill you.