Lame Adventure 378: Real Life Revenge of the Nerds

It is not a secret that I am a tepid book reader.

Ah, let's read about Wine for Dummies while quaffing beer.

Reading the cover of Wine for Dummies while quaffing beer.

This is not because I have an aversion to reading books. I simply have little time to devote to reading books. At the risk of sounding like the kindred spirit of a hack that seldom listens to music but composes a symphony on spoons, I recently finished writing my first book of 25 short humor essays, Lame Adventures: Unglamorous Tales From Manhattan. Currently my essentially invisible tome is in freefall. It’s # 712,595 with a boulder on Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank. This sinkhole ranking gives the impression that I have written my masterpiece on spoons. I have agonized over this situation and concluded that my tome’s problem is that only tens of about thirty people are aware of it, and they’ve all purchased it. Today I learned that my pal, Fellini, contacted The Bloggess about it. Yes, real deal humorist Jenny Lawson has given my book a welcome shout out. Maybe her endorsement will generate more e-book sales.

In an effort to lift my book’s dismal ranking a hundred thousand notches or maybe a realistic eight, I attended every librarian’s wet dream, BookExpo America.

Wally Lamb! (whoever that is)

Wally Lamb! Whoever that is.

Tie-in for film based on book that is not on my radar.

Tie-in for film based on book that is not on my radar.

Malcolm Gladwell — heard of him as well as David & Goliath.

Malcolm Gladwell — heard of him as well as David & Goliath.

Duct tape raffle! (didn't enter)

BEA duct tape raffle! Didn’t enter.

Larger than life Lego sculptures. (respected the rules — only photographed; didn't touch)

Larger than life Lego sculptures. Respected the rules — only photographed; didn’t touch fearing decapitation.

Dummies guy was in the house!

Dummies guy was in the house!

BEA is a massive publishing event that was held at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. Javits is a cavernous six-block long conference hall that could double as a town with central air conditioning. For published authors the entry fee was a seizure-inducing $199, but on the bright side, I was not smacked with a penalty fee for being semi-illiterate.

Prior to going I researched the more than 1000 exhibitors to see if any might be open to my brand of wit. I focused on nine publishers and three literary agencies. Once at Javits, I saw a crowd waiting in the lobby for the show to open at 9 A.M. Someone assumed that I was press, which struck me as odd, but I was wearing this Roz Chast cartoon tee shirt that must have given the false impression that I have a career.

No, I am not CEO of Low Key Press.

No, I am not CEO of Low-Key Press.

After registering, I set out to find the agents who were in the International Rights Center located a floor above the show proper. On my way there, I found the beer.

9 A.M. suds. Locked.

9 A.M. suds. Locked. They knew I was coming.

And I narrowly missed getting run over by a Coke machine.

Almost the death of me or at least some disfigurement.

Almost the death of me or at least some disfigurement.

The third event in this leg of my journey was encountering a guard who stopped me and asked if I had an appointment. No appointment. No admittance. Even though she didn’t bare her teeth, I sensed that she was no nonsense.

Me: How do I go about getting an appointment?

Guard: Make phone calls.

She gestured toward a catalogue with names and numbers. I did not want to get bit in the shin so I took her advice. I spilled my guts to an assistant at one agency who was responsive. She arranged for me to leave my book with reception. A few of the publishers on my list that I visited on the exhibition floor were also receptive.

Exhibition hall before it got REALLY crowded.

Exhibition hall before it got really crowded.

Time will tell if anything will come from any of these encounters or if the copies of my book that I handed out are destined to be mulch. In the exhibition area, I was deluged with exhibitors offering advance complimentary copies of all kinds of books. The vast majority I declined because I did not want to lug around 900 pounds of backbreaking clutter. Many attendees grab a copy of everything at this all you can read buffet.

Stacks of Raccoon Rampage for the taking.

Stacks of Raccoon Rampage for the taking.

Authors are also present to sign autographs.

Mat Phelan signing his graphic novel I regret not taking.

Matt Phelan signing advance copies of his graphic novel, Bluffton, that I highly regret not taking.

Bluffton by Matt Phelan, a graphic novel I later learned that's about my favorite silent film comedian Buster Keaton.

Bluffton a graphic novel featuring my favorite silent film comedian Buster Keaton as a boy.

I had little interest in collecting any autographs until I saw that my favorite living playwright, Tony Kushner, was signing copies of his screenplay, Lincoln.

So-so picture of great American writer Tony Kushner.

So-so picture of great American writer Tony Kushner.

He could sign a gum wrapper with William Wrigley’s initials and I’d wait in a line an hour for that. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his theatrical masterwork Angels in America and has twice been nominated for the Academy Award. He is such a brilliant writer the grocery list in his back pocket would likely sing to me.  

Okay, maybe I did lower myself and get Helen Fielding's autograph, too, and a copy of it for my sister as well.

Maybe I did get Bridget Jones’s Diary author Helen Fielding’s autograph for my sister … and me. Helen’s delightful.

It’s common at BEA for attendees to ask fellow attendees standing on epic lines whom they’re waiting for. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred it was for an author I had never heard of, but I quickly perfected the habit of nodding my white noise-filled head like I was familiar. When I encountered time one hundred, I learned that the line was for Jim Carrey. Yes, this guy.

Grandpa Jim smiing and signing.

Grandpa Jim smiling and signing.

He was signing autographs to drum up buzz for his children’s book How Roland Rolls. He wrote it with kids and his own grandson in mind. Even though it seemed like I stood in his line for the better part of a week, I met a fellow self-published author named Rainey who lives in Arizona and bonded with her. Bonding with people makes the long line waiting almost enjoyable. The people in front of us were very friendly, too. There was such a commotion when Jim Carrey arrived; I thought that maybe it was for another famous guy with the initials “JC”.  I’m not thinking Jimmy Carter.

Rainy indulging in her 1.8 seconds with Jim.

Rainy indulging in her 1.8 seconds with Jim.

Real Happiness at Work a.k.a. an oxymoron.

Real Happiness at Work a.k.a. a myth.

On my way to finding where an author was talking about her book, Real Happiness at Work, which from my own day job experience must be in the fantasy genre, I noticed a queue that stretched to infinity. Attendees were not waiting for a free book or an autograph from God. This horde was eager to have their picture taken with the Internet sensation Grumpy Cat. I had never heard of this cat until that moment at BEA. Grumpy Cat was born with feline dwarfism, a condition that leaves a permanent frown on her face, much like my fellow subway riders at rush hour. But no one would stand in a line crossing the border to meet them. My fellow line waiters there were terrific, too, especially Ellen the Wonderful, who is familiar with this blog. What a woman!

Ellen and Grumpy Cat.

Ellen and Grumpy Cat.

Me smiling like an idiot with Grumpy Cat who indeed looked very grumpy, if not sedated.

Smiling behind Grumpy Cat who indeed looked very grumpy, if not sedated.

Around four o’clock the exhibitors unlocked the beer. Quaffing an icy cold one while socializing with pistol librarians like Jeanette from Newington, Connecticut and Debbie from Easton, Pennsylvania also makes the line-waiting pass much quicker.

Before leaving at the end of the long day, I visited the bathroom, but resisted the temptation to shill my book to the attendant there. The loo was plastered with Mad Libs stickers. Pictured below is the one that was inside my stall’s door.

Mad Libs written by my predecessors. Photo hot shot from a sitting position.

Mad Libs written by my predecessors. Photo not shot from a sitting position.


103 responses to “Lame Adventure 378: Real Life Revenge of the Nerds

  1. Hope something useful came from your hours of queuing either personally or professionally. I have had experiences at countless trade shows at Javits when I worked IPR investigations for US Customs.

    On an unrelated note, the delightfully cute Alex Morgan has single handedly blown open a 0-0 Friendly with Canada, scoring twice while I started writing this response. US is up 2-0 in the 77th minute at BMO* field in Toronto.

    * Wife’s employer.


  2. Enjoying your book.



  3. As lame adventures go, not that lame!


  4. Oh how I wish I could have been a groupie with you. I guess I’ll just have to stick to dreaming ….


  5. I’m so over Grumpy Cat. That curmudgeon got a movie deal.
    yeah, I’m done.


  6. Wow, a shout out from The Bloggess! That’s worth its weight in gold (or books) right there. Very cool.


  7. Aw now, you don’t have to say nice things about me just because I threatened er promised I read this blog! It was great to meet you and I’m glad you had some fun at least. (Or at least some free beer.)
    I just remembered I forgot to change my Facebook photo to me and Grumpy Cat, so now I will go do that and let the adulation roll in.


  8. writerwendyreid

    That must have been SO cool V. Did you have to pay $199 or was that just for people selling and signing their own books? I would have loved to have met Jim Carrey. 🙂


  9. Hoping something comes your way from your effort and hassles. Meanwhile, the Dummies creators need a mascot?


  10. I wonder what would have happened if you had set up a desk with banner listing your name, plopped some copies of your books on top and sat to autograph?!?


  11. True guerrilla marketing. Cool idea!


  12. YES! I knew you should be at BEA … even if you had to pay! Loved your report. Next year you and I will drink a beer together (I mean, we will each have our own …) as we stand in line for something … maybe …
    Now…holy crap… you really did get a fine endorsement from The Bloggess (another of my favourites) – I left my own insignificant comment confirming my thought that everyone should indeed buy your book. I am thoroughly enjoying it … slowly but surely as I try to catch up on the 637 emails I have waiting.


    • Awwwwwwww Patricia, thanks for endorsing the Bloggess’s endorsement of my book! You know, you did give me a (kind and gentle) kick in my ass to attend BEA. Yes, when you visit NYC next year, let’s share a beer and I agree, preferably not with a straw.


  13. I got anxiety just thinking about such a convention! I think my head would explode if there were so many books for the taking, authors for the meeting, and lines for the standing (plus, it would overwhelm me that there were ZOMG so many other authors trying to make it in the world!) But it looks like it was a great time. I hope Mr. Carey’s book is a bit better than his ex-girlfriend Jenny McCarthey’s pregnancy book.

    Congrats on the nod from The Bloggess! I have to admit that I liked your book far more than hers 😉


    • Emily, I suffered a few Maalox moments, but then I considered that my rankings were sinking into a hole heading all the way to China, so I just relaxed and enjoyed myself. BEA is a lot of fun, even before the free beer is broken out. Every so often you get to be in the presence of someone brilliant like Tony Kushner. You’re right, there are A LOT of authors out there but who’s to say you can’t be one, too? Snooki was there the day before and you know her writing must be fast approaching the level of Grumpy Cat’s right?


  14. Wow! Jim Carrey, Helen Fielding and Tony Kushner all in the same place! Next year it will Virgina Antonelli. I hope your efforts grabbed the attention of several publishers and agents and that they’ll be fighting over you, V. It really is a great book.


  15. A town with central air, I could go for.

    I happened to notice when I was on Amazon today the rating of your book, V., and I thought it was pretty good. My book and those of two writer friends of mine are down in the 2 and 3 millions — I didn’t know the numbers could go so low. But, my sister’s new novel, just out, is 37,000-something. Wow, compared to my ranking it’s like she’s J.K. Rowling. It sounds like you’re on the right promotional path, though. Good things do come from those efforts, often from quarters you least expect. My book, Vol. II, will be out last week — well, it was supposed to be; it’ll be out soon — I just have to insert the page numbers, and as we know, that takes more than a day, because somehow the pages suddenly jump around. Meanwhile, I have been setting up a few means to help promote my book the instant it is published.

    I think one cause of my sister’s (Kathleen Long) selling success is that this is her 10th or 11th novel and she has a following. You have a following that’s growing, and I’m working at mine.

    Here’s to great success!


    • Samantha, you’re insight about self-publishing, aka indie publishing, is spot-on. I know that it’s important to have more than one book out there and that helps to both build and increase a following. I need to take a 3-day long nap just thinking about doing this all over again while spending 50 hours a week at my day job and publishing posts on this site.

      If J.K. Rowling ever did BEA, the riot police would probably be called to control the mob scene.


      • Definitely, the 3-day nap. Indie publishing (that term sounds so much better than “self-publishing,” in various contexts). 🙂

        My sister built her following in part by traveling around the country to writers workshops and by teaching workshops; i.e., speaking before large groups.

        And here I sit, reading and commenting on blogs while simultaneously gazing at the dogwood outside my window and wondering what caused that big branch to die and hoping that the whole tree won’t die, while I should be reading my book one more time for the final proof.


        • Samantha, I think that saying, “I’ve indie published,” sounds much sexier than “I’m a self-published hack.” If your sister can travel around the country to visit and teach writing workshops, she must not be chained to a desk having to work a day job. That’s sweet. I hope you did get around to giving your book that final proof.


  16. Ooooh. Time to write another book, Lame?
    Very envious of the Carey sighting.Hope the Bloggess peps up those ratings!


    • Just thinking about writing a sequel kinda makes my head explode, Kate. You get a shout out from the Bloggess and your stats bounce off the planets like you’ve been Freshly Pressed. Her endorsement has led to a few more sales, but it’s still moving pretty much like a snail doing Tai Chi.


  17. OMG you met Grumpy Cat! I love that thing.
    Sounds like a very useful event to go to, hopefully that and the endorsement from The Bloggess will see your sales stats go up 😉


    • I’m glad that I went, Pixie. An avid reader like you would surely be in your bliss around all those free books — as well as free kids’ books now that there’s one on the way!

      Grump Cat did not look happy.


  18. Snoring Dog Studio

    Wow. What an event! I’d have had a great time there. Yes, get going on book #2. This publishing thing is like a second job, but you have to do it. And if I see one more famous actor pushing his or her latest kid fiction, I might throw up.


    • Amen to that. I thought I was alone in my, I cannot find the right word–oh well–dyspepsia, with respect to persons who attempt to translate their accomplishments (and for many simply their celebrity) from one arena to the next. Occasionally a thoughtful actor/actress will help shine light on issues that escape notice among the masses and for that I am grateful ad, at times impressed. But the children’s book drivel–proclaiming themselves to be authors is almost laughable. Seriously, can they look into the mirror and not feel like nearly total frauds?


      • Snoring Dog Studio

        I think they believe their acting talent infuses everything else they do. It helps to have a fat ego. But it does seem patently unfair to have that leg up on others.


    • Ha, good one Jean about celebrities with books. At least Jim Carrey is Jim Carrey, a guy that starred in one of my favorite films. No, not “Dumb and Dumber” but “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. If I was there when Snooki was signing the day before, well, I can assure you I wouldn’t be there for that insult to the written word.


  19. I thought that maybe it was for another famous guy with the initials “JC”. I’m not thinking Jimmy Carter.

    Do you mean the late Johnny Cochran? He’s my favorite redemptive figure. My least? Rubber-faced funnyman James Carrey.

    This sounds like a lot of fun, and thanks to Google Maps I can put it in perspective. You can see New Jersey from there!

    Has Hell’s Kitchen undergone a renaissance? My only acquaintance with it (and I’m being serious here) is from the pages of comic books.

    It’s cool that they served beer there (but being New York, undoubtedly no soda), even if it’s the vastly overrated poseur brew Stella Artois (with which I see you posed for a picture in front of a booth selling much better beer).

    A picture with Grumpy Cat would be SUPA-awesome. My only celebrity pix are with Andy Bell of Erasure and IHOP Cliff (one of those pictures means more to me than the other). You look lovely in the photo (it doesn’t hurt that GC’s scowl is an adorable counterpoint to your winning smile).

    And your friend Ellen looks a lot like my ex-girlfriend Eva (who was sweet, smart and funny, I hasten to add).


  20. I’ve never met a cat that wasn’t grumpy, so I don’t see what’s the big deal. The show looks like a great opportunity to get out there and meet new people. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.

    Now, that you’re a published author, you’re qualified to write a “How to” book on writing. But before you do, you’ll want to read my short story, “The Ultimate Guide, How to Write How To Books.” This easy to follow 2,249 word piece of crap makes writing such nonsense a breeze that even a barefoot hillbilly can do it.


  21. I honestly don’t know what freaks me out more–that Jim Carrey has a book deal, or that Jim Carrey has a grandchild.


  22. I didn’t even know BEA existed. I knew Bea Arthur existed, but never this.
    It sounds daunting and exciting, like every writer’s conference I’ve attended. None of those ever had a grumpy cat, though.

    I hope an agent contacts you, LA. It would be a good move on their part.


    • Interesting that you mention Ms. Arthur whose nude portrait just reportedly fetched $1.9mm at Christies last month.

      What I’d like to know is when is LA gonna do a post from that august institution? How lame is that, spending 2 large for Bea’s 2 large (breasticles)?


    • BEA makes me think of Bea Arthur, too, but I was in the closet about that. You’ve given me the confidence to come out, Mike.

      An ex-friend once told me that she could see me making it as a writer — after I’m dead. This was a platonic friend. My ex-gf’s are much crueler. It would be nice if an agent signs me while I’m still amongst the living.


  23. Dude. I’m so glad you were able to go to this book shindig and how awesome was it that you got 1.8 seconds with Jim Carrey and Grumpy Cat. Although seeing how you’re so hilarious I bet you got 3.8 seconds with Carrey. I hope things pick up and that an agent likes what they read and that catapults your book from the hundred-thousand ranking to top 100 🙂


    • Thanks Guat! I’ve just checked my ranking. I’m up to #83,181! I just have to go up another, 83,081 for you to say, “I saw that coming and I had one eye on my kids at the same time.” I better send The Bloggess a box of chocolate or maybe some taxidermied critter. Maybe I’ll send you the chocolate and her the stuffed pigeon.


  24. Hi,
    I once rode North America’s only municipal elevator while visiting a friend in Oregon City, Oregon. It was totally a Lame Adventure, so when I saw the ad for your little book on The Bloggess I didn’t even hesitate to buy it. I’m halfway through and am very happy with it.

    Thanks for sharing Manhattan’s lame side with the rest of us. I’ve lived my whole life in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s pretty lame too.


    • You do have the college baseball world series. That’s something, right?


    • Hi back!

      First of all, thank you so much for taking the Bloggess’s endorsement of my slender tome seriously. I’m glad you’re not commenting to tell me that it’s given you eyeball rash and you’d like your time refunded.

      Second, your comment piqued my interest about this elevator. Wow! I love it! That does have Lame Adventure written all over it. I wish I could figure out some way to ride it with Milton, but he’s not wild about flying and there’s not a subway from Manhattan to Oregon City yet. Life is one long obstacle.

      Third, speaking of Milton, who you’re familiar with now due to the book, he was born in Nebraska and spent some very fine years of his boyhood there. And I’m not trying to butter you up to get you to further spread the word about my book, but if you’d like to do that, I certainly wouldn’t stop you. Back to Milton, whenever he talks about his childhood in Nebraska (and it might have been Omaha; I have to run that by him) he has great memories.

      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.



  25. Yup, that’s the elevator. The ride up was just about as thrilling as you would expect.

    Amusingly enough the friend I took with me to Oregon is from NY City. She and Milton must have just decided to swap living places. I’m glad to know he’s spreading the good word about Nebraska instead of saying how awful it is. It isn’t awful. I love it here, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less lame.

    We do have a dead guy buried in the basement of a museum in Hastings. The original collection was his and as a stipulation of donating it to the city he required that he be buried with his stuff.

    I’ll definitely be telling others about your book. I know a few who will enjoy it.


    • That’s so kind of you to spread the word about my book! Thank you.

      If Milton and I visited that museum in Hastings, I’d call that LA, “Don’t Mind the Dead Guy in the Basement”. Milton confirmed that he is indeed from Omaha. I just assumed he was from the entirety of Nebraska.


  26. Sorry I’m so late to the party here, but I’m thrilled that you had a great experience at BEA! For book lovers (and authors, like you!) there’s really nothing else like it. How long did you end up staying?


    • Don’t sweat it! You show up when you have the time Jackie. I got there shortly before 9 (when it opened for the day). Around 4:30, I snuck onto a free bus outside Javits Center taking attendees to 57th and 9th. That way, I didn’t have to lug a million pounds of books half-way across Manhattan Island to a subway station in the humid heat. Everything worked out quite nicely. An off duty cabbie took me the rest of the way home, a $7 taxi fare ($9 with tip).


  27. writerwendyreid

    Hey V…I don’t have your email addy so just dropped in to let you know I put a short review up on Amazon. (I’m not even finished yet but they were bugging me so I did it) 🙂


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