Crickets at Penn State

Posted: October 29, 2011 in East Coast Events

Let me preface this by saying I’ve heard book signing horror stories where no one shows up…

My publicist set up a signing yesterday at Penn State, my alma mater.  I was of course excited for the trip (about 3 hours or so from Philly), since I thought I’d chat with students about the book and my connection to Penn State.  As a student, I covered sports for the Daily Collegian, the University’s newspaper.

The day before, I called the bookstore manager and asked if he might have an electrical outlet I could use.  I wanted to play some music, as well as some interview snippets to go along with the reading. He said yes.  Cool.

On Friday, I arrived at the Penn State Bookstore, along with my friend Joe, for what I thought would be a reading and signing.  As we entered the store, we noticed a table with books and a poster…where apparently I’d be signing.  One problem, though: no chairs, no gathering place for a reading.  So, I chatted with the store manager.  Apparently, they don’t have “readings” per se…authors just come in and sign books…but he had an outlet for me!  So, Joe and I sat down behind the table for the scheduled 1 to 3 pm event.

I set up my speakers, figuring I could at least play some tunes.  I started out with some Young Fresh Fellows and Screaming Trees.  And we waited.  And waited.  A few students walked by, occasionally glancing up from their smart phones, but they didn’t stop.  Joe suggested I play some more popular stuff, so I put on some tracks from Nevermind.  One young lady walked by and commented, “Great song” as I was playing “In Bloom.”  It didn’t make her stop, though.

The bookstore manager then announced over the PA: “Author Stephen Toe will be signing books about grunge today.”  Nothing.

We both began to get bored.  I texted my publicist.  She mentioned how Rosanne Cash had a signing set up at a Walmart, I think, and apparently nobody recognized her or stopped by…so she began tweeting “crickets” over and over.  Inspired, I tweeted “crickets,” “more crickets,” and “even more crickets.”  That relieved the tedium for about 30 seconds.

Tiring of playing Seattle music, I cued up other stuff randomly…Bowie, Who, Zeppelin, etc.  A lady stopped over, apparently enjoying one of my selections.  She said, “That’s nice.  Did you write about that band?”  It was Vampire Weekend.

2 pm passed and I asked my publicist if I could leave early.  “No,” she said.

2:30.  Joe started to climb the walls.  He said, “Hey, maybe you can tell the store manager you have to leave early because your wife is ill (she actually was under the weather.)”  As I got up, another announcement came over the PA, “Author Stephen Toe will be signing books…”  Fuck.  So, I sat back down.

A few minutes later, a student stopped over and bought a book.  Yes!

At 3 pm, we packed up and drove back to Philly.  I bought a copy of the Centre Daily Times, the local paper that had an article about the event.  That purchase pretty much ate up the royalties I earned on this trip.

I wonder if Edward Shrew would have done better?

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