July 19, 2024


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Atwood, King support writer Chelsea Banning after book signing no-shows

Atwood, King support writer Chelsea Banning after book signing no-shows


For over 15 years, the legend of King Arthur had been stuck in Chelsea Banning’s mind. And as the Ohio librarian imagined what the British royal’s children would do and what challenges they’d encounter, an idea became a draft and, eventually, a full-fledged book that published in August.

Last week, Banning was filled with excitement ahead of her first book signing in Ashtabula, Ohio. It would be the first opportunity for the debut author’s friends to hear more about “medieval nepo babies with magic,” Banning told The Washington Post, describing her book. But she was crestfallen when a crowd failed to materialize, despite 37 people who responded online that they would attend.

“Only 2 people came to my author signing, so I was pretty bummed about it,” she posted on Twitter. “Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.”

The fantasy author didn’t feel down for too long, however, as superstar authors swiftly chimed in to share memories of their own book signings that had flopped — illustrating how it can be a long road to success and to filling up rooms.

“Join the club,” wrote “The Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood in response to Banning. “I did a signing to which Nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help.”

Best-selling horror author Stephen King also replied: “At my first SALEM’S LOT signing, I had one customer. A fat kid who said, ‘Hey bud, do you know where there’s some Nazi books?’”

Neil Gaiman shared a memory of a signing in New York with fellow writer Terry Pratchett that “nobody came to at all. So you are two up on us,” he wrote.

“One Day” author David Nicholls added his memories: “Ooh, boy, too many to share. The one where the bookshop staff kindly pretended to be customers so I wouldn’t feel too bad, that stays with me,” he tweeted.

“My Sister’s Keeper” author Jodi Picoult said she had “sat lonely at a signing table many times only to have someone approach…and ask me where the bathroom is.”

“We’ve all been there,” said British author Malorie Blackman, offering comfort. “I once did a talk at a library and five people turned up, including a mum who planted her two infant school children in front of me and then strategically ‘withdrew’ to get some peace for a while.”

Korean American author Min Jin Lee, who wrote “Pachinko,” added that she had once attended a book reading where only “my husband’s cousin showed up.”

“You know, a lot of people think of writers and authors and imagine the glitz and glamour of events,” Lee told The Post. “Actually, however, there’s a lot of getting served humble pie.”

Over the past decade, Lee said she’s had hundreds of book signings and related events. “Sometimes you fill venues. Other times, you’re lucky if your mom shows up,” she added. “But what’s important to keep in mind is that someone cared enough to show up and read what you had to say.”

Never in her “wildest dreams” did Banning ever imagine her attempt at “literally venting into a void” would turn into a viral moment of global literary support — being shared over 7,000 times and garnering more than 77,000 likes on Twitter. On Wednesday, her debut novel, “Of Crowns and Legends” — the first of a Camelot-set trilogy — rose to the No. 1 bestseller in Amazon’s “Dragons & Mythical Creatures Fantasy” category. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Post.)

The “spark” for Banning’s Arthurian novel came to her in a high school British literature class. She’s also a regular at Renaissance fairs and a full-time librarian, who once dressed up as Disney’s Queen Elsa from “Frozen” for an event with children.

“I mean, I love fantasy. So I try to make it as much of a reality as I can, I guess,” Banning said.

Now, Banning said she is hoping more magic will follow as she works on the trilogy’s second book. But, in the meantime, she said she can’t help but feel as if her high school self — the one who first got the “crazy idea” to write the book — would be in awe of how the storyline has unfolded so far.

“She’d faint,” Banning said. “I’d want to tell her to never stop writing because it’s going to pay off — even if the first drafts of the book were so cringey.”