I went to Borders this week.
I perused. I walked the aisles. And because the section I wanted was all but elusive, I asked in my most authorly tone, "Where are the writing books?"
"Right over here," the associate gushed. "We've got books that tell you how to write, and even how to get published!"
Apparently I didn't look the part.
I smiled, even though inside I frowned, followed her quietly, so as not to ruin her fun in introducing me to the world of writing.
As I considered the titles, my daughter plucked a floor-level book from the shelves at my back.
"This is a little book, Mommy!" she called, throwing herself across the carpeted aisle.
Too caught in the dilemma of which Grammar Girl book to choose, I murmured an unintelligible response.
Oh, and here's Strunk and White's book. I've been needing that one.
"Mommy, it's a doctor book!"
I wonder if they have The Fire in Fiction?
But then awareness set it. The trance broke, my gaze falling to my four-year-old. Who was flipping through the penciled drawings of an adult-content book of, erm, positions.
"Sweetie! You know, since you're not a doctor, let's put that book back. Hey look! I have candy!"
I placed my treasures -- The Elements of Style, The Grammar Devotional, Noah Lukeman's The Plot Thickens, a cat book for my daughter and a bucket of pink Legos -- on the counter.
"Looks like someone's writing a novel," the cashier surmised.
I flinched. No one's ever been so bold. Such things have always gone unnoticed for me before. "Er, yeah. I'm writing my second." But it felt kinda good to admit it somewhere in public. Not online, here in my world of writing, or among those family and friends who already know. Just, you know, to a person.
"What happened with your first?"
Another flinch. "It had a publisher's interest last year, but they turned it down." Dangitall. I was losing confidence, associate by associate.
"Oh, I'm sorry!"
"It's okay. Really. I've learned a lot since then. I'm moving on, trying to write better."
We had a pleasant, two-sided exhange. Turns out she's a writer herself, published in magazines. She gave up on her dream of writing children's books years back, though. I found that so sad.
I said to her, "From what I've learned, perseverance is key." To myself I said, "Don't you ever give up."
By then my transaction was complete. We wished each other luck, and my daughter and I left, happy with our purchases.
It was the first time I'd gone into a store and openly sought writing books, the experience wasn't lost on me. It was my first effort at small talk about being a writer. With another writer. In a book store, a shrine to writers everywhere.
Except for the sex book thing.