Herbie loved telling stories. And he was always on the look our for a new story to tell. He was in constant search for new creative outlets, but the creative muse is mysterious.
Herbie first heard about NaNoWriMo while listening to the radio one evening in late October. NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month.” Every November, enthusiastic writers embark on a literary marathon. The goal is to write a 50 000 word novel in thirty days. That amounts to one thousand six hundred and sixty seven word per day. Some people would consider that crazy, a waste of time and effort. Not Herbie. NaNoWriMo ignited an excitement deep in his belly. On November first Herbie entered the novel writing marathon.
As it turned out, writing 50 000 words was easier that Herbie realized. When the dust settled December first, He’d written 56 268 words. He titled his novel “Six Authors in Search of a Character”. It was about a reality TV series on the Book Channel where authors competed to create the most interesting character for their next novel. Along the way the main character learns about the creative power of God. It was a comedy. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find a publisher who appreciated the humor. They called it ‘clever’ and ‘insightful’. They also called it too expensive to promote.
Herbie wasn’t a quitter. Through research he learned how to produce his own novel. Fourteen months after completing his first draft, a proof copy of his novel was delivered to his apartment. Three months later a box of 250 books sat on the floor outside his front door. They represented the bulk of his savings. That was the end of phase one. Now all he had to do was convince 250 people to buy his book.
More research revealed that there were 36 books stores within the bus routes of the city. Herbie mapped out tours of book shops based on different bus routes. On Monday he started out on his first sales trip. He visited six stores. Only three were willing to display his book. On Tuesday he started all over again. By the time he finished his sales blitz, he’d only placed 19 books in thirteen stores. And he sold only one novel.
Herbie plunged deeper into research. He discovered two ways to market his books. First, he sent copies to several prominent reviewers. He heard back from just one, who said he was too busy to read an indie novel.
The second thing he could do was arrange a series of public readings. Herbie went back to the book stores that carried his novels and scheduled book readings. The first of them was at a trendy little book shop in the west end. Herbie was nervous. He thought about inviting his friends for moral support, but reading in front of his friends would’ve made it even worse.
The only person he told was Manitoulin Bob. That was because he met Bob at the library one day when Herbie was working on his first draft. Bob loved books. He loved the stories and how the words formed patterns of the page. He even loved the smell of book binding glue. In Bob’s opinion, great writers should be held in the highest esteem.
On the night of Herbie’s first reading, Manitoulin Bob was the only person to show up. Herbie read anyway, with all the enthusiasm he could muster. When he finished, he was exhausted. Bob approached him with a copy of his book.
“I bought this when it first came out,” said Bob. “Would you please sign it? I want to say I own a signed first edition when you become famous.”
Herbie looked at Manitoulin Bob and laughed. “I’d love to,” he said. It was the first time Herbie felt like a legitimate writer.
The following month Herbie did a reading at a book shop in Dundas. This time no one came. A jazz trio was playing at a club next door. After an hour of sitting by himself, Herbie gave up and wandered into the club. He was shocked to see Butch and Rembrandt on stage. The crowd in the club was really into the music. After each solo the crowd would erupt with applause. Butch and Rembrandt laughed and smiled as they played.
Seeing their success made Herbie feel worse. Then he felt bad for feeling jealous. Manitoulin Bob entered the club and found Herbie.
“Dawson said I could find you here,” said Bob.
“Dawson from the book store? Yeah. That didn’t go very well,” said Herbie.
“It’s a good trio. Don’t I know them from somewhere?” said Bob.
“From the Morton’s. Looks like they’re doing better than I am,” said Herbie with a sigh. “I just can’t catch a break.”
Manitoulin Bob tapped the table with his hand. “Don’t envy their success. You can’t do anything about it. The only thing you can do is persevere. When’s your next reading?”
“In two weeks. It’s at that big box store on the mountain. At least I can be ignored by more people,” said Herbie.
“Be positive,” said Bob.
“Okay, I’m positive I’m going to be ignored by more people,” said Herbie.
The reading at the big box book store started out like all his other readings. He stood in front of a bunch of empty chairs with the din of shoppers browsing in the background.
That same evening the store also held a sci-fi event. The store was alive with people dressed as their favorite science fiction character. It was a hodgepodge of Klingons and stormtroopers. Herbie even saw a Cylon engaged in a lively discussion with Darth Vader.
As Herbie waited for someone to show up to his reading, a guy at the sci-fi event dressed as Captain Kirk flirted with Princess Leia. A jealous Han Solo stepped in and shoved Captain Kirk. The two stood nose to nose until Mr. Spock attempted a Vulcan sleeper grip on Han Solo.
Stormtroopers jumped to Han Solo’s defense. The Klingons counterattacked. Herbie heard the chaos, but couldn’t see what was going on. That was until Captain Kirk ran around and hid behind a bookcase. Herbie stared at the Starfleet captain.
“Hey, is this a book reading? Cool,” said Captain Kirk.
“I’m trying,” said Herbie.
“Are you signing them, too?” said Captain Kirk.
“If you want,” said Herbie.
“Hey, I’ll buy that. What’s it about?” said Captain Kirk as he reached for a book.
Chewbacca climbed a bookcase and jumped Captain Kirk. They landed on the table of Herbie’s books. Herbie was buried under the pile. The commotion attracted the rest of the sci-fi crowd and the brawl spread throughout the store.
Manitoulin Bob arrived to find chaos. He found Herbie and pulled him out of the pile. “I knew your book would attract attention,” he said.
Forty-five minutes later Herbie and Manitoulin Bob sat in the coffee shop attached to the book store. They watched as employees rebuilt the store.
“So, did you sell any books?” said Bob.
“I almost sold one to Captain Kirk, ‘til they beat him up.”
“Don’t get discouraged. It’s a good story. It’s funny and clean and reflects a powerful faith. The world needs more books like that. It’ll breakthrough. I just know it,” said Bob.
“Oh, I’m not giving up. Life’s a marathon, not a sprint,” said Herbie.
“That’s what I like about you. You don’t know the meaning of the word ‘quit’,” said Bob.
“I don’t know the meaning of a lot words,” said Herbie.
The manager of the book store rushed over to the two of them. His face was flushed.
“Mr. Hinks, Mr. Hinks. We just heard. Congratulations,” he said.
“What are you talking about?” said Herbie.
“We just got word. You won the Leacock award for comedy,” said the manager.
“What?” Herbie gave Bob a puzzled look. Bob replied with a shrug.
“The Stephen Leacock award’s given for the best humour writing. And you won. Congratulations. We’d be honoured to showcase your book in our store,” said the book store manager as he shook Herbie’s hand so hard he hurt his shoulder.
“I don’t get it. How?” said Herbie.
“Why don’t you ask Mr. Leacock,” said the manager. He pointed to Manitoulin Bob.
Bob gave a sheepish grin. “Stephen Leacock was my grandpa,” he said.
Herbie’s jaw dropped wide open.
“Hey, don’t look at me. Your book won on it’s own merits,” said Bob.
“Really?” said Herbie.
“Absolutely, like I said. It’s a great book. It just needed a fan,” said Bob.
Herbie leaned back in his chair, trying to process what just happened.
“Bob,” said Herbie.
“Yeah?” said Bob.
“Thanks for being a fan.”