Signed Books Motivate Me to Keep Writing

I buy oodles of books. They pile up on shelves, and on a wide windowsill beside my writing desk. They collect dust in stacks on a braided blue rug, and from time to time I clean them off. Every year we donate one or two boxes worth to a library sale, clearing space for new reads. But I can’t bear to part with any of the books that authors have signed to me. To me.


These pictures show only some of the many signed YA and middle grade titles in my collection. I also have a slew written for adults—nonfiction, poetry, memoir, mystery, thrillers, and literary fiction. I’d like to say I’ve read them all, but the truth is that some sit in my to-be-read stack (which got three books taller after last week’s RVA Lit Crawl. Richmond, VA, is a great town in which to be a writer. Have I said that before? Yeah.)


It takes a long time to draft a novel, and even longer to revise it, and in my case we’re talking years. I’m currently in a stage of deep and messy revision on two novels, and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get them out into the world. Sometimes I feel discouraged.



Then I pick up a signed book, feel its weight, turn a few pages, and run a finger across the inscription. I picture the author who signed it. I try to recall the conversation we had on the day I got the signature. I remember getting tongue-tied when I met Lois Lowry because The Giver is one of my all time favorites and I couldn’t believe I was actually meeting the author. We were in Richmond in the bookstore formerly known as Narnia (now bbgb books), and for Lois it had been a long day. I think she’d done some school visits, and by late afternoon was probably ready for a nap, but there I was, eager and tongue-tied, and as I recall, I mumbled that I was writing a book for young readers. “Good luck,” I think she said. Or maybe, “It’s a rewarding job.” Or maybe I’ve forgotten her exact words, but I haven’t forgotten her encouragement, her warmth, her smile.


Sometimes when I look at my name handwritten in a book, I imagine the author writing a new novel, hunched over a desk or leaning back in an overstuffed chair with a laptop, sipping coffee, typing away. I always picture these authors smiling, but who knows? Maybe they cry while they write. (Nah. Don’t tell me that. And actually, come to think of it, one of these authors has passed away, so I have to picture her smiling from heaven.) In any case, the image of most of these authors hard at work on another book motives me to get back to my manuscript.

Every morning when I slip into my backless chair, the shelves above my desk like telephone wires full of birds chatting and singing, ready to take flight, I feel the authors smiling. I imagine they’re smiling at me. At me! And I pick up my gel pen and begin to write…


9 thoughts on “Signed Books Motivate Me to Keep Writing”

  1. Thank you for this perspective on signed books, Anne! And I see Gringolandia in the group, signed in green! Having worked many years as a librarian and editing a magazine for librarians, I ended up with a lot of signed books and took them for granted. But when I see my students so excited about those signatures, it reminds me how valuable they are.

  2. Yes – GRINGOLANDIA! I had to choose between your titles because I have more than one of yours on my shelves. So many books, so much encouragement. Thank you for cheering me on, and also for commenting so often on my blog posts!

  3. I love a signed book. No matter how little space I have, I make room for my signed copies. I love going to book signings and meeting authors. I was a total fangirl when Sharon Creech came to town.

  4. Sweet. Yes — fan girl — I get it! There’s just something about being in the presence of a person you admire or whose work you love — what is it? Good karma, perhaps.

  5. Lovely perspective, as usual you have something interesting to say! It does feel good to have signed books. And one stack too many. I have a box and a half in the trunk of my car to give away. During the litcrawl I felt inspired about the readers, the leaders and the audiences. Their encouraging smiles. We’re so lucky to have such a great community of writers.

    My grandson is in 5th grade at Mary Munford. Several times he has told me about the reading he heard in the school auditorium. He’s intrigued. I’m sure your school visits are helping to build another generation of writers! Thanks for your thoughts.

  6. Yes, I’d like to think that my readings will help build another generation of writers, and also of readers. But the next generation will probably read via electronic devices rather than paper, and it’s not easy to sign a device!

    1. That’s a good point about devices. Nathan Bransford, former agent with a blog, does surveys on kindle reading from time to time. Sales have leveled off and even dropped a bit. Let’s hope books will still be around. Amazon has opened a couple of bricks and mortar stores, presumably to sell real books?


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