Column beats buying an ad

November 10, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND


Warning: Shameful self-promotion to follow - do not read.

Instead of peddling a new book this fall, I've decided to produce a new self-help instructional video called "Fitness Made Complicated," which is designed to make you, the viewer, conclude that getting into the best shape of your life is a lot more trouble than it's worth.

I have hired an actual "fatness celebrity" who will guide you through 10 easy steps that are guaranteed to help you let yourself go and live a life that's free of that nagging obsession for exercise that comes with being healthy.

It will teach the basics, from a how-to on selecting larger pants sizes to - oh, who am I kidding, I'm just coming out with another stupid book.


It's called "Earth to Hagerstown," and is a collection of columns that seek to answer the question, "What galaxy are we living in, anyway?" It has a nice cheap - I mean retro - black and white cover and contains pieces mostly stemming from the late '90s as the Tri-State was entering the computer age, kicking and screaming, and approaching the celebrated Y2K. Plus, by popular demand, the Sam's Club poem and the column written in French, mostly. Nice, nostalgic columns from a time gone by. It's like a malt shop, in print.

You may view it yourself at or go to Borders, Book Cellar at Prime Outlets, Books 'n Things in the Long Meadow Shopping Center or Turn the Page in Boonsboro. It's also available by sending $12.95, plus $4 shipping and extortion charges, to High Peaks Publishing, P.O. Box 424, Hagerstown, MD 21741.

But that's not what I want to talk to you about. I want to talk about public speaking, and public appearances in general.

The problem is that I know you people won't visit or write to High Peaks Publishing. I have learned in these past two years that your sadistic kind want to see me squirm, and so you insist on seeing me mumble in public, which for me is right next to having my nostrils slit.

I have horrible stage fright and panic whenever more than one person at a time is watching me. This weekend, I get clobbered. On Friday and Saturday, I will be at the Apple Valley Book Festival in Martinsburg, W.Va.

I know what you're thinking: West Virginia? Books? But it's true. And there are going to be a ton of Legitimate Authors there, populating the Roundhouse, Belle Boyd House, the public library and businesses along Queen Street. People who, unlike myself, have actually contributed to the human storehouse of serious literature.

I'll be at the Roundhouse Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., which is appropriate because when I get up to speak at the Shenandoah Hotel Saturday at 9 a.m., I will feel as if I got hit by a train.

It will be my job to make the other speakers look good by comparison, a duty I will take seriously, although not by choice. I always come up with some dazzling topic, such as my opinion of the OnStar network, or something.

Then on Sunday, I will be signing books at the annual St. Mary's Catholic Church craft bazaar from 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. in Hagerstown. A lot of people believe I don't belong there because they believe there should be a strict wall of separation between church and sarcasm.

About the only signing I am at peace with is at Turn the Page in Boonsboro (Dec. 10 from 1 to 3 p.m.) and that is because no one knows me from Adam. They are all there to see Nora Roberts, and they come from all up and down the Eastern Seaboard. They have to take a number to get in, and then stand in line for a long time to get to Nora's table.

It is fascinating. My table is always in front of hers, so the people have to stand for a while in front of me on their way to Nora. Invariably they will stare at me for a good, hard minute or two before finally uttering those five words that make it all worthwhile: "Who the h--- are you?"

Some will buy a book or two out of pity, which, frankly, I have no problem with whatsoever.

They will pick up a copy of my column collections and look it over and say: "So - this is a romance?

I have to be honest: "Well, not exactly. Although there is a column in there about a Pennsylvania bride and groom getting married out in front of their trailer. And a wedding where the groom gets arrested in the middle of the ceremony. Do those count?"

This year, I plan to stretch things and try to pass it off as a "romantic comedy."

Without the romance.

I hate to be deceptive like that, but it beats public speaking.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

The Herald-Mail Articles