Sunday, January 15, 2006
Somebodies & Nobodies
Okay, trying again since I have no idea why it posted before I was ready. Sorry that the poem posted 2x. Starting over:
I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise—you know!
How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one's name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!
Emily Dickinson wrote the above poem in the mid-1800s and I've recently taught it to my high school students. Toby Keith just wrote a song about somebodies and nobodies with a line that talks about how he's going to go get drunk and be somebody. This theme has been constant throughout history.
A lot of us long to be somebodies. Even our characters in romance novels do. Most of us are somebodies to our small circle of families and friends. For most of us, and many of our characters, this is enough. But deep down a lot of us long to have everyone know our name. Why else do people try out for American Idol or reality TV? However, Emily describes these "celebrities" as being like frogs--they must constantly telling their name to the admiring bog (or fans) in order to be heard. Perfect commentary--just look to actors and actresses out doing PR for their latest movie or to rock or country stars trying to promote their latest CD.
I attended Sound and Speed 2006 in Nashville this weekend as background research for an upcoming book, The Wedding Secret. Basically it was an event with proceeds going to charity. People began to line up at 6 AM to get a wristband for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s autograph. He drives the number 8 car on NASCAR's Nextel Cup circuit. The temperature was below freezing and many of his fans went away disappointed. My daughter and I ended up with wristbands for country singer Erika Jo and driver Jeff Green. We had little clue who either was. Perhaps few did, for we were able to go do a driving simulator and then walk up and get the bands, and later, their autographs.
PR takes a lot of work. It's not necesarily fun, and in the end, as authors, we don't get that celebrity feedback of having millions screaming your name. (Many of us wouldn't be comfortable with that anyway.) But some accolades are nice, as we all know. Whether it be that card from your special someone, or an award at work, for a moment, we all like some attention. I think Emily could handle a little bragging. It's that constant "look at me" she talks about in her poem. We all know who those celebs are.
As for me, I found a Harlequin fan outside of the CMT trailer where all of us were taking pictures with a cardboard Kenny Chesney cutout. (Closest I'll ever get.) I had my new book on me (Legally Tender), and I handed it to her. She took one look at the cover and said, "I've read you before."
That made my day, and I signed the book for her. Perhaps in a small sense, maybe I am a somebody after all.