Everyone I meet on book tours wants a selfie, and the best selfies suggest a story larger than two people standing together. A photo prop makes all the difference. On tour for my novel Pygmy, I commissioned a towering trophy consisting of gilded columns and winged angels. It broke down into pieces that fit in my suitcase, and the afternoon before each event I’d sit in my hotel room like a sniper, assembling the threaded rods and marble slabs until the trophy stood taller than most people. The final touch was looping prize ribbons and medals all over it. For each photo, I’d pretend to be presenting it to a happy winner of some honor. Forever after, these photos would evoke the question, “What did you win?”
After each book event, the real fun was dragging the trophy to a bar and getting sloshed with my publicist, Todd. We’d set it, nonchalantly, beside our table, and tipsy women would immediately flock to buy us dirty Hendrick’s martinis. The more we drank, the bigger our explanations became. I claimed to have just won the National Adult Spelling Bee. Todd boasted he’d won a baton-twirling tournament. Once we were smashed, we’d stagger back to the hotel.
Perhaps the best moment came as I was trying to wrestle the trophy out of a limousine in front of the London hotel in Manhattan. Walking by was a group of the beautiful people. The people you admire in magazines. Me, drunk and struggling to lug that ribbon-fluttering, medal-clattering faux award, I caught the eye of one slick New Yorker, who stopped, offered his hand, and bellowed, “I don’t know what you do—but you are the best!”