Book signing a milestone for columnist

Life lets you know how calm you are in chaotic moments. The reminders that youáre more than what others perceive you to be can be right in front of you or can come from the most unexpected places.

When my book, âHow To Waitã, was published earlier this year, I was overjoyed and overwhelmed because this was something Iád been working toward for so long. Yet I had no idea when this moment would come to fruition.

It was a frenzy of emotion that didnát come without a fairly heavy dose of reality. I began to realize the book was going to come with a lot of truth. People know me as a writer and columnist, but I felt the book was going to give them an entirely new glimpse of who I am when Iám sitting in my wheelchair.

I just hoped that readers could relate to the things I put on paper ­and would find their own way of connecting to my words. I waited for the right moment to post the announcement that the book had been accepted for publication.

I wasnát expecting any big celebrations or parties, nor did I expect people to react so warmly toward this step in my career. I certainly didnát expect to find myself amongst so many crowds of new faces eager to support the book, but thatás exactly what has been happening.

I recently had a book signing at The Altoona Mirror. It was a dismal, gray rainy day, and I said to my mom under my breath, âNo one is going to come!ã as we were getting in her van to leave. But I tried to keep an open mind while she drove.

We arrived a few minutes later, drenched from the rain. We were told that a woman had already been there to get her copy of my book signed.

âShe said sheáll be back,ã someone at the main entrance said as my mom and I dried off. With a storm raging, we began to set up for the signing. I had my personalized pen in hand, books ready to go and got comfortable. It wasnát long before two lines began to form one for me, and another for Cory Giger, a sportswriter at The Mirror who was signing copies of his recently published book.

I noticed the line for my book was getting longer after about an hour while signing what seemed like an endless string of books. I signed so many that I realized Iád been hunched over for quite some time. I also realized that no one saw me as âthe girl in a wheelchair.ã Everyone standing in line saw me as the writer Iáve become.

I sat up to give my back a rest, and a woman came through the door with a huge smile on her face. I could only see her shadow from where I was, but I had no doubt as she walked closer ­that she was my high school English teacher.

âThereás the celebrity!ã she said excitedly as she embraced me in a hug. âI came earlier today, but had to come back,ã she continued. âI wasnát going to miss this!ã

I smiled and shared another hug before signing the books she bought to give as gifts, while holding tight to her personal copy that I signed as well. She stayed and chatted with my mom and I.

That day truly warmed my heart. It reminded me that no matter how âbigã my career gets, Iáll always appreciate the fact that people have looked beyond what they see.

My book ­is a testament to that, because it was part of my goal when I decided to become a writer years ago.

Iáve made it this far, but I havenát done it alone. Iáve had all of my readers behind me and I never forget it. So, whatever mountain you may be climbing, donát forget to stop and look whoás behind you.

Erin Kelly, 33, was born with cerebral palsy in Korea, and lives in Altoona. In addition to this column, she also writes for online publications The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and The Mobility Resource. Email her at WriterWheels28@gmail.com.

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