My corral is empty


I’m not famous.

I don’t need a corral for folks to line up in to buy a book and have me sign it. I don’t need blank cards for me to sign in case a student doesn’t want to buy a book, but still wants my autograph.

But when I was speaking at a The Check Your Label Symposium at IU’s Kelley School of Business I had both.

As a kid you dream about the day someone will ask for your autograph.  In preparation you practice.  You recall the Reds player you saw signing baseballs atop the dugout.  His wrist flashed across the baseball and a signature appeared. A looping, swooping, signature that assured the ball would never be hit into the field again, but instead sit atop a dresser next to little league participant awards and prized baseball cards.

I dreamed that I would sign basketballs and basketball cards.

I print a “K.”

I write “elsey” in the cursive I learned in 3rd grade. Unfortunately my writing hasn’t evolved since then.  In 3rd grade I had both myself and my teacher convinced that I wrote cursive better with my leg on the desk.  I think she let me try it because, after all, it couldn’t get any worse.

The “y” tails up to the “T” which I slash on the page with the authority of Zorro.

I gave up on writing “immerman” a long time ago.  It’s much too bumpy and long and there is only so much time allowed to sign an autograph.  You need to make it look like you do this all the time. That you are practiced.  That you will keep the line in the corral moving steadily. So after the “T” I just make a long line.

That’s my autograph.

I hand the once blank card to the student.  It’s a moment that is much different than I imagined as a kid.  It’s embarrassing.

I’m not being humble here.

I sign the card and look at my corral. It’s empty. It’s like Wendy’s after the post-lunch rush.  You make eye contact with the cashier and then you weave your way through the corral feeling silly. And then you order a Frosty.

But there’s no Frosty here. It’s just me and my crappy autograph.

The girl walks away and I’m embarrassed for her and I’m embarrassed that I’m embarassed.  It’s one thing to have me sign a book. I like having signed books regardless of the author’s fame.

I imagine her getting back to her dorm, looking at my pathetic third-grader’s signature and chucking it in the trash.  There, crumpled up next to junk mail and balls of chewing gum, sits my “K” my “elsey” my “T” and the line that represents both my laziness and my “immerman.”

I had a great time at IU.  Despite my inherent lack of fame, everyone there made me feel as if I were famous. I had a blast interacting with the students.  Some of them skipped the IU v. Purdue game to listen to me speak.  Some of them got up at 8AM to have breakfast with me. Don’t worry, I won’t let it go to my head. Each event was accompanied with free food.  And at the main event, besides interacting with more students, I got to meet Kelley and Anne Campbell of The Village Experience, Amy Chin of International Development Collaborative, and, the real rockstar of the Symposium Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMs shoes.  It was an honor to share the stage with such passionate and creative people.

Lauren Quinn says:

No Frosty? Aw….

Hang in there. I say, if you corral them, they will come. 😉

Kelsey says:

I think the event staff went a bit overboard with the corral and the note cards. When I saw the corral I had one thought and one thought only…


I knew that it wouldn’t be needed, but instead would make me look like I thought I was corral-worthy, which I knew I was not.

I work awfully hard to not look like a schmuck and then someone puts up a corral.

Kent says:

Sounds like an embarrassingly good day Kels.

I cherish my signed copy… despite your fame.

PC says:

Wait! They actually skipped out on an IU vs Purdue game to come see you?

Do you realize how famous you MUST be for that to happen?

Kelsey says:

PC, I couldn’t believe it either. I was trying to wrap up the talk before the game began so everyone could watch the game and they kept asking questions. Weird. There was free food and extra credit involved.

Matt Barhorst says:

Did you sign the above left handed?

Kelsey says:

Nope. That’s my right hand. Why people want that signature in their book is beyond me. I really think it’s because they feel sorry for me.

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