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the bewitching of tawni

demon.local / June 1993
By Paola Kathuria

Passing by my local WHSmiths last week I noticed posters telling of an upcoming book-signing visit by Terry Pratchett [hmm, just wandered around the flat to look for one of his books to make sure I got the name right but cannot find any although I was hoping to say between which books it had been found and you would have been terribly impressed; anyway...]. I am only a recent fan of his being one who, when jabbed by an elbow at some computer show in the Leeds area a few years ago and hushed by "Look! There's Terry Pratchett!", said "Terry who?". My excuse is that his covers are similar to those of books by Tom Sharpe [I may have his name spelt wrong too but I don't care] whose work I despise. But a friend, who is known as tawni@phoenix.demon.etc, thrust "Equal Rites" into my clammy palms one weekend [I had a cold] when we were up visiting and so I found out what people were on about so that I eventually got to a time when I carried every copy of paperback we could get our hands on at airport shops when frank@arcglade and I visited Oregon last January to give to our friend raan@hp.etc.

So, I told tawni@phoenix of the impending visit and asked if she wanted me to get a book signed for her. When she gratefully agreed I then had to start worrying about what actually happens at a signing. I could envisage lots of glazed expressions in a well- behaved queue, approaching a brown desk where there is huddled tired man by a pile of books seemingly about to topple onto the floor where other piles await his tired scrawl. I could imagine that everyone in the queue would be desperately trying to think of something witty to say so that they would stand out from the cloth-clad masses. The thought of it made me break out into a cold sweat and it turned out I had an interview that day so could not go [actually, I got my days mixed up but didn't make it anyway].

So I went to see if I could reserve a book and leave a message for him to write. The man in the shop, who peered at me with only a little patience, said "well, we can only ask and see what happens". I nipped out the shop to make a call to my friend to see what message she wanted. She had said she wanted it made out to tawni. I suggested her demon e-mail address since I knew we were all demon users. She added "and get him to leave his address and I will think of some clever mail to send him" [hah, she'll smack me now], but I gulped, knowing this was not possible. I went back to the desk and the eager man got out his little blue book and folded back one of the sheets of paper. I had written out the message as "To " then tawni's e-mail address and we had some trouble over my hand-writing. I tried to explain there should be no spaces between the dots and I watched him copy it out, capitalising some of the words. I sighed, wondering if I should make a fuss over the fact it wasn't a strictly accurate address [it is a great strain being an anal retentive, you know]. I made him put a note to write it in lower case. They said they would call me to pick it up.

Today, after a busy morning 'phoning my agent about the interview, writing e-mail and watching Neighbours, I wandered into town and dropped by WHSmiths to see if I could pick up my book. The man recognised me after a while and mumbled as if to say "oh, you were the one with the strange request..." and he fumbled on the floor and retrieved a book. He flipped it open for me to see two perfectly written e-mail addresses and a smiley for tawni. The man said "he must have known what the message meant" with a slight tinge of awe in his voice. I grinned and continued to grin to myself all the way to the post office to send tawni her book, although I did also stop by the local library to get a copy of the Demon article in last week's Independent which caused me to grin some more. Bewitched indeed. I suppose he meant the Demon support people and not us nice normal subscribers.

--* paola@arcglade.demon.co.uk