Friday, October 11, 2013

Upcoming stuff, and being "THE" Rob Cerio...

This coming week, my calendar is exceptionally full. On Tuesday (TUESDAY! my old nemesis...) there will be a Book Launch Party/Signing at the East Bank Regional Library for the new steampunk anthology New Orleans by Gaslight, which I'm really looking forward to. As a contributing author, I think book launch parties are one of the coolest things I get to do, even though I have never personally been to one. It just so screams "elegant author" somehow.

 "Oh, I would have come to your tea social, but I had to be at a book launch party at my editor's request. No, I don't fart or belch in public, and my underarms smell like freshly baked cinnamon rolls."

Yeah... maybe not, but I'm still looking forward to it.

Then the following weekend (Oct 18-20th) is CONtraflow III, at the Kenner Doubletree. I'll be there all weekend, doing panels, signing books, and generally being "THE" Rob Cerio. If you go to either event, be prepared to hear and see a lot of people referring to me with the "THE" in front of my name.

"THE" Rob Cerio is something that originally started out as a gag, but one that grew legs and my fans, friends, and friends that are fans embraced. I suppose that this is the part of the story where I'm supposed to get all humble, say "I have no idea who started it" and talk about how I have come to begrudgingly accept it.

Yeah... that's bullshit Puffin talk. I love being "THE" Rob Cerio, partially because it's so much better than being "A" Rob Cerio, and partially because it has really become a branding thing for me.

Pictured: A Puffin. Better looking and cuter than Penguins, but very humble about it.
It all started at the first CONtraflow, three years ago. For those of you that haven't followed my career since that strange rhyme I turned in in third grade started me on this wacky path, (Hi, Mom!) this was my first real "appearance" as an author. It was the first time I had attended a con as an actual honest to goodness guest, not just a worker bee or attendee. When the guest services lady gave me a goody bag full of swag and granola bars, I asked her if she was sure that it was for me. After being assured that it was, I walked off with my panel schedule in hand, genuinely surprised that anyone was making even a little bit of a big deal about me. I was intimidated as hell, being put on panels with guys like David Brin and Mark Van Name as an equal. My amazing wife Cheri sensed this, and became intent on making sure I felt like just as big a deal as any other guest at the con. She somehow convinced a large portion of her friends at the con to yell "Hey! Is that writer guy THE Rob Cerio!?!" every time they saw me. And with Cheri's years in New Orleans fandom, this was not a small group of people.

The first time, it embarrassed the hell out of me. As the weekend wore on, it became less so. Plus that, it really did work... people that had never heard of me suddenly wanted to know who this big dude was that everyone was shouting about. By the second or third convention I was a guest at, it had become less and less of a joke. By the time the second CONtraflow rolled around a year later, all of the convention signage with my name on it had "THE" before it. When I do the occasional interview, I'm consistantly introduced as "THE" Rob Cerio. It has in a very real sense gone from a joke among friends to being my brand.

I know a lot of my friends are still joking when they do it, but it's not in a mean way. At the last Wizard World convention I attended (Not as a guest, still working on that) a few of my friends did this as I innocently walked past my booth, and before I knew it, there were a hundred or so people all cheering the fact that I was simply there, most of whom had probably never heard of me until that moment. I was a little embarrassed at all the attention when I wasn't even a guest or had a table or anything, but it was really kind of awesome.

It's a little strange having a "public persona" to manage, and for a long time I kept trying to separate the two in my head before I came to the realization that it's a false distinction.  I found out fairly quickly that "THE" had to still be "ME" or I was going to drive myself a little crazy. Things are just so much easier when you realize that for better or worse, the public persona is you. Maybe with a "game face" but you nonetheless. It's not without risk, putting yourself out there for others to appreciate or judge... but the risks are totally worth it.

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