I got on as a sales clerk at a new bookstore in my hometown for a second job back in April. The store did pretty good during the summer, but that is tourist season around here. In September the stores hands on General Manager scheduled a bunch of events (author appearances, Evening Open Read Alouds, etc.) to try and draw locals into the store and maintain interest during the slower Fall and Winter. The GM (and also Majority Owner) wanted to do two events per month and casually mentioned to me in that same September "I am one event short for both February and March."
One of my interests besides D&D is The Twilight Zone. About two years ago I considered running a Twilight Zone Appreciation Day at a nearby library, being able to use the Meeting Room for free. I decided against the idea for a number of reasons. When my GM talked about being one event short, the idea came to mind again. I knew it would only fly if I offered to do all the work, pay for 95% of it and host the event. After passing my morale check regarding the public speaking portion of this thing I approached the GM with the offer to do it. She accepted.
My GM asked if I wanted to do it in February or March, this is still back in September. I chose February because, although my general mood about it was enthusiasm, I also didn't want it on my mind any longer than necessary.
It was a pleasant surprise how much the other staff at our small bookstore rallied around the event. The Operations Manager insisted that we have complimentary snacks: popcorn, pretzels and M&M's. As soon as I got permission I knew that buying a Twilight Zone T-shirt to wear that night was in order. I would have liked the entire staff to be wearing them, but that would have simply put the expenses too high. However, one staff member, without me even mentioning it, said she wanted a shirt and bought it on her own . Meanwhile the GM went along with all my other requests. I wanted to do an event that people would think was worth coming out for when it was over. I wanted to have a display of Twilight Zone collectibles, programs and give out good, quality TZ door prizes, in addition to the activities. My GM said yes to all my requests and to her credit (and my relief) said that the store would go in half with me on the expenses. She also ended up designing the program, which turned out really great.
There was never any talk from me or management about charging admission. We thought that some people who came to the event would buy books. The GM, who does the inventory ordering, decided to start stocking Twilight Zone books beforehand leading up to the event. On the day of the event we would have a selection of them on display and I would briefly talk about each one. I started reading Ann Serlings biography of her dad Rod, who if you didn't know created the Twilight Zone.
In the months before Christmas I mostly just went over ideas in my head about what generally I was going to say in the history of Rod Serling and T. Zone oral presentation. The date was set for Feb. 15 at 6:00 p.m. and our GM put a generic notice about it on the Events section of our website. I decided that after Christmas I would really get going on getting this thing together.
Probably the most enjoyable part of doing this was shopping for TZ collectibles for the display. Despite being a Zone enthusiast the only collectibles I owned were three comics. For Christmas I put Amazon gift cards on the Wish list exchange that my family does. I got one from my mother and one from my brother, adding to my budget for buying collectibles.
The time passed and soon it was one week to go. I was behind on completing a final draft of my history of Rod Serling/Twilight Zone talk. The store doesn't have anything to show a PowerPoint Presentation on and I'm not trained with that anyway so this would be old school: me pontificating in front of the attendees. The store is closed on Tuesdays and I asked my mother and another sales clerk that I consider a friendly acquaintance to listen to what I had so far and time me. The management and I had worked out a timeframe for each part of the event: twenty minutes for my presentation, plus five more minutes talking about the TZ books available. Before starting this rehearsal in front of two people I thought what I had was good and was confident about it. After delivering it and getting their feedback I was turned upside down and my confidence was shaky.
The first problem was that it had taken fifteen minutes to read and I was only up to what I thought would be the halfway point of the whole thing! Second, the ladies bluntly said that it could be better: again, it was too long, there were too many details and it came off as too stiff and formal. It took a little while to admit to myself, but they were right.
I went home and ate dinner. It was 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Around 7:00, less than forty-eight hours before the event, I started working on another presentation. Up until 2:30 p.m. Thursday the day of the event, except for eating and sleeping, I was pretty much writing. I was supposed to leave at 3:00 p.m., get to the store and start the physical setup for 6:00 start. My final draft ended up looking more like a first draft apperance wise, hand written in pencil and with an occassional word crossed out! I had hoped to finish setup early enough to make a nice copy for when it came time to read it, it just didn't happen. I did have enough time to practice the whole thing...once, and once only. I did it privately, I didn't have time to be critiqued again and make changes.
It all turned out really well. Our bookstore is small and we had room for twenty-five chairs. Thirteen people showed, fewer than expected. People were attentive and receptive to my presentation; it was the first activity of the night and the recommended changes made it seem more like a dialog than a speech. I based about half of it off of things I learned from Anne Serlings biography (me liked it!).
The collectibles display ended up being six items. Three comics from three different time periods/publishers: Gold Key #50 (1973,the one comic I didn't own before doing this), Now Comics #1A (1990), and a Dynamite Entertainment published Twilight Zone/the Shadow Strikes! crossover (2015). There were also two Rod Serlings Twilight Zone magazines, one covering the movie and the other the second TV series. The last item was a lunch type box based on the famous original series episode 'To Serve Man'.
I had insisted to management that the door prizes be good and they were: three Twilight Zone multi-DVD sets and one TZ book.
It ended up being really satisfying because everyone who came, as well as the staff, gave me really positive feedback and seemed to really enjoy themselves. We only sold a total of two books, but that was secondary. I scheduled an intermission and all the staff was thinking we would probably lose some people during that, but everyone who came stayed until the end. One person had never seen the Twilight Zone before. My GM had never seen it either, but before the event decided to watch the Movie (probably to get an idea what the hell her employee was going to be showing in her store). The last activity I scheduled was an informal discussion where people could share their Zone memories, favorite episodes, etc. and that could have gone on longer, but the GM shut it down before it ended naturally. She had been at the store going on eleven hours. What made me feel the best was a couple who came up to me after it was over and said they were celebrating their wedding anniversary that night and how much they enjoyed the event. They had also come from out of the area so I'm glad to have delivered for them. I'll never forget this.
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