This week, Ali­cia Oltus­ki, the author of Pre­cious Objects: A Sto­ry of Dia­monds, Fam­i­ly and a Way of Life blogs for The Post­script on sign­ing books and an author’s per­son­al touch. The Post­script series is a spe­cial peek behind the scenes” of a book. It’s a juicy lit­tle extra some­thing to add to a book clubs dis­cus­sion and a read­er’s under­stand­ing of how the book came togeth­er. 

To host” Ali­cia at your next book club meet­ing, request her through JBC Live Chat

I’ve always meant to become the kind of per­son who writes thought­ful mes­sages in the books I give as gifts. Usu­al­ly, though, I just end up sum­ma­riz­ing these sen­ti­ments less elo­quent­ly in per­son. When I start­ed my book tour for Pre­cious Objects two years ago, I inad­ver­tent­ly became an inscriber, because part of tour­ing means sign­ing books. Which I loved. It’s a great way to con­nect with read­ers after an appear­ance; to meet and greet the crowd to whom you chat­ted about spy­ing on your dad in his work­place.

Hon­est­ly, it was one of my favorite parts of the tour. I met some incred­i­ble peo­ple. As for the sign­ing, I usu­al­ly went with some com­bi­na­tion of Thanks for com­ing out tonight!” Great to meet you!” Best wish­es,” and a wise­crack about my ears. Some­thing short (unlike my ears) and sweet to keep things mov­ing, but also to acknowl­edge that a human being had tak­en time out of his/​her week to come hear me, and had sub­se­quent­ly tak­en mon­ey out of his/​her wal­let to pur­chase my book. I was over­come with gratitude. 
Every once in a while I got requests. Peo­ple had birth­day and Christ­mas gifts to ful­fill for loved ones, places on the title page where they pre­ferred my sig­na­ture, a predilec­tion for doc­u­ment­ing the event’s date (which I some­times found, after a busy week of tour­ing, I did not know). They want­ed a spe­cial mes­sage for a spe­cial some­one, and had done me the favor of select­ing the exact word­ing through which to com­mu­ni­cate it. 

Peo­ple got cre­ative. I obliged. 

I’d put some effort into avoid­ing dia­mond puns inside my book, but on the Roman numer­al pages that pre­cede it they now abound in Sharpie print. It turns out, peo­ple adore dia­mond puns. So over the past few years, I’ve referred to count­less men and women — only a frac­tion of whom I’ve met — as a dia­mond in the rough,” this girl’s best friend,” flaw­less,” and my pre­cious object.” 
Would you mind writ­ing the mes­sage I put on this Post-it note?” some­one in line would say. 
No prob­lem. 
Dear Mar­shall,” I wrote, You are my pre­cious object and the love of my life. Thank you for forty won­der­ful years.” This was sweet. I looked up at the lady on the oth­er side of the table and asked for her name so that I could attribute the thought­ful sentiment. 

Oh, just sign your name. He knows mine.” 
Real­ly? Even though she, not I, had been mar­ried to Mar­shall for forty years? 

Fair enough. So I’d sign my name, close the book, and thank Marshall’s love­ly wife for join­ing me at my reading. 
This kind of thing hap­pened with sur­pris­ing fre­quen­cy. Dear Joy, You sparkle brighter than any dia­mond. I love you. Love, Ali­cia Oltus­ki. To a gem of a gal: Ash­ley. You rock. All the best, Ali­cia Oltus­ki. Hap­py dia­mond anniver­sary, James and Leigh! Wish­ing you many pre­cious objects! Ali­cia Oltus­ki. 

Some­where out in the world lives a stash of my books with notes vary­ing from sweet to bor­der­line creepy direct­ed at a group of men and women I’ve nev­er met but to whom I wish only the best — and often more than that. And some­times also the date. 

Every so often I won­der about these books, whether any­one will find their inscrip­tions strange; whether one day, years from now, they’ll cause con­fu­sion as some­one sorts through a loved one’s old things. It’s some­thing I’m will­ing to risk. 

One of the nicest things about pub­lish­ing a book is get­ting the oppor­tu­ni­ty to thank those who have been good to you — per­son­al­ly, pro­fes­sion­al­ly, and often in both capac­i­ties. These peo­ple (or their loved ones) had been good to me, too. They made sure I did­n’t read to an emp­ty room. They laughed at my ear jokes. They asked me ques­tions about dia­monds and writ­ing and books. They took the time to wait in line so that I could per­son­al­ize their copies. 

I’m fair­ly cer­tain I won’t get a let­ter ask­ing me why I penned a roman­tic memo to someone’s father or aunt. But if I do, I’ll just explain that this is all a per­fect­ly nor­mal part of book sign­ing. I don’t know, I’m fair­ly new to this. 

To read more from Ali­cia, see her posts for The Vis­it­ing Scribe here
Ali­cia Oltuski’s Pre­cious Objects is a Barnes & Noble Dis­cov­er Great NewWrit­ers selec­tion. Her work has appeared or is forth­com­ing on NPR’sBerlin Sto­ries, in the Finan­cial Times, W, The Faster Times, and others.She holds an MFA from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, where she received a David­Berg Foun­da­tion Fel­low­ship, and a BA and MA from Uni­ver­si­ty ofPenn­syl­va­nia. She taught writ­ing at Uni­ver­si­ty of the Arts, and was aread­er at The Paris Review.