I haven’t been to a lot of book events.
Part of this is because of geography. I grew up in a very small town, and the closest big bookstore was an hour away. Also, I didn’t realize that book events were a thing.
That changed in university. I was living two blocks from a Chapters, and one day there was a sign: AUTHOR SIGNING WITH TAMORA PIERCE AND J. FITZGERALD McCURDY! I was absolutely over the moon. I really liked JF-M’s books*, and my love of Tamora Pierce knows no bounds. So I got my boxed sets, and I went to the Chapters, and it was ABSOLUTELY PACKED.
Now, I have a slight fear of crowds, and also I was terrified at the idea of actually talking to Tamora Pierce, so I convinced myself to leave without even joining the line up**. So much for my first book event!
The next time I went to a book event, I had a year of working for Chapters under my belt, and I was also marginally less afraid of people. It was Cassie Clare and Holly Black, at Yorkdale. I got there an hour before it was scheduled to start, and the line-up took up the entire floor. I sat next to a lovely 14-year-old kid and his mother for three hours, unable to hear anything that was going on downstairs, and then at around 5PM, the line finally began to move.
We got downstairs by 5:30 (because they’d cleared the ground floor before they brought anyone else down), and there were Cassie and Holly. I had a couple of questions I wanted to ask, but when Cassie said “Oh, you’re from livejournal!” I completely blanked on what they were. She signed my book, and I stepped away to wait for the boy and his mum (we had decided to go for ice cream at about hour two***), and the boy held himself together much better than I did, asking very smart questions while Cassie signed.
At this point, Cassie and Holly had been there since 2 and it was almost 6. And yet both of them were still signing everything (which, at the time, was three books for Cassie and EIGHT, I think, for Holly), and they both talked to that boy like he was first person they had seen all day. I was very, very impressed.
On the drive home, I thought about my first book****.
The next book event I went to was the launch for R.J. Anderson’s WAYFARER, which was amusing because she invited me to her launch, didn’t tell me where it was, and I managed to find it anyway, because I knew the town where it was being held. I’ve been to a bunch of events with Rebecca since, both for her own books and for other authors. One of those people was MEGAN CREWE, whose THE WAY WE FALL is guaranteed to bring out your inner hypochondriac.
The other person is Maggie Stiefvater.
I missed Maggie and Tessa Gratton in the summer of 2011, because I was in Jordan. When Maggie announced her dates for Canada for THE RAVEN BOYS, I was determined to go, even though it was a Tuesday. Rebecca was on board, and we ended up with a whole carload of people.
Every book event I’ve ever been to is different. Sometimes it’s small, and you really get to talk to people. Sometimes it’s huge, and you bond with the people in line near you because you’re there for a long time. Usually, I’m by myself, but going with friends was way more fun. Plus, Maggie is really funny live.
Oh yes: dating advice.
There were a bunch of stories that Maggie told, some of which I knew from reading her blog (all of which were better spoken). But when someone asked who her favourite character in FOREVER was, she said:
“YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DATE HIM! You are not allowed. Don’t do it. Don’t date someone like that. Find a Sam.”
Everyone laughed, but I really thought it was worth saying. “The Bad Boy” gets so much credit in fiction, and it was nice to hear someone say “Girls, just, please, don’t.”*****
What I have learned from book events is not to have expectations. That way, whether they end with frozen yoghurt, a pizza party or a very much abashed retreat to the bus stop without even getting anything signed, you’ve still have had a good time. Remember, meeting the author is nice, but meeting the fans, those people you share this great Thing with, can sometimes be much, much better.
Someday, I will be that author. I can only hope that I turn out to be as well-spoken and attentive as the women I have seen. I certainly can’t say I haven’t seen good examples!
*They’re hard to find, but if you or your kids would be interested in fantasy set in Ottawa, it’s worth it. Also, there’s a hilarious side-story to the books, which involve the Library of Parliament getting trashed at one point. Shortly after the release, the ACTUAL Library was closed to reconstruction and a huge dome was put on it and everything. Apparently Jean Chretien got a lot of letters from concerned children, asking if dwarves were helping with the work.
**Don’t think I haven’t regretted this ever since. Because I definitely have.
***There wasn’t ice cream, but there was a Yogen-Fruz, so it wasn’t a complete wash.
****Completely unDrafted, so you know. I have the idea and some names, but that’s it.
*****Except way more articulate than that.