Worcester Barnes and Noble Trip Report
On Saturday (July 14, 2007), I had a perfect day. Absolutely perfect! It was one of those days that you wish you could bottle up and relive again and again. Right now, when I close my eyes, I see pink and purple balloons, and I smell roses.
I read from and signed copies of Into the Wild at the Barnes & Noble in Worcester, Massachusetts (near where I grew up and where Into the Wild is set). I LOVE this bookstore. Here's why:
Look at that! Do you see that? Pink and purple balloons to match the cover art of Into the Wild! Tons of copies of Into the Wild! Flowers! A giant poster of the cover art of Into the Wild with clippings from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette article about my book! Awesome, awesome, awesome! Snoopy Dance of Joy!
I love, love, love the staff of this bookstore. Lori (the events coordinator) is my new hero. She and the other booksellers did such a spectacular job with this event. They were all so friendly and organized and awesome. And Lori bought me those flowers. How sweet is that?
Okay, must settle down and relate this in a coherent fashion:
2:15pm (Dad-time) - Leave my dad's house to go to the bookstore. Realize in the car that it's actually 2:05 and all the clocks in my dad's house are set ten minutes fast...
2:15pm (actual time) - Arrive at bookstore. Consider sitting in car in parking lot since it's so ridiculously early. Decide that's silly and go inside.
2:16pm - Enter bookstore and approach Customer Service desk. A bookseller asks if she can help me. I begin to say my name, and she says, "Oh, you're the author!" I resist the urge to look over my shoulder and see who she's talking about.
2:17pm - She ushers me into the back room at Barnes & Noble. This is cool. I've never been in the back room of a bookstore before. This is where they keep all the good stuff: solid gold bookmarks, reading lights made exclusively of fireflies, early manuscripts of Harry Potter 8 (Hermione's Story)... Okay, maybe not, but they do have props for the upcoming Harry Potter party, and I do get to meet several wonderful booksellers, including Kristina who has been telling customers about my book and put Into the Wild on their "staff recommendation" shelf. Yay, Kristina!
2:30pm - Lori the Awesome Events Coordinator arrives with flowers for me. She puts them in a vase and then takes me out to the children's section of the bookstore, where I'll be reading and signing. At one end of the children's section, there's a small stage like a dais in a throne room with a table and chair. On the left side, there's a giant poster of my cover art. On the right side, there's a tall rack filled (!!!) with copies of Into the Wild. Purple and pink balloons are tied to it. I am momentarily freaked out by the sheer number of copies. But in front of the dais, a young girl already sits in one of the chairs with a copy of Into the Wild on her lap. She's an hour early. And she has Into the Wild on her lap. And she's wearing purple, matching the cover art. I want to skip around the store shouting, "Wheee! Yay! Whoo-pee!" I decide that would be a tad unprofessional.
2:45pm - Lori takes me to meet the TV people. A crew from WCCA TV 13 is there from their "Young Views Real News" show. I've never been filmed for TV before, so I'm totally nervous. Fiji, the interviewer, takes pity on me and lets me take a peek at her questions before we begin. Very nice of her. Alysha, the camerawoman, has the double duty of filming us and letting me know when I'm not speaking loudly enough. Lori and the producer Judy keep away random people who feel the urge to browse at books behind where we're filming. (Um, hello, camera? If you're going to walk into the shot, at least wave and say, "Hi, Mom!" Or hold up a sign: "Marry Me, Mr. Darcy!" Don't just keep talking about your cat's stomach ailments or whatever.) Anyway, they do, like, five takes of my intro, but after that, I relax and actually have fun. (The interview will be online after it airs on TV; I'll post the link here on my blog and on my website.)
3:15pm - We return to the children's section to find... people!!! I see my family, former neighbors from Northboro, beloved relatives whom I haven't seen in years... and I see strangers. Lots of them. Even better, lots of kids! Most of them came because of the article about me in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette (which I found out was not only on the front of the People section with REALLY BIG photos of me reading at the Worcester Public Library, but also included a photo of me plus a blurb on the top of the very front page of the entire newspaper, next to the Telegram & Gazette masthead -- how cool is that?!?) or because they heard about the event through the bookstore and were curious.
3:30pm - Lori introduces me, and I look out at my beautiful, wonderful, magnificent crowd. All the chairs are filled. Several rows of people are standing in the back. There are even people standing in the wings behind the bookcases that frame the audience. And I realize that the bulk of the people are not related to me in any way. The vast majority just came because they thought the book sounded interesting. Wheee! Yay! Whoo-pee!
3:35pm - I begin to talk. First, I introduce myself. (You'd think this would be the easy part, but I swear I practiced saying my name for the whole ride up there. I mean, think about it: how bad would it be to mess that up? What if I'd accidentally said, "Hi, I'm Eoin Colfer." Or "Hi, I'm Madonna." Or "Hi, I'm Prince Charles." It would have totally changed the whole tone of the event.) Happily, I get my name right.
3:38pm - I start by reading the first scene from the novel. I love reading. It makes me feel like I'm flying. I love introducing people to Julie and Zel and the Wild...
3:44pm - I talk about how I became a writer. I tell people about the moment (at age ten) that I decided that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, about loving books so much that I need strict limit rules on the number of books I can take out of the library at a time, about how incredible it is to be reading from Julie's story only a few miles from where Julie's adventures take place. (The novel is set in my hometown, and I transform it into a fairy-tale kingdom.) I am loving every second of this. Loving, loving, loving! This is what I'm meant to do! This is who I'm meant to be!
3:53pm - Lori has set up a handheld microphone so that all the people in the back can hear me. I am tempted to tap dance on the dais and sing into the microphone, but instead I read chapter ten.
4:03pm - I nearly forget to do the Q&A. Luckily, Lori reminds me. I open the floor to questions. And hands go up. Lots of people from all over the audience ask good questions. Miraculously, my brain doesn't desert me (as it is wont to do in such situations -- seriously, if you ask me in front of an audience what my favorite books are, nine times out of time I will completely blank on all titles), and I totally love the whole interacting-with-audience thing.
4:10pm - Lori corrals the crowd into a line (a BIG line), and I begin to sign with my lovely purple pen (chosen to match the cover art, as is my shirt -- um, a word on my shirt... I realize that I'm wearing this exact outfit in nearly every blog photo. I swear it's been washed! It's just how can I resist wearing it? It matches my cover!).
In addition to my immediate relatives, the line also includes: former next-door neighbors from Northboro, a teacher from one of the Northboro elementary schools, a girl from Louisiana who happened to be in town, my high school English teacher, a mother and two boys who had heard me read at the Worcester Public Library, two young writers who are working on their own novels, and lots of other kids who love books and want to read mine...
5:45pm - Someone jokes that my hand must be tired from signing. It's not. I could sign forever. After the line is gone, I sign the remaining stock for the store. A small stack of remaining stock. The store has sold around 55 copies. Wheee! Yay! Whoo-pee!
6pm - Lori gives me the poster from the signing. I am so planning on framing it.
6:15pm - Gather my belongings. Leave the microphone. Gather my family. And leave.
I loved every single millisecond of this day!