The event Friday in Logan was amazing. The Logan Library was awesome getting the word out. 1000 people came! It was so fun to drive up and be on a panel with four fun authors. We kept laughing, and the later it got, the punchier we felt. I signed for four and a half hours. Whew! Everyone was so lovely. Thanks to the Book Table for selling books.
You never know how events will turn out. Sometimes 1000 people come, and sometimes no one does. There's a book called Mortification in which published authors share book event stories that were, well, mortifying. Everyone has them. They are often painful at the time, but become great stories to share with other authors and laugh about later. They are valiant battle scars, like rejections.
After sharing about an amazing event like Friday's, it may seem like that's the life of a published author. But really, it's an anomaly. Let me share a few embarrassing books events. Feel free to laugh at my pain, and know that I don't share to complain. I know how lucky I am to be published at all and have the opportunity to have a book signing no one comes to!
Seven years ago, my very first out-of-Utah book event. I went to a regional trade show where booksellers from surrounding states came to learn about the latest releases. There was an evening signing, where my publisher supplied boxes of the goose girl to give away. Yes, that's right, GIVE AWAY, and they were hardcovers, not even ARCs. Hopefully the booksellers would read this book and then want to order it for their store! Some booksellers came to my table and requested a copy. "Who do you want me to sign this to?" I asked. "Just a signature," they said. The experienced novelist to my right whispered to me, "When they want a signature only, it means they're going to resell it." I didn't know if that was true, but I became very aware that 90% of them wanted signature only. Long before the hour-long signing was over, my line was over. I smiled cordially but was really panicking. My first book! My baby! And I can't even GIVE it away!
What did we learn? At book conferences, booksellers get lots of free books. They have to haul/ship them all home. It's nothing personal, but they just can't take them all.
Six years ago (I think, maybe sooner) I am invited to speak at a large conference in another state. I arrive at the venue: an auditorium that seats 2000 people. Exactly 15 people come, most of whom are from my publisher, the rest are conference attendees I met and begged to come in case no one did. I give my talk. I want to die.
What did we learn? To take pictures! My only regret is not taking a photo of that huge room with thousands of empty seats and those few people in the two front rows smiling awkwardly. That would have been such a funny keepsake.
Five years ago, I fly to a far away state to do school visits. At the first school, no one seems to be expecting me or have any idea who I am. Eventually they put me in the library with a class of about 20 middle schoolers, who are mildly happy to be out of class and supremely uninterested in the random adult in front of them. The librarian introduces me, "Here's Sharon Hall. She writes books." He then goes over to the couch where he reads a magazine during my presentation. A few teachers on break gather nearby, speaking so loudly I have to ask them to please keep it down because the kids couldn't hear me. Not that they really wanted to.
What did we learn? You are not nearly as cool as you'd hoped.
Four years ago, I go on book tour. My publisher hires a car to take me from one city to another, where I am to do a presentation and signing at a bookstore. The car must be expensive. I am already feeling guilty. I hope I sell enough books to make it worth it! I arrive. There's a picture of me on a poster in the window. I enter. There are no chairs set up for a talk. The embarrassed bookseller explains no one has come. She puts me in a chair by the door, where I sit for an hour as customers enter and try not to make eye contact with the leprotic author at the door. One woman comes to me to ask where the DVDs of Curious George are. I'm sorry, I don't know. She sees the sign, realizes I'm a visiting author, and feeling sorry for me, sits in a chair facing me and talks to me about Curious George for 20 minutes. She leaves and buys the DVD. No books.
What did we learn? Well, this example was just one of many. 99% of authors have many such stories to tell. It happens, amigo.
Three years ago, a holiday book signing at a local bookstore. In comes, oh let's call him Alfred. "Alfred!" I cry, giving him a hug. He was a dear friend of mine and my husband's in high school and I hadn't seen him since. We exchange info. What am I doing? Mothering mostly, and I write books. He's a middle school teacher and in fact has come to the store expressly to purchase a graphic novel good for middle schoolers. What luck! I normally am shy to promote my own books, but clearly he'll be delighted with Rapunzel's Revenge, a graphic novel perfect for middle schoolers, written by two old friends. He looks it over. He puts it back on the shelf. He doesn't buy it.
What did we learn? Remember those fantasies about how one day you would show everyone you weren't really a loser after all? They never come true the way you imagined.
Two years ago, a specialty bookstores invites me and Dean as well as another author to speak at an event. There's a nice crowd of about 70 in the auditorium. The other author speaks first. We sit in the audience so we can see his slide show. He's a cool author and we're so pleased to be a part of it! We're peers with this great, accomplished artist. Cool! But apparently he didn't know anything about us, because at the end of the talk, he says, "And now I think we're going upstairs to the gallery for a gallery talk." He leaves. The audience stands up and follows him. Dean and I sit there, stunned. The organizer gapes, unsure what to do. I know what I'd like to do--RUN AWAY! But one girl and her father remain in the audience, apparently the only ones in the crowd who had expressly come for me and Dean. So we remain and give our presentation to two people. After a few minutes, three more people shuffle in. One of them later accuses me of stealing one of my book ideas from him, although I have never met him in my life.
What did we learn? I'm not sure, but whatever lesson I was supposed to have learned long ago I apparently didn't, since such things keep happening.
This was just a random sampling of the common humiliations authors experience. What makes them hard is this expectation. Someone set up an event believing that I could make a go of it, and yet I couldn't. I feel like I failed the bookstore, the school, my publisher, the organizer. But hey, surely I'm beautifully humbled by now, right? Yay! I am Miss Humility!
I'm going to paste in below links to other authors telling their own tales.
Wow! StephanieW commented: "I teach the fourth grade at a school in Utah. Last week was librarian appreciation week. To celebrate, we had the kids answer trivia questions about books. One question was: "What book has been requested/put on hold the most this year?" Answer: "Calamity Jack."
Oh, how much do I love libraries! Thank you, StephanieW. It was Librarian Appreciation Week, but you made me feel appreciated! Nate Hale will be stoked. He worked so hard on that book, and though it's hard to track down in bookstores, it's so rewarding that it's been embraced by librarians like you. [EDIT: Doh! You're a teacher, not a librarian. I meant librarians like yours.]
Last post, some of you congratulated me on getting out of the house. I should clarify: the interview I did with Stephenie Meyer was in August of 2008. I blogged about it now because The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide was published last week. No, I couldn't fly to Arizona for an overnighter right now.
I have blogged often about how completely joyous and exquisite it is having these two baby girls in our family. And every word is absolutley true. But it's hard too. I don't want to pretend otherwise. This winter and cold spring have been hard. I've been a shut in. There have been weeks where I leave the house maybe once. The demand of two infants with all their feedings and delicate nap schedules and ever changing routines prevent most outings. There have been days when I'm downright blue. If any of you mothers feel that way too, let's just agree not to feel guilty about that, okay? It's hard enough to have the blues without adding guilt to it. Sometimes I feel trapped and sad and, more than anything, depleted. And yet I am so in love with my babies and I don't regret them, not for a second.
Logically that doesn't make sense. Which makes me suspicious...have I been bewitched? I was observing to some writers on email this week, "This year has felt really, really long, but truthfully, the babies are so great. I'm completely in their thrall. Babies are the most deceptive, cleverest predators in nature. I serve the baby master overlords and am happy in my captivity."
But I will be getting out of my house tomorrow! Logan, Utah, the event venue is now Mount Logan Middle School. I'll be there at 6pm with James Dashner, Brandon Mull, Ally Condie, and Jessica Day George. I hope I remember to change out of my pajamas before leaving the house.
In the summer of 2008 I was contacted by the fabulous Joe Monti. At the time he was with Little, Brown (and now he's an agent with Barry Goldblatt Literary - go team!). Stephenie Meyer, her editor Megan Tingley, and the Little, Brown team were working on a guide to the Twilight Saga and wanted to include an interview with Stephenie. She'd already done scads of interviews, so they wanted to make this one a little different. They asked me to interview her because we have a lot in common--writers of both young adult and adult fiction, enthusiastic readers, women, and mothers. And probably because Stephenie and I love each other with a deep, abiding passion mixed with a dose of giddy, preteen giddy affection. Stephenie hates being the center of attention, but conversing with a friend is easier than being interviewed by a reporter. I said I'd love to, but when I understood how in depth they wanted us to get, I was hesitant to do it over the phone. I have Distracted Hearing Disorder and sometimes have a hard time catching everything said on phone call.
"Can we do it in person?" I asked.
"Sure," said Joe.
Wahoo! And I was on a plane to Arizona. I have spent the majority of the past year house-bound with pregnancy nausea, beached whale-like on a couch with a huge belly, or on the floor entertaining twin babies. It's strange to remember there was ever another time. I guess life's like that. Sometimes you're a shut-in. And other times Siegfried and Roy invite you up on their Vegas stage to pet a white tiger and send you home with a gift certificate to a steak house.
Anyhoo, off I went. We sat down, turned on the audio recorder, and talked for three hours. It was so fabulous. Really, really wonderful. How fun to lounge on the couch and chat, and play with my pet monkey Shimsham who came along for the trip. There's something magical about getting to talk to someone in depth about their profession and their passion. Stephenie is smart, clever, kind, generous, and just a great person to be around. It's fun to compare processes, to see how much we have in common as writers and women, and also see where we differ. I'd prepared for the interview with lists of questions and topics I thought we could discuss, with the freedom to pursue any topic that seemed interesting or relevant. What a luxury! This was not meant to be a "Who was Embry's father?" kind of interview. It was a conversation.
It was a little tricky, because it wasn't a traditional interview with an anonymous interviewer; neither was it a private conversation between friends. There would be an audience, and one that was most likely greatly interested in her, and probably not at all in me. In one way, I wanted to just keep firing questions and get out of her way. But I knew that wasn't what her publisher wanted. Naturally the greater focus was on Stephenie and her books. But hopefully by comparing and contrasting our various experiences as writers and readers and moms, her fans could come to a more intimate understanding of what makes Stephenie unique.
While Stephenie and I are friends and so had conversed many other times, I'd never just sat down with her like that, focusing on her works, getting to be a fan as well as a friend. Throughout the entire thing, I kept thinking, I am just enjoying this so much. I can see the appeal of Barbara Walters's line of work. What an honor it would be to sit down for three hours of open-hearted conversation with most anyone, ask about the person's life, their passion, hear about what they love and why and how they do what they do. I don't mean famous people. Just anyone. In regular conversation, we are often distracted, and the focus isn't on one person but all over the place. It's cool to get to focus on just that one person and really listen. You know, maybe I'll do it. Maybe I'll start with my own family. Set aside a couple of hours, sit down with my full attention, and interview them. No agenda. Just to listen and love. Where on earth will I find a couple of hours? Regardless, I'm setting a goal. I'll interview two family members this year, one way or another.
If that tempts you, why not give it a go too? At the end of the year, I'll do a blog post about the results of my interviews, and I'd love to hear in the comments how yours went. The 2011 Interview Challenge is on!
I just made up this term. This disorder does not exist. Do not self-medicate. But I really do have a hard time isolating sounds. I can't understand what's said on TV if people are talking in the room, either. My siblings are this way too. Anyone else?
This hasn't happened to me, to anyone I know, or anyone at all ever probably, but it sounds fun, doesn't it? I like tigers. I like steak too. But I wouldn't eat a steak in front of a tiger. You know, just in case.
I do not have a monkey. There is no monkey. I made that detail up entirely. I just thought the narrative at this point could benefit from a monkey and so I took creative license. You see, this is why I do not write non-fiction.
Confession: I do not care about the identity of Embry's father.
I do not forward anything to Stephenie, including messages, gifts, pets, invitations, pirate treasure, or pleas to finish Midnight Sun. Sorry. Prayers and well wishes will get to her on their own. One reason I haven't mentioned her on my blog in years is because the last time I did I was inundated with both loving requests and hate mail.
Please don't use the comments to say unkind things about my friend. You don't have to like her books or anyone's books, but I aim to keep this blog a place where we respect each other as human beings.
You know, I hesitated for some time before posting this. Some will judge me because they have opinions about the Twilight Saga and think I should be on their side. Some Stephenie Meyer fans are possessive of her and have let me know that they resent that I know her or get to talk to her. But then it annoys me that I would ever hesitate to talk about a friend.
Book recommendations by Gabe, age 13.
1: reserved for the best book in the world
2: being the best
3: being amazing
The Hunger Games; Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games is an AMAZING book that keeps you guessing at every turn, but there are only two downsides, almost everybody in the world has already read it, and it is super violent (and when I say violent, I MEAN it!!!), I’d give it a 3 because of all the violence.
The Maximum Ride Series; James Patterson: Max is a teenage girl who is 98% human, and 2% bird. They are mutants stuck in the School. They’re pretty much lab rats until they make a daring escape, and I can’t tell you much more otherwise it will give away the ending, but READ IT!!!! I would give it a 2, for being such a good read.
The Jimmy Fincher Saga; James Dashner: Jimmy Fincher is an ordinary boy that, while climing a tree, sees the mayor dispatch (not kill, but don’t tell that to your kid) of someone, and is taken hostage. He finds out about a murderous plot for an old man (can’t remember his name) to gain unparalleled powers, so it’s up to Jimmy to beat him at his own game. I would give it a 2.5, because this was my favorite series for so many years.
Slathbog’s Gold; M. L. Forman: This is my very favorite book EVER!!! The series is Adventurer’s Wanted, and it is about a boy named Alex, who sees a mysterious sign in a book store. When he goes in to ask about it, he is rushed into a wonderful adventure with delights at every turn. This is the only book I can give a 1, because it is the BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD (besides Shannon Hale’s books that is)!!! [Shannon says: you are totally in the running for favorite nephew]
The Girl That Could Fly; Victoria Forester: This is a book that I absolutely could NOT put down. I stayed up ‘till midnight reading secretly in bed, and I only slept because my eyes couldn’t stay open long enough to get half a page. Reading this book should be a no-brainer for anybody. It is about a little girl named Piper McCloud, who can fly. So she is shipped off to an institute called I. N. S. A. N. E., where there are other children with “gifts”, but something isn’t right about the place… It is a great book and I would give it a 2.
Simon Bloom the Gravity Keeper; Michael Reisman: This is a delightful science-fiction book about a boy named Simon who finds a Book (capitalized for a reason) that gives him power over physics. But what he doesn’t know is that another, more sinister figure by the name of Sir is looking for the book, and will get it by any means… Great book, 2 stars.
Hatchet; Gary Paulsen: This is an amazing book about a boy named Brian, who gets stranded in the middle of nowhere, and has to survive with nothing but a hatchet. Amazing, 2 stars.
The Book of Three; Lloyd Alexander: I thought this book would be a “drag”, but it was actually one of the books I looked forward to reading the most every day. It is a whole new telling of “The Black Cauldron”. 2 stars (as always)
Gregor the Overlander; Suzanne Collins: This is an amazing story about an “Overlander” called Gregor, who gets sucked up with his little sister into an amazing world of giant cockroaches and rats, it may not seem good, But READ IT! 2 stars.
A Whole Nother Story; Dr. Cuthbert Soup: This is a completely random, but hilarious story about a psychic dog, a time machine, and a sock puppet named Steve. Really funny, 2 stars.
Artemis Fowl; Eoin Colfer: Fantasy meets science in this wonderful world of two races, humans and fairies (High tech and extremely trigger happy fairies to be exact). A Must-Read, 2 stars.
The Far Side; Gary Larson: This is not really a book, but the funniest series of comic strips on earth. Hilarious, 2 stars.
Eragon; Christopher Paolini: Possibly the greatest book on earth (thought the 3rd book is better), This Is A Book You Must Force Your Kids To Read (well technically, you have to force it into their hands and make them look at the first word, then they won’t ever let it go)!!! 2.5 stars for being so great!
Fablehaven; Brandon Mull: This is one of the best books ever, except the fact that this first book is not the “hook you in and won’t let go ‘till you finish” kind of book, you have to muscle your way through the first part, then you won’t be able to put it down again. 2 stars
World of Grayham; Phillip Jones: A really good book, in which two world collide (unfortunately not literally). Sam, George, and Shalee are taken from Earth, and are kept in time bending chambers, and are brought to Grayham, because earth was destroyed in the God Wars. Awesome, 2 stars.
Magyk; Angie Sage: This is an amazing book about a boy named Septimus Heap who is the seventh son of a seventh son. I can’t remember the rest, but it was a very good book, 2 stars.
So those are all of the books I can think of that I have thoroughly enjoyed so far. I know parents are trying to get their kids off the computers and away from the tv, but here is 1 tv show and 1 video game that every kid must watch/play: “Avatar; The Last Airbender” is a really funny animated tv show that the whole family can enjoy, While Minecraft is a really addicting sandbox game that can be downloaded for free by clicking the link in the description of this video.
ATTENTION PUBLISHERS: My nephew Gabe will gladly accept any books you think he'd like. He's a voracious reader and he'll review his favs regularly here. Send via my publisher Bloomsbury. And isn't he a sweetheart? I'll tell you the truth about Gabe: not only is he smart, but he is kind. A true gem.
Okay, it is on! Logan, Utah, I keep a promise. I will be there on Friday, April 22 at 6 pm. And not only am I bringing along James Dashner and Jessica Day George, but we wrangled Brandon Mull and Ally Condie into the van as well. Yes, that's right, two YA writers currently on the New York Times best seller list. We will chat with you, answer questions, and The Book Table will be selling book yums for your signing pleasure.
Where? Where? At the library of coure!
(This is not the Logan LIbrary)
(This may be...wait...no, not the library)
Well, whatever your library looks like, we'll be there, Logan, Utah. I may even shower for the occassion. Golly, my first time out of the Salt Lake Valley in...months. Seriously, months. Wow. So, um, I have twins and don't get out much.
I put a new page on my website in the goose girl section, recounting its reject history and including a few rejection letters. I'm so glad I saved all my rejection letters. Those of you who have come hear me speak may have seen my letters laminated into one long roll. It's satisfying now, battle scars, and collecting them felt like some kind of progress during those long, anxious years of submitting books and stories and receiving nothing but rejections in return. I really do believe that rejections are good. Rejectionsn of any kind hurt, but through them we are gently pushing into the path we should go, the place we should be. My life would be very different if The New Yorker had taken that story I sent them eleven years ago, or Realms of Fantasy. Through the discouragement, I found the kind of writing that I really had the most passion for and the best place for it. I love the children's book world so much.
I finally updated a few other pages of my site, including upping the number of children in my bio from 2 to 4. I can hardly believe that's true. I'm a mother of four. Good golly. Yesterday I took my babies to my parents' house, their first outing besides church in two months. They were like, "What is this strange place? We're very skeptical, mother. What was wrong with home? Why, there are entire days when we don't even enter every room of the house. It's a veritable world unto itself. Let's not be hasty with this manic globetrotting. Home, if you please."
The best year was first grade. I wore a sling to school and pretended to have a broken arm all day until, ta-da! April Fools Day can get pretty competitive in my family. The goal is always to trick my dad and my sister, the great skeptics of the family. (I'm pretty easy to get, especially if the trick is positive. I love to believe the magical!) The years someone succeeds are retold again and again.
I'm not up to anything too wily this year. I sent an email to my editor with an outrageous book pitch, but I hope it just makes her laugh. Two years ago on this blog I announced a Goose Girl movie with a cast so outrageous I was sure everyone would know it was a joke. (e.g. Steve Buscemi as Geric, directed by David Lynch) There was an uproar! One mother emailed me, asking me to publically apologize for making her teenage daughter cry. I did not foresee that reaction. Whoops. If you search for it, you won't find that post because someone Hollywood-ish reported it as fact and I had to take it down.
Last year on this day, I told my family I was pregnant with twins. It was AWESOME. No one was sure if it was true or not. I got several phone calls on the morning of the 2nd. "Are you still pregnant with twins?" Yes indeed! The trick was making them think it was a trick. So good.
Any good tricks this year?