My first author event as a blogger was not too shabby. As in Maureen Johnson. As in Stephanie Perkins. All of this fun took place at Flyleaf Books
in Chapel Hill, NC. I took off work early and had a 3 hour drive up from Charlotte, courtesy of Friday afternoon traffic. But it all worked out well, because I left early enough and got there with plenty of time to spare and snagged myself a front row seat.
|The room was packed by 7 PM, and I was front and center.
DISCLAIMER: I left my house at 3 PM, got home at midnight famished and grumpy from I-85 traffic hell, popped an Ambien, and began typing this post at 1 AM. I took a few notes, but for the most part, I’m recapping from memory. So while I would not testify to the veracity of any of these statements in a court of law (unless it was the court of Judge Judy, because she is a goddess, and I bow down daily at the altar of her judiciousness, and I would chew off a limb to get on her show.) But to the best of my recollection, these statements are true. End disclaimer.
OK, if you haven’t seen Maureen speak before, the first thing you need to know is that she’s hilarious. I have’t laughed that much in a long time. Here are a few random gems:
- She found condom wrappers in a Bible in a hotel in Ireland.
- She talked about a “ghostly orb” in England. (She talks about ghosts on her Tumblr.)
- She found a vial marked “Medical Specimen” in another hotel.
- She managed to get the room rolling with a story about her root canal.
- Maureen shares a birthday with Dear Leader (and dearly departed) Kim Jong-il. Stephanie shares a birthday with Ted Bundy.
|Maureen even had Stephanie cracking up.
They spoke for about an hour and twenty minutes. Maureen started off with some funny stories from her various travels, and then someone asked her to relay her Hurricane Sandy story. That story involved the aforementioned root canal and a more than week-long stay with Libba Bray when her power remained knocked-out.
This segued into a story about her crazy downstairs neighbor who constantly leaves her nasty Post-Its, accusing Maureen of making noise (even when she’s out of town), owning a treadmill (she doesn’t), and all sorts of mischief and mayhem. Maureen has collected the notes and displayed them on their very own Tumblr
. You must see it to believe it. Because I was not going to leave without getting a question in, I asked her if she was concerned the neighbor would ever discover that her notes were online. Maureen said the lady is too out of it to notice or care.
|Note to self – an iPhone is not a suitable camera.
Discussion eventually turned to writing and to Maureen’s and Stephanie’s books.
Writing Anna and the French Kiss: Stephanie took creative writing classes in college, and she said there is disagreement in the industry whether such classes are worthwhile. (They obviously worked out for her!) Early on, she expressed a desire to write children’s books, but her professors discouraged her.
After college, she worked as a librarian, and she discovered the YA genre via The Princess Diaries. She hid her passion for YA from her coworkers for some time, but then finally came out of the closet and encouraged them to read Meg Cabot. She began to write Anna and the French Kiss which originally focused on Anna as an adult, and she hated it. While she revised it, she realized that the only parts of the book she enjoyed were those that featured Anna as a teenager. It took seven years for Anna to get to bookshelves from the time that Stephanie originally began to write the hated first version, including a year spent waiting after sending it to her editor (she explained that new authors are low on the totem pole, and thus have to wait much longer than established authors), and then another year on rewrites.
Advice to aspiring writers: There were some young, aspiring writers in the audience. Maureen told them that every author feels like a failure at some point and will want to give up. They will question themselves, “Why am I doing this? No one will read my books.”
Both authors said that to improve writing skills, you should read both good and bad books. In general, read, read, and read some more. Ask yourself, “What makes this book good (or bad?)” If you feel any kind of emotion when reading, think about what made you feel that way and why. When you find a book you particularly like, sit down and type out passages word for word. This practice will help you to pick up on the cadence and style of that author.
Writing and time management: Maureen said she feels guilty if she’s not writing on a regular basis, which Stephanie found quite funny, because she can go long stretches without writing. They discussed other writers who work on a strict 9-to-5 type of schedule.
Maureen said she uses an app called Good Habits to stay organized. I’ve already downloaded it.
On reading blogs: Maureen was asked if she reads blogs, and she said that she reads a few. She didn’t specify which ones, but I think it’s safe to say it’s not this one. 🙂 She said it would be pointless to read hundreds of different blogger’s reviews because it would just be a cacophony of noise in her head.
My geek-out moment:
A week or so ago, I posted about the business cards
I ordered for BEA 2013
. I received the cards a week ago, and I decided that I was going to force both Maureen and Stephanie to take a card, and then I would ask to take a picture of them holding the cards. When I got up to them to get my books signed, I lost my nerve. I did mention that I was excited to be here because this was my first event as a blogger. Maureen asked the name of my blog, and I said, “Oh! I have new business cards right here,” and I gave one to both her and Stephanie. Now, even if they immediately wiped their noses with them, tore them up, and threw them in the garbage, the fact remains that the first two people to lay hands on my cards were two famous authors, and that, my friends, is pretty cool. But then I totally forgot to ask for a photo with them holding the cards, but that’s probably a good thing, because that might have been TOO over the top, even for me.
Got books? Books? You want some books? I got ’em. I bought copies of The Name of the Star, The Madness Underneath, Anna and the French Kiss, and Lola and the Boy Next Door, all of which I got signed. And while I was at Flyleaf, I saw signed copies of Shades of Earth, so guess what… I snagged two of those, too. (Guess I should cancel my Amazon pre-order.) Those are for you, dear reader. And because I’m greedy, I bought not just one copy, but two, of all those books, so I could have one for myself, too. I will get a giveaway for Maureen’s books set up next week, and I’ll do Stephanie’s and Beth’s in the very near future. So check back, and make sure to follow on Twitter for updates.
|The cat in the background is Iris, the same kitty who’s in my avatar. She’s a year old now.