“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
Know what I love? Book signings.
Really, what can better than gathering with an enthusiastic group of readers and celebrating the authors and stories that have brought us together? Everyone clutches a book in their hands or on their lap, fingers wrapped around a treasure trove of words, of stories, of inspiration, and then we get to hear from the person who made that very book come alive. It is sunshine for the writer’s soul.
Last night, I had the chance to attend an event with Sarah Pekkanen (who, if you’ve read my posts, you’ll know is one of my favorite authors), Jennifer Weiner, and Elizabeth LaBan. It was held in a lovely school, came complete with the most delicious (and huge!) cannolis, and featured a fabulous Q&A session. We heard from all three talented women – about their books, about their writing processes, about their journeys to publication, about their advice and anecdotes – and above all else, what struck me was the sense of unadulterated love for the craft of writing. Sarah, Jen, and Elizabeth exuded that love and so did everyone in the audience. My favorite comment of the evening came courtesy of Sarah, who talked about learning more through the writing than through the planning. I just … adore that. Yes, we can plan a novel. We can brainstorm, we can outline, we can research, we can plot timelines and turning points and milestones for our characters. And we should. We should know our stories like we know ourselves. But the real learning? The real journey? The real sense of who our characters are? How can we truly know that until we’re writing their tale? They have to tell us who they are. They have to show us. Sometimes – or, perhaps, often – that comes when we’re in the middle of a scene. One of the things I think is most special about writing is how the characters can surprise us. I’ve had people look at me strangely when I say that – “how can a character surprise you if you’re the one writing about them?” – but I honestly believe it’s true. Our characters lead the way. We’re there to help them along the path.
I had the chance to chat with Sarah for awhile afterwards, both about her awesome books (seriously, you guys … run, do not walk, to the nearest bookstore and buy a copy of all four of her novels … you won’t be able to put them down, they are that fantastic!) and about my publishing quest, and I will always be so thankful for her kind words and sincerity. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the writing community, from those who are already published to those who aspire to and work towards that goal every day, is like no other. It’s warm, it’s welcoming, it’s wonderful. Sarah didn’t have to spend so long talking to me, but she did. She didn’t have to ask me about my own books, but she did. She didn’t have to say such encouraging things, but she did. Words can’t express my gratitude. She is truly a class act, gracious and genuine all the way.
I left the event feeling so inspired. I couldn’t wait to sit down at my desk again this morning and continue writing (more about that in another post … I can’t even believe that I’m nearly two-thirds through this first draft!). That, to me, is what a book signing is all about. It takes the love, the joy, the pride we feel in writing and wraps them up in a neat package. Or maybe not. Maybe what it actually does is take those things and set them free into the world. And, again, I say: what can be better than that? Sarah’s new book is titled THE BEST OF US, and I think that’s a perfect way to sum up a book signing: it brings out the best in all of us.