If I could go back in time and meet my 12 year old self, the girl who first dreamed of writing novels, I would have quite a story to tell. I think it would start with a ballroom. Oh yes, and the ballroom is across from an indoor forest, green that grows three stories high, with a waterfall flowing out of it. Inside the ballroom, there’s something so much better than a ball happening. It’s a book signing! Writers sit at tables piled with books, and people walk around, talking to them. And there is the grown-up me, sitting next to a bestselling (and very funny) author, signing my debut novel and hearing from people who have really liked it and are recommending it to others. Yes, my 12 year old self would have been dazzled by that story. Of course, she would likely have been stunned to know that it would take more than 30 years for it to come true, since when you’re 12, 30 years might as well be never. But in fact it’s not never. It’s now. That story came true for me this past weekend at the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute in Kansas City, where I got to find out what a book event is like minus the stomach flu. And the answer? It’s wonderful.
This adventure started with an early flight out to Kansas City on a smallish plane that I don’t think a lot of people could stand up straight in. But it was a smooth flight, and I got to watch the world turn from brown (my part of the East Coast) to white as we flew into the Midwest. At lunchtime, I met two more members of the wonderful Candlewick team, Jennifer Roberts and Elise Supovitz, who continue the Candlewick streak of only employing the absolute best people in the world. Later in the afternoon, Jennifer took me to the ballroom across from the storybook forest (better known as the ballroom level of the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City), for the book signing part of the event. I got to meet Stephan Pastis, a fellow Candlewick author whose hilarious book Timmy Failure came out today, and who, already a pro at book events, gave me some good tips. I admit I did peek over to see how he signed his books so I could figure out what I ought to do! From then on, the day was a series of amazing moments. My fiction writing has been a private fantasy so long, I almost forget that suddenly people out there are reading my book. To have a bunch of them come up and tell me they loved it felt like I was dreaming. At the author dinner that followed the book signing, the wonderful booksellers I got to talk to asked me the most insightful questions about the novel – how I came to use the Iran hostage crisis, why I chose the ending I did, and, my all-time favorite, how Treasure Island got into the book. Which brings me back to my 12 year old self. The story would have to be told in installments, because this (I hope) is only the first chapter in a fantasy from long ago that is beginning to unfold. But if that young me would frown at the date, so far in the future, when the story begins, I think I could only shrug. She couldn’t know it then, but I do now. It was worth the wait.