I got an education in signing on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, as I tried to keep up with the signature skills of the other panelists, all of whom have much more practice than me at this! Friday night, straight from the airport, Daanon and Michelle (co-organizers of the event along with author Jon Lewis and others of Faith's wonderful friends) took me to Jon's house for dinner and signing and a wee bit of abbreviated *dance practice.* Shannon Hale (one of my very favorite writers!!) met me at the door with Jon's baby girl Lauren on her hip, and gave her to me, and I didn't want to let her go later. (In three days I met three *propaganda babies* of which Lauren was the second. You know what I'm talking about: babies so perfectly adorable and happy and gurgly and smiling that they make the whole baby thing look like a piece of cake? Babies like this are Nature's way of saying, "Go home and make yourself one of these. See how easy is is? Go on, make more people." ha ha!) Also in attendance: Janette Rallison, with whom I share an editor whom she refers to as "the bow-tied one," and Stephenie Meyer, along with her cool assistant Meghan. And of course Jon and his family (including two more beautiful propaganda daughters) and some other event volunteers.
We signed posters. Lots of posters. Like, the posters never stopped coming around the table. I was left sitting there trying to catch up after the other ladies were all done. Now, I'd like to play it cool and pretend like this sort of thing happens to me every day, that I find myself signing posters with Shannon Hale, Janette Rallison, and Stephenie Meyer, but come on, it totally does not, and it was surreal and awesome, and there was a part of me that was constantly reminding myself, "Hey, you're sitting at a table with Shannon Hale, Janette Rallison, and Stephenie Meyer, signing posters. That's so cool." It WAS so cool. I was very happy and leetle beet starstruck :-)
After the posters were finally signed (or so we thought) we practiced our Aretha Franklin back-up dance a few times. Shannon, huge ham that she is, had planned and choreographed this, originally planned as a lip-sync until James Owen (author of Here, There Be Dragons), under the influence (he claims) of cold medication, decided that the best way to get out of dancing would be to sing. That's right, like it would somehow be less embarrassing to belt out an Aretha Franklin song to 800 people than to be part of a line of back-up dancers!
Anyway, that was the night. Much fun. The next day was the BIG EVENT. Stephanie (Perkins) picked me up at my hotel and came with me to experience the backstage madness --
Seriously, this was a Big Event, with burly security guys, walkie-talkie guys, bands setting up equipment, tons of volunteers scurrying around, a "green room" full of food and drinks, and all the mild chaos you can imagine. From the first second, it was fun. Oh, except for one thing. Someone found more posters that had to be signed! Actually, they kept on finding more and more. It was like a gag of some sort, with assorted volunteers continually producing thick stacks of posters in need of signatures. Funny but kind of not. Whew, at last, we finished! Me, signing more posters:
Well, at last the audience was seated and the event got underway, but there were no speakers backstage, so we couldn't hear what was being said on stage. Could barely hear our own cues, let alone Shannon's limerick or any of the jokes. Just thunderous bursts of laughter! I'm still hoping a video will surface that shows the whole night. So far there are only little sniglets on youtube of this or that.
The dance portion of the evening came along, and James Owen belted out Aretha like a champ.
That's Shannon, me, Brandon Mull (author of the very popular Fablehaven series), Janette, and Jon. You can see where Brandon got the timing wrong due to a lack of rehearsing, and broke into freestyle midway through, which was awesome. I'm clearly keeping a close eye on Shannon the whole time, trying to keep up, and still missing crucial steps. Ah, not my forte, the dancing!
Later, there was to be an auction of some high-ticket Stephenie Meyer items, and Shannon coerced Dean Lorey into modeling the Eclipse Prom dress, which he did splendidly, here on the arm of PJ Haarsma:
The Eclipse prom, by the way, was the brainchild of Faith Hochhalter, aka "the book babe." With the release of the book there was a massive prom in Phoenix, and I hear that women and girls (and probably guys too) voyaged from afar -- even other countries -- to attend. This was the dress Stephenie wore to it. Dean Lorey writes the Nightmare Academy books (m.g. fantasy) (as well as Arrested Development!), and PJ Haarsma is the author of the m.g. sci-fi series Softwire, which I have read and thoroughly enjoyed. Both Nightmare Academy and Softwire = great boy books. And Fablehaven too!
Okay, this is getting long. Quickly, now. The author panel was moderated by Jim Blasingame of Arizona State University. He teaches in the English Dept, and his specialty, I gather, is teaching the teaching of writing, which is too cool, and he's very involved in the YA lit world. I believe he edits the ALAN Review, which is the publication of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, a part of the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), so he's an all-around ally in the cause of spreading the reading of YA literature. There are abundant youtube snippets of the panel, if you go HERE and click around.
Oh, this is fun. To close the event we did an "all-author story" where we each made up a line of a story as we went along:
And that was that. The raffle raised over $10,000, and the auction was tremendous, with (I think) over $24,000 raised in a quick flurry of bidding presided over by Jon, who did a fantastic job. For example: $6500 twice for lunch with Stephenie!!! I think this is a good time for this photo:
Faith has done a lot for Stephenie and her career, and now Stephenie has done an amazing thing for Faith, headlining this event which will remove any financial worries from Faith's recuperation over the coming months, so she can concern herself exclusively with getting well. Isn't this an adorable picture? Book people are pretty freaking awesome.
Here's me and Faith:
And assorted other pictures:
And, me in a sombrero, showing off my new less than sleek belly profile, at almost 6 months pregnant:
(I love my belly. I love being pregnant, especially now that the little one is moving around a lot and I have that constant reassurance of life to offset some of the anxieties. We had another ultrasound yesterday, a lonnng one, a fetal echocardiogram, actually, which made us quite anxious that they thought we needed to have one, but it was purely routine, since the baby had been twice uncooperative in position and they'd not been able to get the views of the heart they needed, they sent us to the perinatal center, where she finally cooperated and we got to see every little bit of her heart, every chamber and valve, including color to show which way the blood was flowing, and we heard every valve separately, etc. Weird and cool, and thankfully, all normal! And that, sadly, will be the last time we see our little girl until around about August, when we'll really see her. WOW!)
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So, that was Project Book Babe. I want to point out here that we're all from the West -- Arizona, Utah, California, and Oregon -- and that there are ideas afoot for an annual West Coast-based charity event, to benefit a different cause each year, with different headliners and in different locations. Really, if this does turn out to be an annual event, it'll be a tough act to follow. It was SO GREAT, and last I heard, had raised over $85,000!!! And that's not including the online auction, which is ongoing and not to be missed. (Silksinger ARC up for bids now; Lips Touch soon!) Hopefully next year I'll have news about another event, benefitting another great cause. And maybe you'll be able to make it!
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Just to get these pictures in and make this post even LONGER, here are Sunday and Monday, when I was hanging out with the fabulous blue-haired Stephanie (Perkins) in Phoenix. How does this sound for a perfect day: big breakfast involving french toast; excellent independent bookstore (Changing Hands); exquisite gelato (Arlecchino, you Phoenix-ites get yourselves there); and the ZOO! Monkeys and lions and sunshine, oh my! Oh, and BBQ for dinner, and to finish things off: Little Dorrit on PBS. Most excellent day.
And Monday we made it to the Desert Botanical Garden where there is currently a spectacular Dale Chihuly exhibit -- he's a famous Washington art glass designer who does fabulous huge glass installations, and this was truly an amazing setting for them: hard to say what was weirder, the man-made sculptures or the nature-made ones. I mean, cacti are STRANGE! In combination, it was a sci-fi landscape:
And zat ees ze end of zees very long post!