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Author Event Whiplash

I went to see Bonnie Jo Campbell at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square this Wednesday and Chris Colfer at Anderson’s in Naperville on Thursday. This turned out to be analogous to spending one evening having a quiet dinner in your house by candlelight with your husband, and then going the next night to Big Star with my sister’s Ultimate Frisbee friends.
Bonnie Jo Campbell is, of course, the author of many books, including Once Upon a River, which is superb. When I posted a tweet about reading OUAR with the hashtag #fridayreads but with no mention of her Twitter handle, she still wrote me on Twitter to thank me for reading and invited me to her Chicago events, which means she actually looked at my profile to know where I lived.
This made my day.
So when I flipped through Time Out Chicago and saw that she was at the Book Cellar I thought, “oh, I should go to that.” And then I thought, “eh, I’m tired and headed out of town; I shouldn’t be buying new books; I need to go home and write and/or run.”
But then again, I thought, “she did take the time to Tweet at me, which is obviously the first step to us becoming friends for life.”
So off I went to the Book Cellar and promptly wondered if I was in the right place, because I thought about 100 people would show up to see Campbell. I was one of about 15. Oddly enough one of those people was a Northwestern University classmate I hadn’t seen in a few years. She had to leave early, but we’re going to go to another book signing together. Northwestern: it’s the book nerd’s gift that keeps on giving.
Campbell is engaging, quirky and youthful. She’s just super. We had an actual conversation where she asked me about me. This caught me off guard. I feel like most authors have their guard up so much regarding people who will inevitably say “I’m also writing a book,” that I would never expect someone to a) show interest in what I write about (which is mostly long-term care news) b) engage in conversation about Margo Crane or c) to ask me to send her an article about LTC issues. She was like that with everyone who got a book signed. At one point I said to her, “I hope that one day I come to a book signing of yours with hundreds of people” and she said, “but then I wouldn’t get to talk to people.”
It was inspiring. Not because I like her work, which I do, but that I have always assumed that authors want throngs of people to love them and buy their books. And maybe some of them do. But let me tell you about the book whiplash that comes from seeing Chris Colfer the next night at Anderson’s.
Chris Colfer, a.k.a. Kurt on Glee, has written a middle grade novel about fairy tales, which I would argue is far superior to a 21-year-old writing his memoir. I did in fact squeal upon seeing that he was coming to Anderson’s, calling up my father to say “Becky Anderson is a genius.” My sister and I promptly bought books and our tickets.
There were hundreds of people at Anderson’s on Thursday, all holding their brand new $18 copies of “The Land of Stories.” There was a police car out front. There were lots of teenagers, a touching number of disabled kids, and way more 60-year-old mothers by themselves than you would have expected.
Credit goes to Anderson’s for being incredibly well organized, and for moving the crowds along. There were rules about where you could take pictures, and no personalized autographs, much to the sadness of a lot of the attendees. Colfer is genuinely polite and warm, thanking people individually for reading his book or making comments to people like “I love your hair.” Anderson’s staff said he very nice to all of them before he appeared.  I’m really glad he came to Naperville and I’m glad I went. I’m thrilled a bunch of people bought real live books and that Colfer is spending his summer getting kids to read rather than watch the Glee concert movie.
But I also kind of feel bad for him, because he’ll probably never get to have Campbell’s experiences at her book events: interactions with random fans and the chance to talk about whatever is on his mind.
Bonnie Jo Campbell’s upcoming events can be seen here. Go see her!

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