On May 14th, I went to a book signing. My friend Wayne Osborn works with the Washington Library Media Association, Mt. Rainier Region and invited me to tag along. Every time I go to a book signing I learn something and find new inspiration. I’d love to win a Newbery award from the American Library Association, so this signing with Newbery Honor Book winner Kirby Larson promised to be especially inspiring.
At least 40 librarians from the nearby school districts and a few teachers met at Johnny’s Dock, a restaurant by the water looking out over the Foss waterway and over to the Glass Museum. The day sparkled with sunshine on the waterway. Yachts surrounded the restaurant in their moorings while Wayne joked about which boat belonged to him.
We started out the evening looking at a table full of books by Larson, including Hattie Big Sky that won the Newbery Honor in 2007. I bought the sequel Hattie Ever After and filled out a sheet to have her sign it to me. Something about owning signed books of authors I admire thrills me. All the other folks, I noticed had her sign to their libraries.
I got there early but soon the room filled with librarians. It didn’t surprise me that most of them looked just like the group I train with to teach ESL. I blended right in and no one noticed the lone instructor from the community college system.
When Kirby Larson arrived, she impressed me by shaking all of our hands and asking our names. We knew she wouldn’t remember, but it felt good to have her ask.
Larson then went on to give her presentation. She looked comfortable with technology and had put together a PowerPoint with slides illustrating her story of writing the two books Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After. She shared the inspiration of her grandmothers and how they led her to writing the first book, making us all smile with the words she used from a 13 year old. The young reader complained that Larson had left her hanging like ‘an upside down question mark’ and begged Larson to write a sequel to Hattie Big Sky. After finishing the first book, I had to agree with the 13 year old. I’m glad I bought the second book to see what happens to the character next.
As a writer, I drank in the words describing her work. She researched by asking librarians and experts in very specific fields. Writing her books involved the help of untold hundreds of people and she graciously credited them for their assistance. She also gave us a ‘press pass’ made on a printing press that Hattie might have used in the 1920’s. You can see a picture of the pass next to the Hattie Ever After book to the left.
After her story, Larson took questions. She advised me to use a program called Scrivener for my piles of research notes that are now languishing on Zotero but not attached to my book’s draft. Following her advice, I’m using the trial version of Scrivener and saving my coffee money to buy it when the trial expires in 30 days.
But my favorite story was about getting the call telling her she won the Newbery. Larson told of how a stranger called at 6:00am while she was still in bed, and her first thought was of the inappropriate hour. After beginning to breathe again, she had an adventure trying to get into the ALA conference with her husband without a badge for him.
Maybe it’s my favorite story because winning a Newbery is on my list of dreams. I am grateful to the librarian at my table who asked her to tell the story of her success.
Overall, it was a delight to meet Kirby Larson and hear her stories. Book signings give me the emotional boost I sometimes need to keep me going. I’m grateful to I got to go to this one. Thanks, Wayne!