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That’s Me In the Spotlight

Originally published at Sarah Rees Brennan. You can comment here or there.

I thought I would talk a little bit about public appearances. For it is part of being a writer, and a very different part: mostly writers sit around their caves in their pyjamas fiddling on their computers. But sometimes they have to put on real clothes, make themselves presentable, and then speak in a not-offputting fashion to an audience of people!

I like doing appearances! As with all things, I learned by trial and error (that time the bookshop was expecting someone different and the poor babies got me instead, that time I fell off the stage) that I can’t give a practiced speech, and cannot be counted on for, like, any wisdom. At all. Whatsoever.

But I do like having fun around lots of people who love books, and celebrating books with people. I love talking books and telling stories. People who love books are my people, and seeing them fills me with a sense of hope and community.

And the fun hardly ever… well, sometimes… occasionally doesn’t… gets out of hand.

So, I wrote Unspoken, and I thought to myself: Self, you love this book and would like to spread the word about it a bit, maybe you could arrange some sort of… touring event… style thing? I am sure not TOO MANY disasters will take place.

This is what happened next…


So, Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong organised, for three glorious years, an annual Smart Chicks event where they gathered many writers to celebrate awesome fictional ladies and awesome real-life reader ladies. I came on the 2010 one, couldn’t come on the 2011 one, and thought to myself that I sure would like to come on the 2012 one.

So, while hanging out with several author ladies in Arizona, I decided to cunningly and coolly bring this up.

MELISSA: Any Smart Chick author of the past is always welcome.
SARAH: Can–can I come?
MELISSA: Of course you can-
SARAH: *casually backflips into a pool to escape any awkwardness*
MELISSA: Is she dead?
ROSEMARY CLEMENT-MOORE: I think she might have hit her head.
MELISSA: I think she drowned.
ROSEMARY: O God what will we tell her mother.
SARAH: What’s up, my homies?
MELISSA: Of course you can come on the tour! That’s what I meant! You’re invited! But please don’t do that again.
SARAH: Do what? Why do you all look so upset?

On one of the memorable Smart Chicks tour stops, Charles de Lint, who is a Fancy Person who brought modern urban fantasy to the masses and other fancy things, was there.

Also, there was a very large, carved desk. Now, when I am doing an event, I like to move about. Other writers, they are very fascinating people, they have a lot of compelling stuff to say, they are awesome no matter where they are, but I like to be moving around a bit. Maybe doing actions. Dances. Mimes. I think you see where I’m going here.

Later he and Holly Black were somewhere, hanging out. I don’t know where fancy people hang out. Let us say they were in Fancylandia.

HOLLY: I think you just met Sarah?
CHARLES DE LINT: No, I don’t think so.
CHARLES DE LINT: Let me tell you who I DID MEET! A crazy lady who climbed over this huge desk in a floofy skirt and high heels. She went right over it, Holly, like a squirrel on stilts!
HOLLY: … Oh you met Sarah, all right.

MELISSA: It’s always fun to have you at events, Sarah.
SARAH: *genuinely touched*
AUDIENCE: What is Melissa’s Carnival of Souls about?
SARAH: Oh, oh I’ll do an impression!
WRITERS: Oh boy she’s rolling around on the floor.
AUDIENCE: She’s stolen a child! Call the police, she stole a child!
MELISSA: I mean it’s always such an interesting experience.

Possibly our moment of deepest shame was shared by all my fellow writers save one.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Who’s your favourite member of One Direction?
KELLEY ARMSTRONG: Is that a band?
MELISSA MARR: Are there boys in it?
ROSEMARY CLEMENT-MOORE: I think so but I don’t know their names.
SARAH: Guys, I’m pretty sure they’re fictional, I’m pretty sure they’re on Glee.
MEL DE LA CRUZ: Oh my God. I apologise for them. I apologise for everything. HARRY STYLES, and what is WRONG with you people?

When my little brother heard about this, he was deeply shocked at my ignorance. I have now been taught all about One Direction.


I was super honoured to be invited to the Austin Teen Book Festival, and to be appointed moderator for two very fancy panels!

Now, a moderator is someone chosen to run the discussion for a group of writers. Keep them in line, as it were. I took this duty very seriously.

RAE CARSON: She’s standing on a chair and giving commands. What should we do?!
LIBBA BRAY: I’m going to hold that chair. (Always kind, Libba.)
LEIGH BARDUGO: She’s strangling Margi Stohl. I don’t understand and I have to understand because I don’t want to be strangled!

As I understand it, no other moderators strangled people that day. I scorn their lack of commitment to the cause.

Also, there were signing lines for each author, and I totally had one. A line. I love you, Austin! For the beauteous people in my line, I had drilled English penny necklaces. (For those who have not read Unspoken: this gift will make sense only if you have read Unspoken.)

LOVELY LADY: Can I have a penny necklace?
SARAH: Uh… nope.
LOVELY LADY: Oh, you’ve run out, never m-
SARAH: I cannot lie to you, lovely lady. I haven’t run out.
SARAH: *produces several chains which have become hideously tangled*
SARAH: I can’t untangle them. I don’t know what to do!
LOVELY LADY: It’s cool, the book’s fine.
SARAH: Thank you for understanding.
LOVELY LADY: I hope the snakes will be very happy together.

I also now own a bright pink T-shirt proclaiming ‘KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD.’ I’m pretty sure I didn’t make it any less weird. ;)


At Portland I did a lovely event with several authors much lovelier than I: Cindy Pon, Malinda Lo, Mette Ivie Harrison, Janni Lee Simner. (And Kate Elliott came because she is fab.) And maps of Sorry-in-the-Vale were being printed to give people who came. So, we walked into Powell’s bookshop, and…

BOOKSELLER: There has been a terrible incident!
EVERYBODY: *looks at me*
BOOKSELLER: Yes, it does have to do with Sarah Rees Brennan! … How did you all know that?
EVERYBODY: *shrug*
BOOKSELLER: The maps were sent to the wrong bookstore!
SARAH: I will go get th-
BOOKSELLER: And that store is closed on Sunday.
SARAH: noooooooooooo
BOOKSELLER: What should we do?
EVERYBODY: What did she say? Stop her!
SARAH: Quickly bookseller, take me to the back room.
MALINDA: Did Sarah just drag someone into the back room literally within minutes of walking in the store?
CINDY: Well, we all saw that one coming.

I dashed in the back, logged into my email and performed a tricky maneuver which got me into the site where I could print off the maps. I forgot to log out, so: Powell’s bookstore, I like you guys very much, I hope you are enjoying my emails, I’m sorry if you were expecting more literary insight.

A thing I like to do when there are a bunch of authors (and the more the merrier, always, because then it feels more like a fun conversation, and also I can rely on someone else to say something wise) is buy all the books so I can give them to an audience member as a Gift Package. So I nipped the books up really quickly after the Maps Incident, and promised to pay for them later, and then with all the carry-on (excellent writers saying excellent things, me pretending to be buried alive behind a bookcase, me being the worst at recognising people–HI JULIE–me being given a beautiful gift of cookies) I forgot. We exited and bundled ourselves into a taxi to the airport, and then I let out a shrill scream.

CINDY: What’d she say?
MALINDA: She committed a crime.
CINDY: Well, we all saw that one coming.

I was going straight from Portland to my tour in England, and this meant a series of flights that added up to two nights and a day on a variety of airplanes. DEAR GOD I WAS SO TIRED. And the airplane food was a special kind of dreadful.

However, at Powell’s bookstore a lovely lady presented me with cookies, baked with chocolate chips and sea salt for all the tears people cried at the end of Unspoken. (That’s a direct quote. Good cookies and a rapier wit. ;) ) What I’m telling you is that I lived on those cookies for two nights and a day. Those cookies were my only friend.

SARAH: No! *proudly* a fan baked them for me.
A MAN: Wow. Are you famous?
SARAH: *preens* Well, no, but-
A MAN: Yeah I thought not, because famous people travel in first class. And also you just fell asleep on my shoulder and drooled.
A MAN: There were some cookie crumbs in the drool.
SARAH: Well, I’m not sharing my cookies with you now.


HOLLY: I’m doing an event in September, too! With Libba.
LIBBA: It’s cool. *plays a chilled out tune to herself* Everything is cool, bro. (Musical people are more relaxed and friendly. I think that’s science.)

Of course, at the event, I shamed myself as I always do.

SARAH: Do you guys want to know what Libba’s book is about?
HOLLY: Why–why is she dancing?
SARAH: This is FLAPPER dancing. I’m being a JAZZ BABY. (note: Libba’s The Diviners is set in the 1920s, I didn’t just take a funny notion into my head.)
LIBBA: Shhh Holly, I want to know how the book ends.

But I scored cupcakes (it was my birthday… I don’t demand baked goods everywhere I go) and I think everybody had fun. I call it a win!

So you can see why I think of book events as times to celebrate books, have fun with friends, talk about books with new people, and generally have a gloriously nerdy time.

So I am much looking forward to travelling about in the charming Cassie Clare’s fancy, decorated bus next month. I have such plans: to do mimes that will embarrass her, to do impressions that will embarrass her, to make fun of her bus (I’m going to be working on a theme here). The glorious Maureen Johnson will be accompanying us on several stops, and so those stops will be even more fun.

I will be there the whole time! I hope to see you there. ;) http://sarahreesbrennan.com/appearances/

I will sign everything presented to me. I hope I will have prezzies.

I cannot promise to behave.


( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 23rd, 2013 03:50 am (UTC)
And this is why I love you in a totally platonic, non-creepy, fan-to-author, editor-to-author, sort of way.
It's the humor, definitely.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 04:07 am (UTC)
If I ever get to do a book tour, I can assure you that YOU WILL BE ON IT. Because life with Sarah is never dull.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 04:33 am (UTC)
I am desperately sad that I owe the government too much money to fly to Arizona and see you in person, because your in-person antics are a joy and a wonder to behold. Please, if you love me even a little, encourage videotaping and youtube posting as much as possible.

ONE DAY, I will bring you the finest baked goods I am capable of creating! ...probably when I live in a state which people actually visit.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 04:46 am (UTC)
Someday I shall be fortunate enough to see you on tour. Until that day arrives I will enjoy your recaps of what I can expect :)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 07:10 am (UTC)
I must admit I have gotten into much trouble for calling One Direction, 4 the One.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 09:11 pm (UTC)
This is why I frequently bully inanimate objects. ;)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 08:28 am (UTC)
I have to get some YA out there so I can go on book tours with you because I think this sounds like more un than ANYTHING. :)

Edited at 2013-02-23 08:28 am (UTC)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 09:26 pm (UTC)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 10:41 am (UTC)
Your tours sound like occasions of glorious fun and shenanigans.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 12:20 pm (UTC)
Oh dear lord, I wish I'd been able to go to the Powell's thing. ;) None of these are near me of course (wrong continent!) but I'm sure there will be another opportunity to harass you at some point, and I have of course learned this time the necessity of bribing Irish girls with alcohol. ;)
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 09:11 pm (UTC)
I don't think I know anything about fan culture or the internet (other than... grateful to have fans and I enjoy blogging with minimal skillz...) but I am amenable to study. I should like to go to Edinburgh, she says wistfully.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC)
This is amazing commentary. It's a behind the scenes special- see, you ARE famous! Not sharing delicious cookies is a perfect punishment. I hope that man was ashamed ;)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 02:39 pm (UTC)
I didn’t just take a funny notion into my head. I love that you know you have to specify that for us! :D
Feb. 23rd, 2013 02:47 pm (UTC)
I now so want to come to an event of your.
Also you *should* demand baked goods. If rock stars can have riders, why shouldn't writers?

(If you come anywhere near me (Bath /Bristol) I will bring cupcakes. I've baked cupcakes for some lovely writers. The ones I made for Neil Gaiman had tombstones on them.)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 03:12 pm (UTC)
I just googled One Direction. I'm not sure if I am appalled or proud to realize that I, too, was under the mistaken impression that they were fictional. I had the vague idea that they were a boy band, and no idea whatsoever that they weren't Americans.

I hope you return to Powell's, because I missed the last one.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 09:10 pm (UTC)
One of them is Irish, she says with vague pride.

Alas, it is always difficult to get back to a place you have been, as one tries to diversify it up, but one day. ;)
(no subject) - sarahtales - Feb. 25th, 2013 05:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 23rd, 2013 09:25 pm (UTC)
I was at the Portland Powells event. I have to say, bar none, my favorite part was when you stood up to pop behind the book shelf and took a moment to shimmy, like you were delighted with the skirt you were wearing. Made me smile.

Also, you're awesome and funny. I would so go to any event you are at :)

Feb. 23rd, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you so much for coming! And hey, maychance you shall see both me and Libba someday soon.
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( 33 comments — Leave a comment )


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