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…
THE SMART CHICKS TOUR
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.
THE AUSTIN TEEN BOOK FESTIVAL
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!
SARAH: THEY’RE LIKE MATING SNAKES–WHICH CAN NEVER BE TORN APART-
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. 😉
THE POWELL’S PORTLAND EVENT
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?
BOOKSELLER: The maps were sent to the wrong bookstore!
SARAH: I will go get th-
BOOKSELLER: And that store is closed on Sunday.
BOOKSELLER: What should we do?
SARAH: I HAVE A PLAN.
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.
SARAH: I MUST GO BACK I STOLE THE BOOKS! I STOLE THEM ALL!
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.
A MAN WHO WAS MY FELLOW PASSENGER ON ONE FLIGHT: Did you bake these yourself?
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.
THE LIBBA BRAY AND HOLLY BLACK EVENT
HOLLY: I’m doing an event in September, too! With Libba.
SARAH REES BRENNAN, INVITING HERSELF ALONG TO EVERYTHING THAT LOOKS LIKE FUN SINCE THAT TRIP OUT OF THE HOSPITAL IN 1983: Can–can I come? Ask Libba! I mean if it’s cool.
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. 😉 https://www.sarahreesbrennan.com/appearances/
I will sign everything presented to me. I hope I will have prezzies.
I cannot promise to behave.