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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why I Love Author Events

Last night, I went to an evening author event. My first in four years! I left my four-year-old (see the connection?) in the capable hands of my mother, whom I'm visiting this week. I escaped to Secret Garden Books, a favorite Seattle bookstore of mine. There, I got to hear Kim Purcell read from her thrilling debut novel Trafficked.

I felt the stars aligned to bring me to this event. A few days before, I'd read some glowing reviews of Trafficked that made me desperate to read the book. Two days ago, on a rainy Seattle afternoon, I came into the Secret Garden and bought it. I then learned the author would be coming to the store the following night. I also discovered that we shared a publisher, Viking/Penguin. I knew I had to go to Kim's reading. I wanted to support a fellow Viking author. But even more than that, I wanted to go to an evening reading.

I realized, with a pang, how many author events I've missed in all the busy evenings I've had since my son was born. There have been many I've meant to attend. Yet between my son's needs, my husband's evening schedule, babysitter snafus, and my own parenting exhaustion, I've ended up not attending. I'm generally able to keep up with other occasional evening commitments, like writing group meetings and a weekly exercise class, but author events -- which I used to attend at least three times a month -- have fallen by the wayside.

I have made it to some daytime events, and conferences, in the last year. But there's something about an evening reading that holds a certain type of magic. It's dark out. Everyone's scurrying off to watch TV or walk the dog or whatever it is that they do. You're in a room with fellow book lovers, spellbound by live words. At evening readings, I always think of people gathering by a fire, in a cozy wayside inn.

At the author event tonight, I soaked up that anticipatory hush before the reading. I wondered what the author looked like, and experienced the little thrill at picking her out of a group based on her book jacket photo. Kim quickly established herself as an expert reader. The surroundings of the store fell away as her words filled the room. She read the entire first chapter of her novel, which immediately pulled me in and left me wanting more. The Q&A session was fascinating, as she shed light on the seeds of her book, the massive problem of human trafficking, and her research trip to Moldova. Sure, you may find this information online, but I think there's no substitute for hearing an author talk in person about the process of writing a book and the passion behind it.

After the event, I got to meet Kim -- another perk of a live reading -- and found myself in conversation with some fellow book lovers.

This is just one more reason to love bricks and mortar bookstores like Secret Garden Books. I enjoy GoodReads and other bookish social media, but there's no way to replicate the experience of communing in a bookstore at an author event. And there's no cookies online, at least not the good kinds, for, you know, eating. (Did I mention there were edible goodies and libations at this event?)

It's so easy to grab a flier at a bookstore, to plan to attend an author event, and then, when the day comes,  not go. Life gets in the way. Your family needs you. Your work piles up and follows you home. I get all that, believe me. But once in a while it's important to get out there and be an audience member. You can support an author just by showing up. You can meet an author. You can learn about something new. After just a one-hour event, you can return home slightly altered, your mind buzzing with new thoughts.

What's the last author event you attended? What gets in your way of attending readings? Have you ever discovered a new author because of an event? What do you think would entice more people to attend readings? Do you like it when an author reads from his or her work? Do you like meeting authors?

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