Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Beyond Epic Fredericksburg Roadtrip

We're missing an 'e' in there...
Note: For the most part, the conversational bits are paraphrased. ALSO IF YOU ONLY WANT TO READ ABOUT THE ACTUAL SIGNING ITSELF SKIP TO THE PICTURE OF THE TABLE (or a little above it). I ramble a little first.

On May 17th I got my so-incredibly-not-a-morning-person self up (meaning, my mother woke me up) at 6:30 AM in preparation to leave for my seven and a half hour drive to Fredericksburg, Virginia. This trip was made for the sole purpose of going to Jabberwocky books for the Maggie Stiefvater and John Corey Whaley signing. But we'll start a little before that.

Nothing much ever happens in Cleveland. We get some good concerts on occasion, but author-wise, not much. I kept reading about the tour Maggie Stiefvater and John Corey Whaley were doing in California and I was more than a bit jealous. When it was announced that there was going to be a couple of stops on the East coast. I was all over it. Initially, I had asked my beloved friend Laura to come with me. But we both work at the same place and we're the only two people who make caramel so we couldn't both get it off. She is beautiful and wonderful and worked a couple of shifts for me so I could go.

I had intended, at that point, to go by myself. My mum volunteered to go with me. If you ask her she will say because she wanted to get away. If you ask me it's because despite my being nearly 24 and having a GPS she was convinced I wouldn't make it back (she made a few comments to support my theory over hers). Regardless, Mum came with me. I was cool with that, seven and a half hours is more tolerable with company. And I didn't have to pay for gas. It also got her to read Where Things Come Back, which I always support.

I am a notorious over packer. My mother thought she was. She even suggested we share a bag. Right up until I listed off the reasons why I needed extra pairs of pants. What if I spill something? What if it rains and my pants get wet? What if I rip them? What if they don't fit quite right? The reasons really are never ending. (I packed four pairs of pants and three pairs of shoes to be gone for one night).  She was horrified. Our exchange went something like this.

Amy: I need to pack.
Mum: I'm packing tomorrow.
Amy: I can't. It takes too long. Packing is an epic undertaking. But I always over pack.
Mum: Me too.
Amy: I mean, I need to decide what to wear to the signing. And an extra outfit in case it rains, even though I checked and it's not supposed to. A sweater in case it gets chilly.
Mum: One night. We're going to be gone for one night.
Amy: What if I spill something on my pants? Or rip them? Or decide to change my outfit?

I did over pack and I'm okay with that. This really isn't relevant to the amazingness but it's a bit of an insight into Amy-mind.

We finally hit the road. Our first song of the trip being "Ready to Go" by Panic! At the Disco (I was put in charge of music...)


Yes, I do usually take a picture of what time we leave...

I managed to stay awake for most of the car ride despite my only having gotten two and a half hours of sleep (I needed to finish SF Amy, which was about the signing). I did take a like ten minute nap in there somewhere.

We didn't get lost...exactly. Mum didn't know whether to follow Ada (the GPS) or the printed directions. Her method of choice was bouncing back and forth. I don't recommend this. At all. We didn't get lost, exactly, we just got a bit muddled. Ada eventually got us there.

Song playing: "24" by Jem

After a little...wait turn where?! we made it to the Richard Johnston Inn. It was a cute little place.

Don't tell my mother there's a picture of her up.
We were shown around by a very nice, if not slightly off the wall, lady. I spent the entire tour trying to both not knock anything expensive and glass over with my over packed duffel bag or step on the two dogs who kept circling me. We did eventually get to our room. This conversation happened:

Nice Lady: And there's some brandy there for a night cap. *pause* Oh, but not for you, Amy. That's only for Mom until you're old enough.
Amy: ....
Mum: She's 24.
Nice Lady: Oh my God! You don't look...I didn't mean...I'm sorry!

Well, I wasn't going to say anything. And I'm not actually 24 yet. I have a couple of weeks. Regardless, welcome to my life.

We were in the room long enough to brush teeth and then leave again. We wanted to scope out Jabberwocky a little. It took us a minute to find it but we did. We looked around inside a little when this happened.

Very Nice Employee: Can I help you find something?
Mum: Oh, we're coming to the signing tonight, we just wanted to check it out a little first.
Very Nice Employee: Oh!
Mum: Are you expecting a lot of people?
Very Nice Employee: Well, I didn't think so but then a woman called and said they were driving up from North Carolina. Now, I'm not too sure...
*Mum and Amy exchange glances*
Amy: We...drove down from Cleveland.
Very Nice Employee: *Pales* All the way from Ohio?
*Amy and Mum nod*
Very Nice Employee: Oh...Ohio?
Mum: *speaking quickly* We're not the norm though! I mean, we're a little off the beaten path!
*Very Nice Employee looks terrified but nods*
Mum: So, where are they going to be signing?

She looked genuinely horrified but was nice enough to show us around a little. We bought some books, I got my copies of Lament and Ballad, okayed and we headed back out to let the woman have a heart attack in peace.

Then we went to Colonial Cupcake, which I need to tell you because they had the best key lime cupcake EVER! I would have eaten that frosting out of a jar if I could have. I mean, really. It was fantastic. The red velvet wasn't bad either.

After that we headed back to the inn. We hung out a bit, cleaned up. Listened to more music. Mentally debated whether to have John Corey Whaley sign the pre-award Where Things Come Back or post-award Where Things Come Back (Pre won). After that we had a little bit of time. About an hour and a half. So, we went for a drink, somewhere that was within viewing distance of Jabberwocky.

The drink went something like this:

Amy: *takes a drink... leans over to see out of the window*
Mum: We have plenty of time.
Amy: *nods.*
Two minutes later
Amy: *leans over to see out of the window*
Mum: Still plenty of time.
Amy: *takes a drink*
Forty five seconds later
Mum: Oh.
Amy: What?!
Mum: I just thought I saw someone carrying books.
Amy: *Leans over really far to see out of the window*
Mum: Do you see anyone going in?
Amy: No.
Three minutes later
Amy: *leans over to see out of the window*
Mum: Do you want to go?
Amy: *jumps up* Okay.
Mum: *looks out the window* I don't even see anyone. Finish your beer first.
Amy: *considers pouting but instead downs the last two inches of her beer* Okay!
Mum: *rolls eyes*

We were one of the first people there. We hung out a bit. I met and chatted with some awesome people. Then we were standing in Jabberwocky, hanging out a little when in walked MAGGIE STIEFVATER. I froze for about half a second and then realized how ridiculous it was to be startled that she was there...I mean, really...

In the meantime, Mum is standing behind her waving and pointing. I didn't want to just throw myself at her...well, maybe I did, but I wasn't about to do it, so I hung back and hugged my books to my chest. Then this happened:

Very Nice Employee: Oh, and this woman and her daughter drove down from Ohio.
Maggie Stiefvater!: Ohio? How long of a drive was that?
Mum and Amy: Seven and a half hours.
Maggie Stiefvater!: Wow. Well, I might have something for you. I give something away to the person who drives the farthest. I think that'll be hard to beat.

Then in walks JOHN COREY WHALEY! Repeat the moment before where I freeze and then realize I'm an idiot for it. They hug. It's sweet. I'm trying not to collapse because, even though I knew it was coming, I'm standing in the same room as MAGGIE STIEFVATER and JOHN COREY WHALEY!
They have a moment of chats and then Maggie Stiefvater! steps out to park Loki and this happens:

Very Nice Employee: And she and her mother drove from Ohio.
John Corey Whaley!: Really? You're here for Maggie right?
Amy: *Too enthusiastically and too quickly* No! Both of you! (It almost took physical restraint not to tell him how much I adored Where Things Come Back)

At this point I think I frightened him a little so Mum and I retreated to the hall where they'd set up a table.

Mum was not impressed with the size of the table.
We sat around a bit and I got to talk to a wonderful person named Steph from (The Fake Steph). She's going to BEA...I'm not at all jealous...

There was a bit of a hooplah with the lights in the hall being on timers so there was a bit of a delay. This also means Mum took over taking pictures because her camera is a little bit (a lot) better than mine (not that I don't love Albus.)


Pictures do get a little lighter. A little.

 And this happened:

Maggie Stiefvater!: I know we have some people who drove from Ohio.
Amy: *flushes I'm pretty sure*
Maggie Stiefvater!: I have this piece I'm going to give to whoever came the furthest. Put up your hands if you drove more than an hour.
*hands up*
Maggie Stiefvater!: Two hours.
*fewer hands*

So on and so forth until it was just me and Mum left. At which point I am given this:

Only sans frame. I was home all of fifteen minutes before I went out to pick one up
And for half a second I'm dizzy and realize it is because I have forgotten how to breathe. And Mum keeps repeating: "That is so cool." And this little exchange happens:

John Corey Whaley!: I don't have anything for you.
Amy: *eyes the size of Alaska* That's okay. I actually have something for you...
Mum: She has something for you!

And I feel like an idiot again.

I think I lose a couple minutes in here. But they introduce themselves and Maggie Stiefvater! starts talking.

She is absolutely hysterical (if you don't already know) and tells us a little about The Scorpio Races and how she pitched it (Jurassic Park meets My Little Pony), that David Levithan is rather demonic and likes to use the word "nonnegotiable" on her deadlines, and that her muse frequently tells her to make cookie dough rather than write. She is sort of from Fredericksburg and the book store in Mercy Falls is based on Riverby books. She also used to take Bag pipe lessons in the building the signing was held. Shiver = Still Wolf, Watching or Still, Wolf Watching (commas placed for separation emphasis) but who knows which?

As someone who writes, I loved hearing her talk about naming her characters and how she defended Sam's name. And how she acknowledges that names come with perceptions. It's cool to hear how she sits down to write one scene a day and sometimes it takes an hour and sometimes all day. And since I fairly recently decided to rewrite my own book, I felt better when she said she completely rewrote Forever.

She read us the "Jurassic Park scene" from The Scorpio Races.
Start on page 228

This woman is so energetic and you can just tell how much she loves to write. She was really made for it.

Next John Corey Whaley! stood up to talk. He gave us a little summary of Where Things Come Back and read us a scene.

Start on page 115 (Chapter 13)
We got to hear all about how he writes as it strikes him. He's rewritten one of his books. Where Things Come Back was initially called Good God Bird (another separation question) (I think I read this somewhere before) but Maggie Stiefvater had never heard it before and there were many jokes. And then the book was called The Place Where Things Come Back but it was shortened for the sake of brevity. He seems to enjoy NPR and got the idea for Where Things Come Back listening to it. Most of the characters are named for towns. While he was teaching he stumbled across a rather unlikable student who had the same name as a character of his and told his editor the characters name had to be changed because it didn't flow.

On the writing side, I do enjoy the inside information about the names and the towns. I like how it was different from how Maggie Stiefvater! did hers.I find it fascinating that he doesn't write a scene unless he knows he wants it there. I can't do that.

They took some questions. John Corey Whaley! was asked about the end of his book but wouldn't tell us anything due to the potential for spoilers (which meant the question I had in my head for the two of them couldn't be asked).

Then someone asked about how they wrote and John Corey Whaley! and Maggie Stiefvater! had a great conversation about how they write towards an ending. Whether they have it set in their mind. John Corey Whaley! might have several in mind and chooses one. Maggie Stiefvater! knows how it is going to end. Maggie Steifvater! used the opportunity to get a couple of Good God Bird digs in there.

They really are so funny together. They have such a good banter between them, harassing each other (okay, Maggie Stiefvater! harassing him mostly) and they both care so much about what they're doing.

So, then we moved on to the signing and I stood in line, trying to remember the breathing thing again and managed to not pass out (or trip, or freeze, or stammer (for the most part on the last one)). The whole time I was terrified I was going to smear Maggie Stiefvater's beautiful piece of artwork.

Since John Corey Whaley!'s line wasn't quite as long we got up there pretty quickly. I tried not to creep him out entirely by staring while I was next. I set my book down and then the thing I had brought him. Which was a pack of bookmarks that looked like this:

I had found them at Target and promised him via Twitter that I would bring them to the signing. At which point this happened:

John Corey Whaley!: *head whips up* "You're that Amy!"

I have yet to figure out whether that's a good thing or not (I harass the poor man rather frequently). He thanked me rather profusely and I think I was the same color as my red button down. We chatted a bit about twitter and then I got this written in my book:

Much to my eternal delight.
We decided that rather than being ego maniacal it was part of his charm.

After a bit more waiting I got up to Maggie Stiefvater! and just managed to thank her for the picture without fangirling myself to death. She seemed a little surprised when I had Lament and Ballad for her to sign rather than any of the Wolves of Mercy Falls books (which I already have via Fountain Books). (That's a lie, I got a copy of Shiver signed for my beloved Laura)

Then she asked me which my favorite in the stack was. I froze for half a second. It took a second for me to decide I love them all. But in the split second I said The Scorpio Races. It's true but it was a tough call.


She did it for everyone but I'm still psyched about the horse drawn in my copy of The Scorpio Races.

We scampered out before I shook myself to pieces. First we went to the hotel because, even before I was given the beautiful artwork, I refused to take signed books into a restaurant (what if something happened?!).

Then, of course we had to go check out Riverby. (Then, of course I bought a Riverby tee shirt)

Shh! Don't tell her!
It was so cool! I could totally see Sam sitting at that little desk with his cranes above him.

Then we went to a rather unremarkable dinner at the ale house. (We were ignored for a bit then they were out of the beers we ordered and then my food was undercooked. It was kind of a mess).

Then because I had no sleep and mum had driven the whole way (and we're boring) we headed back toward the inn.

The next morning we were up early again and we left around 7:00 again. I was even more tired without the anticipation amping me up so I was totally remiss at taking pictures on the way back.

But what I learned on this trip was:
1. YA authors are really awesome (I mean, I knew that already but...)
2. Maggie Stiefvater! was called Satan in school but David Levithan scares even her a little.
3. Despite being "ego maniacal" John Corey Whaley! is a bit humble.
4. They both talk with their hands, Maggie Stiefvater! a little more so.
5. Seven and a half hours is apparently a ridiculously noteworthy distance to drive for a book signing.
6. Colonial Cupcakes.

Well, that's about it. Feel free to ask questions, I'll answer them if I can. I hope you enjoyed my rambling story telling. They were really far more beyond epic than I can describe. It was so much fun and way beyond worth the drive.



  1. I cannot properly express how much I adore every line of this post and how desperately jealous I am of your trip :)

    1. It was awesome. They were so wonderful!