Last month I wrote about my new-found love for young adult author Rainbow Rowell. Last night I met her.
I only learned about this event on Sunday when she posted it on Tumblr. I was momentarily thrilled until I realized that I was scheduled to work on Wednesday night. I was very disappointed, but I knew that I might just have to live with it. That is, until one of my coworkers generously offered to trade shifts with me. I guess my love for Ms. Rowell is so obvious that my coworkers knew this would be a special occasion for me.
The event was at the pavilion on Harriet Island in St. Paul. Having never been to an author event, I was expecting rows of folding chairs and a podium. All credit goes to the librarian organizers for making it a much more pleasant atmosphere. There were round tables with colored tablecloths, and each table had notecards for writing messages or questions to Rainbow. Oh, and also cookies.
I arrived absurdly early, as is in my blood, and popped into the restroom. Whose voice did I hear but Rainbow Rowell herself? Yes, I will happily admit that I was fangirl-ing in a bathroom stall. I followed my instinct, however, and did not accost her in the ladies’ room.
Rainbow was introduced by Anne Ursu, a children’s book author who teaches at Hamline University. In her brief introduction she made a statement that echoed something I have tried to articulate about Rainbow’s books. Her characters display real emotions, and as Ursu put it, “she gives these feelings such dignity.” Way to say it better than I ever could.
After a brief reading from Eleanor and Park, the majority of the evening was spent taking questions from the audience. Topics ranged from her writing process to specific characters to dealing with negative criticism. Rainbow gave full answers to each question, which made me feel like I learned a lot about her by the end of the night. She talked about deciding whether her books should be categorized as young adult or adult. When having those discussions with publishers, she wants to say, “Put them in the both section!” I like the idea that most stories are just plain human, and limiting ourselves according to certain categories is, well, limiting.
After the question and answer session, it was time for book signing. Being early came in handy when I was part of the first group to get in line. Meeting Rainbow was just lovely. I gave her a little note that I had written at the table, and she thanked me for recommending her books at my job. Nobody made me feel like I had to rush. Rainbow’s equally friendly sister was there helping out, and she took our picture.
Out of some vague sense of security, I’ve hesitated to post photos of myself on this blog. Well, now I say forget that because I have a photo with Rainbow Rowell! This was my first opportunity to meet a big-time writer, and it was definitely a rock star moment for me. Okay, true confessions time. I picked my outfit with the fantasy that Rainbow would say she liked my shirt, and she actually did!
From her books and internet presence, I had an impression of what Rainbow would be like, and this night only confirmed it. She is a talented woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously. She treats her characters warmly, and her fans as well. If you could, you would want to be her friend. I certainly do.