Monday, February 22, 2010

Five Things I Learned from Heather Brewer's Book Signing...

I attend a lot of author events because, well, I love to meet authors. Most recently I saw Heather Brewer, author of the best-selling Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series, doing a signing at my local B&N to support the release of book #4 in the series, ELEVENTH GRADE BURNS. This was a particularly fun author event for me (more on that below) and Heather did a terrific job addressing her young (and not so young) audience about her writing career and her books and her characters. Here are a few things we learned:

1) Give yourself permission to write.
Not to get all Nike on you, but if you want a career as a writer, it's not going to happen unless you just do it. Although it was something Heather longed for for years, she was told by parents and even her beloved librarians that being an author wasn't really an option and she'd need a "real job." Finally, she said, after her youngest child started school, she discussed her career options with her spouse. What would you do, he asked her, if money didn't matter and you could do whatever you wanted? I want to be an author, she told him. Then do it, he said. (She proceeded to write, find an agent, get a book contract, and hit high on the New York Times Bestseller List.) It's OK to give yourself permission to follow your dream. But if it takes a supportive, encouraging significant other, that's OK too.

2) Goal setting is important.
Heather's Brewer's formula: butt + chair = writing. Even when she's on tour she writes 1,000 words a day. Books don't write themselves, after all. So, again, just do it.

3) Mine the painful stuff for material.
Heather told the bookstore audience about growing up in a small town where she felt like an outcast and was bullied. (Except when she spent time in the library. "Bullies don't know there is a library," she said.) She calls upon these experiences as she writes her main character, Vladimir Tod. Because, really, who's more of an outcast than a vampire in junior high?

Heather Brewer's Chronicles of Vladimir Tod books.

4) Boys read.
And they come to author events. There were a lot of them and they were excited. I sat next to kid named Nick who talked my arm off about the books and characters he loved. (I asked him what grade he was in. "Sixth," he told me. Then he looked at me, paused, and said," You're not in any grade, are you?") Another boy raised his hand during the Q&A and when called on he was so nervous he couldn't remember his question. (He did later, then asked several more.) Another boy who seemed kind of shy was in front of me in the singing line. With his head slightly lowered he spent several minutes giving Heather a synopsis of the story he wants to get published (which sounded really cool). These boys love books.

5) Authors are rock stars.
OMG. The kids LOVE Heather. Love love love. A heard a few of them say they'd been there for hours because they wanted good seats. A couple of girls with hair dyed unnatural colors said they wanted to high five Heather and never wash their hands again. Four girls drove in from Michigan. (That's far.) One girl took a photo with the author, ran next door to Kinkos and got an 8x10 printed and came back to get it signed. And they were asking questions, thoughtful ones that could have only come from devoted fans. Tons of them wore vampire smiley face apparel. It was the best, most enthusiastic bunch of slightly awkward, slightly pimply, hoodie-wearing tween fans I'd ever seen. I wanted to take them all home with me. But I bet they all wanted to go home with Heather Brewer.

Heather Brewer at the signing table.


CJ Omololu said...

Great post! Heather rocks.

Test said...

Awesome post. It was fun to read about Heather's signing. :)

Shannon Morgan said...

That sounds fantastic. I love to hear about enthusiastic boy readers!

Cuppa Jolie said...

Sounds like an fab event! I love that you got asked about being in a grade. :)

You're in grade A-weseome, Alice!

SCBWI said...

Jolie, when the kid said, "You're not in any grade, are you?" I laughed a little and said, "No. I'm old." He told me I was NOT old and asked me for my email. I think he might be my boyfriend now ;)

Cuppa Jolie said...

Alice - that story just made my day brighten up! Thank you.(Oh, and I'm sure you make a cute couple.)

Marisa Birns said...

Enjoyed the post and the advice.

Butt in chair it is!

What a charming young man you met. :)

Vodka Mom said...

Alice- great, great post!




T. Powell Coltrin said...

I'm new here and love your blog and today's post. Heather's a little cutie patooty.

PS I think authors are rock stars.

N.H. Senzai said...

I caught Heather in action while she was in the SF Bay area - very inspiring!

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for sharing! Great reminders to just keep writing.

Bob West said...

Very helpful
God has greatly gifted you
I enjoyed visiting your blog
God Bless;

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great post. You made me want to read the series, especially since so many boys like it.

amymyoung said...

Awesome post. I am lucky enough to have a husband who encouraged me to write full time.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Alice, what a great post - I feel like I had a window into being there, and I learned a lot from your analysis. And yeah, boys read!
Namaste and a Hug,

Mary Witzl said...

Aww...those kids sound great. And Heather's book sounds fantastic.

Unknown said...

Oh, wow. That sounds like a great event. I can only hope that when I'm a published children's author (please, please, please) that I have such a devoted fan base as Heather's.

JeannetteLS said...

It's always good to read and RE-read the simple truths about writing. Do it. Give ourselves permission. Goals. Mining the rough stuff. Thank you for this post.

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