WARNING: This is really long. But I don’t care.
Last Thursday night, I pulled into the parking of BookPeople (Austin’s beloved indie bookstore) 20 minutes before an author event and signing. As I parked my car, I yelled “WHERE IS EVERYONE HOW IS THERE SO MUCH PARKING AVAILABLE DON’T YOU KNOW SHANNON HALE IS HERE?!” Then I laughed at myself and thought about how I arrived at this moment.
*cue the flashback harp sound and wavy line effect*
It was 2003. I was 18 years old. Since I was 16, I spent most of my free time roaming around the Barnes & Noble five minutes from my house. On this particular day, I was wandering around the childrens/YA section, and noticed a book on an end cap. The cover was a pretty, simple, crackled illustration and I couldn’t decide if I liked at first. I picked it up, and flipped through the pages. The pages felt nice. It looked interesting. I read the first line and liked it. I was broke, so I wrote down the title and author in my notebook and soon checked it out from the library.
The book was The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and it changed my life. I just didn’t know it yet.
I read The Goose Girl before I read Harry Potter. As I sit here, sifting through my life, sorting out what has influenced and changed me, the Shannon Hale and J.K. Rowling piles seem about equal. They are very different piles of influence, but the effect they have had on me has been profound.
You know those quiet people who are so wonderful you sometimes take them for granted? That is Shannon Hale to me. Yes, I have given The Goose Girl as a gift multiple times. I have bought each of the subsequent books of Bayern in hardcover the week they have been released. I have named her as a favorite current author and I have read her blog since, well, she started one. But it wasn’t until this year that I realized how much The Books of Bayern and Shannon Hale mean to me. Part of me is still processing it, and so I can’t quite talk about it all right now, but re-reading The Goose Girl for its 10th (!!!) anniversary this summer finally opened my eyes to the ginormous and lasting impact Shannon Hale has had on my life.
So imagine me when I see the tweet announcing her upcoming book tour and Austin is one of the stops. Did you imagine me screaming? Because I did. Did you picture me sending capslocked tweets about it? Um, yeah. Now imagine me picking up my Bayern books from my parents house (because most of my books are still in my old bookcases in my old room) and getting teary eyed. Seriously.
*squiggly lines and end of flashback music*
So there I was, super early to the Tween Panel with plenty of time to sit and freak out. This is where is pays to have unlimited text messaging and a best friend who will listen to your crazy. And this is when I learned, yet again, how awesome book people can be. There wasn’t a lot of people there early and the authors were late to come back from dinner, so it gave me a chance to chat with the other people waiting about how long we had been reading Shannon’s books, and to actually touch and hold an ARC of her new book, Dangerous (out next year!), a book blogger had brought along. It was great.
Eventually the authors arrived and more people showed up and it was a great panel with interesting questions and thoughtful, funny, fascinating, answers and full of good stories. It seemed to go by so fast and before I knew it, we were queueing up to get our books signed. I was trying SO HARD to stay calm and cool and collected. But I knew. I knew I was going to get up to that table and cry. I waited and watched as Shannon spent time with each fan (the younger kids this event was really for, and us older ones who grew up with Isi and Enna), talking to them, signing every book and taking pictures. Suddenly I realized *I* wanted a picture. I fumbled around my purse for my phone, clutching my five books close, and when I pulled it out and opened up the camera app, the mom behind me asked “Oh! You want me to take a picture of y’all when you get up there?” YES! Please! Thank you! And then I chatted with her and her daughter about our favorite Shannon books. Mom and daughter in the pink shirts, you guys were awesome and you helped make my night.
AND THEN IT WAS MY TURN. And I talked to Shannon Hale. And I was only about a 3 on the Christine awkward scale. And the pink shirt mom took my phone and started taking pictures while we were talking and Shannon was signing “because those pictures are always great, you’ll love them.” And I do.
I gushed. I rambled. I cried. I tried so hard not to loose it, but I totally almost did and so I just cried. And she asked me questions and I answered. I told her I gave the Goose Girl out as a gift more than any other book and she said she probably owed me some royalties. I told her something I haven’t told a lot of people and we chatted about that. And it was wonderful. And then it was time for a picture.
Me: “Okay, you know that super cheesy smile you make when you’re 3 years old?”
Me: “Can you do that smile?”
Her: “OH, YEAH!”
It’s my new favorite picture.
I got my books signed. I got to talk with Shannon Hale. I got my cheesy smile picture. And I got a hug. I didn’t even have to ask for it. I think she just knew it was what I wanted most of all.
I cried the entire drive home. Because sometimes you don’t realize what an impact a person has made on you until years later. Sometimes you don’t get the chance to tell them–to thank them. Sometimes you will never meet them.
But sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you’ll get a hug.