I mentioned last time that I had my first official author appearance a couple weeks ago. It was with a book club of current and former educators. A colleague from my former school asked me if I would join them in February after they’d read my book. I was happy to oblige – it would be a practice run for (hopefully) future appearances.
Having never been in a book club or even ever visited one (and not one to enjoy groups of people) I wasn’t sure what to expect. But knowing the woman who invited me, I should have expected exactly what I got: incredible warmth and hospitality coupled with to-the-point questions and genuine interest in “Making Room”. The ladies gave me a gluten free spread that went beyond kind: Endangered Species chocolate bars, fresh strawberries & apples, Annie’s Bunnygrams, Odwalla smoothies, broccoli salad, and GF crackers. (If you haven’t figured out how much I love food, read most of my blogs. There is usually a mention of food, and it’s usually sweets).
After we all chatted about school and such for about 30 minutes, the Smart Ladies Book Club (not their real name but that’s what I’m calling them) started asking questions. I showed them my very, very first draft:
And the second copy, including a 2011 calendar (not pictured):
I needed the calendar because the timing was soooo off. Since I wrote MR over the course of 8 years, sometimes Elizabeth was 24, sometimes she was 26. Sometimes she had 3 brothers, sometimes she had 2. Sometimes her brothers were older, sometimes they were younger. I am a visual learner, so I needed – absolutely needed – that calendar.
I talked some about the writing process, and then about the 9 rounds of edits the novel went through before it is what you see today. It went through 7 full rounds with just me, my father-in-law, and my aunt Bonnie. Then another two rounds with the publisher. One of the Smart Ladies asked me to read from the original, and it was so bad I actually wouldn’t read anything from it! It was bad, people. It was embarrassing. Sometimes a writer looks over a first draft and thinks to her/himself, “Wow, I wrote that? That’s good.” Others times, he/she thinks, “Um, I wrote that? And now I’m published? Blegh.” I’m usually of the latter, but that’s okay. We’re all our own worst critic.
Then they started asking questions. Smart Ladies wanted to know who the characters were based on, if I had any of the same experiences as Elizabeth, and if I had any of the faith struggles Elizabeth had. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed answering their questions! And I was surprised by some of my answers. I told them a lot about Gram and Gramps:
They are the inspiration for any solid, strong grandparent character that I will ever write.
I realized the Christmas gift scene was mirrored after a Christmas when my brother gave me a stuffed polar bear and a Winnie the Pooh toaster (both of which I still have). He was jumping out of his skin waiting for me to open them.
And I realized that characteristics of the three brothers were inspired by my cousin Joe, who was by my side every day from 7th grade until graduation. Literally – our lockers were right next to each other. He was one of my best friends all those years and is one of the strongest Christians I know.
I have three more author events coming – March 30th, June 28th, and August 15th. March and June will be shared with other authors but August 15th will be just me! Thank goodness I have 5 months to prepare – plenty of time to work off the cold sweats that overtake me when I think about standing in front of people and talking about myself (or something related to myself). More about those events as I get details!