Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Sunday, August 17, 2008

LDS Booksellers Convention

by Sariah S. Wilson

This saga begins at 3:30 in the morning – the time I had to get up to get me and the baby to the airport. Fortunately, people are very kind because the thing I worried most about (how to get suitcases and baby and stroller on/off the shuttle) I was helped with. All things considered, the baby did very well. She was fine on the flights there, although I did have to keep her entertained the entire time.

On the second leg of my trip, I sat on the aisle (and can I just mention that on all of my flights EVERY single seat was filled? What is this madness? I hate full flights!) and directly across from me was a woman who engaged me in a conversation. She was traveling with her three small children, which included a 5-year-old son with Asperger’s (which led to a very important conversation where I feel fully convinced that the Lord intended for us to meet just so that I could help her down the road of getting services for her child on the spectrum), an 8-year-old daughter and a 21-month-old son. Her two boys slept, and we found out we were both from Ohio and both LDS.

Now knowing me as you do, you know making conversation wasn’t easy for me, but Becky (the woman sitting next to me) really made it simple and enjoyable.

Toward the end of the flight, her toddler woke up and accidentally spilled his Cheerios. The 8-year-old got down to help her mom and tried to pick up as much of it as she could. The stewardess walked past and ordered the child back into her seat (we weren’t landing, but the seatbelt light was on). Becky tried to explain that they were cleaning up the mess but the flight attendant was uninterested and again ordered the girl back in her seat.

We landed at SLC, gathered up our things, and went to wait for our strollers. Because we were in the second row, we had a bit of time to wait.

The same flight attendant came out of the plane and approached Becky. She then went on a rant that absolutely stunned me. The attendant began berating Becky for the mess her children made, screaming at her and insulting her in every fashion imaginable. As I stood there stunned, Becky apologized repeatedly, saying she hadn’t realized that it was as bad as the attendant insinuated it was, and offered to go back on the plane to clean up the mess herself. The flight attendant snapped that for security reasons, Becky would not be permitted back on the plane.

So at this point, I’m trying to figure out what it was the attendant wanted. Becky apologized over and over. She offered to clean the mess. I don’t know what more she could have done. But this wasn’t good enough for this woman. When Becky said that she was traveling with three small children and doing her best, the attendant snapped back that she had eight children and that Becky’s children were old enough to know how to behave themselves.

I was shocked and appalled. I have never witnessed such disgusting behavior from anyone on an airline. I don’t mind mentioning it was Frontier Airlines, and that I am in the process of sending them a letter about this. Customer service aside, the things coming out of that attendant’s mouth as she verbally lashed out at Becky, who was dealing with these kids, one of whom had a disability, was enough to make me livid.

So, that sort of set the tone for me that day, unfortunately.

I arrived at the LDSBA Convention not too long after that. After walking the wrong direction at the convention center, I did finally find where I was supposed to go.

I have to say LDS Publisher’s past pictures made the convention look cooler than it was. It was a lot smaller than I imagined, and there were far fewer people there than I thought there would be. I have heard it bandied about that the convention may not continue because of costs and the reduction in bookstores, and it wouldn’t surprise me.

I had enough time to stop by the Covenant booth, meet Traci Hunter Abramson (who was willing, ready and able to watch over me), say hi to everyone there, collect my official Covenant shirt (which was, predictably enough as this is how my life works, too small despite me looking up the shirt sizes on the website), and take off with my editor and the acquisitions editor to go to an Italian restaurant for lunch.

I am a picky eater (this may surprise you, I’m so sure). So as I ruled out basically anything non-American, I felt like I couldn’t say no to the Italian. I mean, when I go to the Olive Garden I can find that chicken and steak grill. No such luck this time.

Which meant I ended up ordering spaghetti as I hadn’t eaten since the day before. Yes, I got flecks of marinara sauce on my new too-small Covenant shirt. Yes, I scarfed that thing down in record time (I was STARVING). But I did manage to make conversation yet again. Woo-hoo!

We returned to the convention, and Traci and I went out to a local Seagull that she had made previous arrangements to stop by. It was so, so nice to meet the manager and have her say that she liked my book. That it actually made her laugh out loud. (Hear that Wells? You’re not the only funny one!) That she thinks every single one of you should rush out and buy it. Okay, the last part was an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

We returned to the Expo Center in time for me to have my official booksigning. The way this works is tickets are passed out for a limited number of books that the publisher gives away to book buyers. This helps to get the buyers to come to the booths, to meet the authors, and for some of them to maybe find a new author they haven’t tried before (like me!). The tickets were passed out half an hour before the signing. (We timed Traci’s tickets, and they were all gone within three minutes.)

I got to meet Nancy (N.C.) Allen (who does not have a website, apparently) who has written a Civil War saga for Covenant, and is about to release a spin-off of that set in India. Our meeting was very brief, but she seemed so nice.

I also got to meet Jeri Gilchrist, who ended up helping with co-babysitting responsibilities with Traci. Jeri and I discovered we both had a deep, and abiding adoration for Kerry Blair (who helped Jeri to become an author in the first place).

Then…it was time for my signing.

Best. Signing. EVER.

Who knew all you had to do was give away free books to get people to come to your signing?

Complete and total blast.

After I was done I walked around the convention floor. With the exception of maybe two booths, there didn’t seem to be much decorating going on as I’ve seen in pictures in the past. But tons of neat artwork and fun stuff to look at.

I also hung around the Covenant booth, although I didn’t quite have anything near Traci’s dynamic personality/energy. I interjected on a couple of sales pitches when they were looking at my books (“I hear that book is AWESOME.”) I think I even helped a couple of times in getting them to order more of my books. (Although for all I know Covenant sales staff is reading this and saying, “If by help you mean screw things up, then yes, you helped.”)

(Three pages in Word already! Are you hanging in there with me? I’m nearly done!)

I also got to meet Julie Wright (who runs her own store. Who knew?), who is absolutely hilarious, and has this sort of cool, bohemian vibe going on for her. I also got to meet James Dashner, AKA the man too big and famous and awesome for all of us plebian writers now, and to let you know the sort of idiotic thing I’m prone to do in public, I met Josi Kilpack. And what do I say when I meet Josi? I’m sure “Nice to meet you,” would have worked. Or, “I’m so thrilled I get the chance to finally meet you,” might have been even better.

Did I say those things? No. What did I say?

“Wow, you look a lot different than I pictured you!”

It’s only after the fact that you realize how offensive you might have sounded (although zero offense was intended and you honestly don’t know why you’ve just said something so stupid), and you try to make it better, but it never actually gets better. “Julie looks the way I pictured her because I’ve seen her picture.” Yep, that’s me fixing it.

Josi was nice enough to ignore my fumbling attempts and to direct me over to the Whitney Awards booth to kind of refocus myself and to hope to make an actual and real conversation with people again.

I got to meet Jewel Adams and Stacy Gooch Anderson and chat with them for a little while. I “know” them from the LDStorymakers loops (where I am more of a lurker than a poster) and got to have another fun experience when I realized that my sister (the one taking care of the baby), who was supposed to contact Stacy (because Stacy had so graciously offered to lend me a portable crib while I was in Utah so that I wouldn’t have to lug one around) and decline the offer because my sister had made other arrangements, never did. Yeah, I felt stupid. But this is obviously not a new thing for me.

The convention ended, and I had dinner with my brother, sisters, their spouses and kids. Famous Dave’s Barbecue. Because obviously that’s the best place to take small children.

The next morning started out with the Covenant breakfast. My eating was so screwed up with the time differential that I wasn’t even hungry. I entered that event, looked at all the people already seated, panicked for a second, and…called Traci on her cell phone. Fortunately she was in line, waved me over, I grabbed a muffin and we found a table with Jeri. We sat with a high level exec from Seagull, a district manager and a store manager. Hopefully some good impressions were made.

Then they had a presentation of an upcoming book (sort of like a Garrison Keillor thing set in Utah by some SLC news anchor), an album of Emma songs (which made me wonder, is this like the anniversary of Emma’s birth or death or something? Because I swear everything in the stores music and book wise were Emma Smith related), and a new DVD/book called Mormon Mythellaneous that is out to debunk Mormon myths.

After that instead of returning to the conference, I made the decision to visit bookstores in the area. I felt like I had done all I could do at the convention and should use this time to visit stores instead. So if anyone is looking for a signed copy of my book, any of the Seagull stores down south (Spanish Fork, American Fork, Orem, Provo, Linden, etc.) should have one because I signed every single one I could find.

Plus, for some reason, my tongue was loosed and I was trying to sell my book to everybody in the store. I think I might have sold more copies going store to store than I did in my last trip doing signings.

And it is such a thrill to walk into a store and see your book facing straight back at you. I know a lot of you Utah authors are probably over that feeling, but I never get to see mine. It made me feel giddy each and every time. The book was everywhere – at the register, on shelves by the register, in new releases and on a display table, so here’s to hoping the third one sells well! (And have I mentioned that Desire of Our Hearts is 50% off? I did? Okay, I’m mentioning it again. You need to buy it. Seriously.)

I made time to stop by and see most of my husband’s family (which wins me the Best Wife Ever Award for that day at least) and then back to the airport and back home. With a late night flight (that of course, had been delayed by two hours) where my daughter refused to fall asleep (which involved her throwing her sippy cup and sippy cup lid at the nice man seated next to me), and said tantrum felt really long but when I got off the plane Sippy Cup Target Man said she was so good, so it probably felt longer than it was.

I was so relieved to be home, but glad to have had the experience of attending the convention and of visiting bookstores. Then you know what happened after that (husband appendicitis), but I’m thinking it might be a while before I get back to Utah again. I can’t believe how exhausting it is to travel like that.


At 8/17/2008 11:38 PM, Blogger Janice said...

It's too bad your daughter didn't launch her sippy cup at the flight attendant. You'll have to take a nice leaky cup filled to the brim with red Kool-Aid for your next trip. Then the flight attendant will know what a big mess is really like. It's a perspective thing.

At 8/17/2008 11:50 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Sariah, you accomplished more in two days in Utah than I can manage in a week. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences -- I loved reading about them.

Speaking of things I love to read, my copy of Servant to a King arrived yesterday. (Finally!) I lay aside Alice Hoffman to start it. (You may not know me well enough to realize that is about the highest compliment I can pay a writer, but it is.) It's . . . mesmerizing. I really do think it's your best yet.

At 8/18/2008 1:46 PM, Blogger hcrecord said...

Wow! What a weekend. I've had days like those too! You seem to have handled it all with grace. I just wanted to let you know that I loved your book! I work at the Seagull Book in Ogden. I have been suggesting "Servant to a King" like crazy because I enjoyed it so much. It is funny, romantic, captivating and made me pick up my Book of Mormon to re-read the story of Ammon again. Anything that inspires me to read scripture is worth my time. I plan on reading your previous novels now as well. Thank you for sharing your talent.

At 8/18/2008 4:05 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Sounds like a whirlwind -- glad you had a good time!

At 8/18/2008 8:52 PM, Blogger Traci Hunter Abramson said...

Okay, so you are totally making me laugh here...and I don't think you were exaggerating about that store manager wanting everyone to rush out and buy your book. Everyone who has read it loves it! (Personally, I have my copy sitting on my night table waiting for the Olympics to end so I can pick it up and start reading.)

Glad to hear the rest of your trip went so well!

At 8/18/2008 10:03 PM, Blogger Becky said...

Hi, this is the store manager that Sariah and Traci came to visit. Go buy Sariah's book Servant to a King! Absolutely loved it!

At 8/19/2008 10:53 AM, Anonymous Michael said...

Why do the people on the jacket picture look like northern European descendants from Utah? Wouldn't they have been more from a Lamanite background? I can't get past the cover art mismatch.

At 8/19/2008 11:05 AM, Anonymous Michael said...

I also just noticed that the young woman has what appears to be modern cosmetics on her face. What's up with that?

Just my observations.

At 8/19/2008 1:25 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Janice - I may have to remember that tip for next time!

Kerry - You should lay aside Alice Hoffman for me. I like you lots more than Alice Hoffman likes you. Plus, Jeri and I started a We Love Kerry fanclub. That should definitely move us up the reading list. ;)

Heather - thank you so much for the kind words! I hope you like the first two as much as you liked the third (and have I mentioned that my second book is 50% off at Seagull?)

Tristi - I don't know if it was a good time so much as a productive time. But productive is good, right?

Traci - I'm disappointed. I thought that was your ride home read. What gives, woman? ;)

Becky - thanks for coming here and putting my words in your mouth! Woo-hoo! (I am really glad I got to meet you while I was in Utah.)

Michael - Let me just say that I have zero control over cover art and I'll leave it at that.

At 8/19/2008 1:45 PM, Anonymous Michael said...


Did you have a big fight with publisher for a more realistic cover? Give me the name and e-mail address of the person responsible. I will let my feelings be known quite bluntly so they stop with their fraudulent marketing ploys! They always want to present white-bread images on everything. I will get to the bottom of it.

And maybe I will also find time to actually read the story!

At 8/19/2008 5:40 PM, Blogger Traci Hunter Abramson said...


I was going to read on the way home...until I accidentally packed your book into the wrong suitcase. I know. I know. It's a lousy excuse, but I did have several people trying to help me pack so that my suitcases didn't go over the weight limit. Anyway, since I didn't have your book with me, I did the only thing I could think of on that long red-eye flight. I fell asleep. :)

At 8/26/2008 1:13 PM, Blogger Josi said...

So I'm three weeks behind, welcome to my world. I didn't even remember you saying that, Sariah, I was too worried that I smelled like BO all day since I was all kinds of sweaty and gross. It was fun to meet you, I wish we'd had more time to chat. Maybe next year.


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