Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, September 15, 2008

Day Two of School Visits & the Launch Party

“J Scott Savage, ace reporter, here on the scene to report to you from what some people are calling a whirlwind of activity.”

Okay, I’m not really a reporter. And, to the best of my knowledge, I’m the only person calling it a whirlwind of activity. And even I hadn’t ever called it a whirlwind of anything until I wrote this. So you are officially allowed to take the rest of this post with a grain of salt or two. But I promise that everything else I write here today will be the way it all really happened.

When last we left off, it was Thursday night. I had just completed my first round of school visits and was—hopefully—prepared for the second round. First of all, let me just say that I LOVE school visits. I love the way the kids give you these curious looks when they file in. I love the way some of them wave. I love the feeling of energy as the entire gym becomes packed with kids. The teachers do a really good job of keeping things in check. But the rumble of voices and the wave of excitement are palpable. So I was really pumped to go back out.


This time, I called all three schools I was visiting in advance, which made things much smoother. When I showed up at the first school, Brockbank Elementary, everything was ready, which made setting up much easier. By the time the kids filed in, the projector was running, the first slide was up and all of the props were in place. I felt much more comfortable with the presentation too. No pauses, trying to remember what the next slide was. The new clicker worked like a charm. It even has a little laser doohickey so I can point things out on the screen. In fact, the only problem I ran into was that some of the story cards got turned around so I was showing the back “hidden” part. But no worries. We had a ball and the kids were great. They even took a picture of me with some of the students for the paper.

I finished the first school at 10:15, and the next school wasn’t until 12:45. My wife was at Sam’s Club with my parents buying chips and sodas for the launch party, so I called and asked her if they wanted to meet me at Cracker Barrel for lunch, where my son works as a server. When we got together, they all laughed at how I was losing my voice. It’s funny though, because my regular talking voice will get hoarse, but my presenting voice is just fine. It was nice to have a little break. Then on to the next school.

American Leadership Academy is a K-12 charter school, so I was in an auditorium for this one. Usually I am in a gym. This time I was up on stage with a huge screen and spotlight. That was cool, but there were two issues. First, the person who sets up all the equipment had forgotten about the event, so he wasn’t there. Suddenly there was a mad rush to find someone who could plug everything in. Second, my clicker doesn’t reach clear up to the sound room, so I can’t do my own slides. Fortunately, my wife is the Parent Council President there, and she got everything together like a champ. The presentation went great! Thanks Jeff and Johnny.

The one other funny thing I wanted to mention is that kids are really funny about autographs. Have you ever seen the line at Disneyland when one of the characters comes out? Generally I sign posters, bookmarks, and obviously books. But if one kid asks me to sign something else, suddenly everyone wants me to sign something. I’m totally good with that as long as we have time. But what is hilarious is what happens when none of them have any paper. I signed many, many shoes, sticky notes, notebooks, some teeny tiny scraps of paper, and again, had to tell about a dozen kids that I don’t sign hands, arms, foreheads, or any body parts. They assured me their parents wouldn’t mind seeing my name on their child’s head in permanent marker, but being a parent myself, I had to respectfully disagree.

My last school, Riverview, was at 2:30, and it went great as well. The students were funny, involved, and really seemed to enjoy the presentation. I even had one of the students bring me back the extra bookmarks and launch party invitations, as I was packing up. I thought that was pretty classy. Thus ended my second day of school visits. By Friday night I was confident I could take my show on the road without too many worries. Now the big question. Would any of the kids come to the launch party?


Even though I was extremely nervous about the big event, I slept like a log Friday night. Usually I read for a while before I crash, but I was so tired, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. At eight o’clock I popped wide awake though. We didn’t need to go pick anything up until 10:00, but I took a drive by the library just to see if the tents and chairs were out on the lawn. They were. (Thanks, Sterling!)

For several months, my wife and I have been planning the event. We decided to provide free food along with the posters to really give things a party atmosphere. Fortunately, Shadow Mountain agreed to cover the expenses. Spanish Fork Smokehouse BBQ and Pizza gave us a great deal on enough pulled pork sandwiches to feed 500 people. My wife ordered 300 cupcakes. Originally the plan had been to do four large cakes with the Water Keep cover on them, but Wal-Mart has these great “cakes” that are actually made of cupcakes. So we had four book cakes plus a bunch of assorted cupcakes in the Water Keep cover colors.

We had also gotten a ton of publicity for the event. The Deseret News ran a great article that included information about the party. The local cable channel did a story. The city sent out notice of the event in everyone’s utility bills. And of course I visited seven schools over two days. But two days earlier, I’d been talking to a friend and telling her how worried I was that no one would show up. Did she reassure me that there’d be a big turnout? No. Instead she told me about a well known musician who’d recently had an event where, despite massive publicity, no one showed up and they even forgot to have lights for the event. Thanks LS! J

So with all this in mind, we flash back to Saturday morning. I’d had nightmares that it would be terrible weather or everyone would forget the setup. But it was a beautiful day, with clear blue skies. Two big banners fluttered on the library lawn announcing the event. Two tents were set up with tables and chairs on the library lawn, and the Smokehouse tables were also set up. So far so good.

At 10:00, my wife and I went to Wal-Mart and picked up the cupcakes (Have you ever seen 300 cupcakes? It draws a lot of attention!) We also picked up ten bags of ice. Every time someone asked, “When’s the party?” Jen told them, “Come to the library. It’s going to be great!” She’s an awesome PR person.

At quarter to 11:00 we pulled up to the library and started unloading. Hopefully we’d thought of everything: extra pens for signing, tape, scissors, posters, bookmarks, chips, drinks, two big ice-chests. A few minutes later, my parents showed up with the drinks. By the time we were done setting up, everything looked great. Now it was time for me to go home and get changed into something a little more author-like than my jeans and t-shirt.

You know that feeling where you’ve invited all your child’s friends to a birthday party and no one is showing up? You look at your son’s or daughter’s face and keep saying, “Don’t worry. I’m sure they’ll be here soon.” That’s the feeling I had as I was home alone, changing clothes. What if nobody showed? My whole family would be there. Chris, from my publisher, had said he’d drop by. Even the local news was coming. What if we were all standing around with enough food to feed 500 people and no one showed? One thing we hadn’t taken into consideration when initially planning the event was that at 1:30 (halfway through the event) BYU was playing UCLA in Provo. We are smack dab in the middle of Cougar country, and it would definitely have an impact.

At a quarter to twelve—just as I was heading out the door—my wife called from the library.

“Where are you?”

“I’m on my way. I just took a minute to print a couple of arrows so we could point out where we are to people coming up to the front library door.”

“Well hurry up. People are here.”

“People? You mean real people or family?” Sorry family, I know you are real people. But . . . well . . . you know what I mean.

“Real people.”

Real People! My heart started to race. By the time I reached the library there was a small line. I hurried over to the tent, sat down, and started greeting people. You know how people talk about time going by in a blur? I don’t think I’d ever really understood what that meant until Saturday morning. As soon as I sat down, I focused on the people coming up to the table. It was great—kids, parents, families—signing posters, books, bookmarks. Taking to people about what kinds of books they liked to read. Getting tons of complements on the cover artwork. Hearing from children about how much they liked the school presentations, and even a few people who had already read or started reading the book.

Lots of the kids I’d met at schools came. It was a blast meeting them and talking to their families. Several bloggers I knew came by including Mind of Murph and Suey. People came by who knew my parents. Some of the cutest kids in the world came up to the table all shy and big-eyed. Courtney and Paul from Barnes and Noble were amazed by the crowd. Paul said it was the biggest turnout he’d ever seen for a single author event. Lots of family came. My older sister—and soon to be published author—brought me a beautiful plant. Two members of my critique group, Michele and LuAnn came by. Chris Schoebinger came with his cute, cute kids.

The local TV News and Newspaper came by to cover the event. All my fears of no one showing up disappeared in a wash of the nicest people. Every time I looked up there was a line.

At about 1:30, when the game started, there was the first break in the line. I thought it was going to wind down, but before I could even finish a sandwich, the line started up again. I didn’t realize how caught up in things I had been until the line finally wound down. I checked my watch and realized it was after 3:00. Then I realized everything and everyone except my wife was gone. Smokehouse was just putting things away. All the food was gone—ALL the food. I was absolutely astounded.

Final recap? 80 books sold. 400+ posters signed. 500 BBQ sandwiches, chips, and drinks consumed. 300+ cupcakes gone. Some incredible number of bookmarks given away. And a ton of new friends made. I would consider that a pretty big success considering that the most books I’d ever sold at a single signing was less than twenty.

I’ve posted some pics below, but I just wanted to tell everyone who came by, thanks so much for making the party such a great success. I wish I could have talked to you all longer, but it meant so much to me to have you there. Now it’s time to buckle down and finish Land Keep. But today, I’m just going to relax and bask!

That's right. Step into the living room and make yourself comfortable as I set up the slide projector. You'll love the one of little Timmy. Did I say one? I meant seventy-one.

At Brockbank Elementary, during my second day of school visits.

I love how many of the kids have great ideas when we are making up the plot for a story.

Three of my helpers with their posters.

Before the launch party begins.

Thank goodness people are buying books!

Not quite Stephenie Myer lines, but the line was there pretty much through the whole event!

My littlest guy serves cupcakes

I signed over 400 posters

Cool cupcake cakes, huh?

That's me and Paul from Barnes and Noble. I'm being interviewed by the local news.


At 9/15/2008 8:05 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

I like how you included pictures, just to rub it in our faces how awesome you are.

I've never liked you, Jeff.


At 9/15/2008 8:29 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

That's it. No cupcakes for you! And Jen saved you an extra big one too!

At 9/15/2008 9:24 PM, Blogger Becky said...

I knew it would be a great party! It was great to meet you again and get to talk with you for a little while. I also liked talking with your son while he handed out cupcakes and meeting your wife.

So, I think you're a good luck charm for BYU football, you should have a signing every time they have a home game. 59-0 BYU.

At 9/15/2008 9:48 PM, Blogger Melanie J said...

I can't believe you pulled something this big off in the middle of a BYU football game. It's proof you are a rock star...

At 9/15/2008 11:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad it went so well for you.
You not only sold lots of books, but look how many kids you got excited about reading!
Successful day all around, I would say.


At 9/15/2008 11:37 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Fun pictures! Did Paul borrow your glasses? You guys are like twins.

At 9/16/2008 2:23 AM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

You fantasy guys have all the fun.

David G. Woolley

At 9/16/2008 2:52 AM, Blogger Melanie Goldmund said...

Wow. I wish I could have been there -- and not just because of the cupcakes, delicious though they look. *wistful sigh*

At 9/16/2008 6:25 AM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Congratulations, Jeff! Wish I could have been there to see it and be properly jealous. :D

Enjoy your rest--you deserve it.

At 9/16/2008 5:33 PM, Blogger Danyelle Ferguson said...

Jeff - How awesome! I wish we still lived out there - we would have loved to come and let our kids terrorize the party. ;-)


At 9/17/2008 7:44 PM, Blogger Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Jeff, this is absolutely incredible. A million congrats to you, and you deserve every one. I'm so happy for you!

And I agree with Dave. You fantasy guys do have all the fun. ;-)

At 9/19/2008 3:03 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

How many times can I say how awesome this is? Awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome. Okay, that's enough. My fingers are tired. Way to go, Jeff!


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