Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What I Learned from Brandon Sanderson

by Stephanie Black

My daughter messaged me on Gmail chat the other day—one of my daughters who lives in the house with me, mind you, not the one who’s off at college (instant messaging: today’s way of shouting, “Hey, Mom!”). Her message INVOLVED A LOT OF CAPS. Stop shouting, I told her, but she was beside herself with excitement. She’d just discovered that the very next day, Brandon Sanderson—excuse me, I mean BRANDON SANDERSON—was coming to a bookstore in San Francisco. Can you look up when and where, I asked her, to which she responded, “here!!!!!!!! aaaaaa” which, while it conveys her feelings, is a little hard to plug into Google Maps. So she came up with a bookstore—Borderland Books— and an address. “you knoooow you want to,” she messaged to me. “you knooow we want a copy of Way of Kings anyway.” Truth is, I did kinda want to go—I mean, come on, it’s Brandon Sanderson. How totally cool is that? But going to San Francisco is something of a production. Takes about an hour to get there, and I very, very rarely drive in SF—when we go up there, my husband drives. I don’t like city driving—I’m a suburbanite to the bone and inordinately fond of parking places, of which SF does not have an abundance. But my husband plugged the address into Google and found out that—oh happy day!—the bookstore was only a few blocks from a BART station (that’s the train, for any of you picturing the Simpsons). We could take the train and then walk—much less stressful for me than driving up there and trying to find somewhere to leave the minivan. Plus—bonus news!—the bookstore was only a couple of blocks from our favorite San Francisco bakery, Tartine. You may now take a moment to think about frangipane tarts and chocolate éclairs and envy us.

Okay, where was I? We arrived at the bookstore about half an hour early, and it’s a good thing we did, because already there was a line at the register to purchase The Way of Kings, and already the seats were all filled. Yes, we are Brandon Sanderson Booksigning Novices and didn’t realize how early we’d need to arrive. We ended up standing in the back, but we were there early enough to have a good view.

Brandon read from The Way of Kings, did a Q and A, and then a signing. Throughout the event, he was friendly, funny, articulate, interesting, and personable. Given the size of the crowd, the signing took a long time. I started to worry that the nearby bakery would close before my daughter got her books signed (now you know how my mind works. As Rob would say after consuming a vat of Coke and a bacon grease smoothie, don’t judge me!). I slipped away, bought a bunch of goodies, and returned while my daughter was still waiting. Of course, now I had a big white bakery box and felt somewhat silly carrying it around the bookstore, so I slipped it into my tote bag, which reduced the silliness factor by a hair—the box was concealed, but now I had to carry my bag horizontally so I didn’t smash the pastries. So I still looked goofy (why is that woman carrying her book bag flat like that?), but perhaps slightly less piggy.

The exciting moment arrived—hooray!—and it was our turn to talk to Brandon. He signed my daughter’s books and talked with us for a moment, and the bookstore lady, seeing that I had a camera with me, kindly offered to take our picture. I was extremely impressed with how Brandon took time to talk to each person there, to give them a chance to ask him questions, and just overall to make them feel valued. It was a great example to me of how to treat people—here’s this famous author with a big crowd all eager to meet him, and he takes the time to make sure every person feels important. It was like when I met him for the first time at the Whitney Awards gala a couple of years ago. I was all nervous and excited and asked him if I could have his autograph for my daughter--he kindly signed a Whitney program for me--and he asked me about my book and I was super impressed with how nice he was.

It’ll be one heck of a far distant day if I ever have a signing that draws people like Brandon Sanderson does, but no matter how many or how few people come to see me, I hope I can follow Brandon’s example of making sure everyone knows how much I appreciate them. Heck, that’s a good policy to follow no matter what I'm doing or where I am. So, thanks, Brandon, not only for sharing your talents, but for being such a nice guy.


At 9/15/2010 8:25 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I'm surprised you didn't meet him at the book academy conference last year. (No, I didn't meet him either.) That was before the WoT book came out, though, so no big mobs yet. I enjoyed his keynote presentation then, though. Seems like a good guy.

Man, I would love to take HIS creative writing class at BYU.

He's really into Twitter, btw, giving out all these clues for the Great Hunt. If you happen to be into the Magic the Gathering Card game, he's apparently really good at it. =)

At 9/15/2010 10:17 PM, Blogger Melissa J. Cunningham said...

What fun! I haven't read anything of Brandon's, but I plan to!

At 9/15/2010 11:48 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Jon, there WAS a mob at the Book Academy--did you see the line for his signing? I really enjoyed his keynote presentation.

I'm clueless about the Magic card game except for the tiny bit my daughter told me (she doesn't play, but is more informed than I am).

Melissa, my daughter is currently loving Way of Kings. It'll keep you occupied for a while--it's a thousand pages!

At 9/16/2010 5:58 AM, Blogger Melanie Goldmund said...

Wow, major jealousy attack here -- Brandon Sanderson AND favourite bakery. How good can life be?

I have The Way of Kings on my list for Christmas.

At 9/16/2010 8:57 AM, Anonymous Chas Hathaway said...

I came across a friend recently who was doing a book signing, and stopped to talk to him for awhile. When I mentioned that I still have to buy his book, he looked around, pulled me close and whispered, "Don't buy it here! It's too expensive! Let me tell you where you can get it for a MUCH better price. Then I'll come and sign it for you."

Right on!

At 9/16/2010 10:47 AM, Blogger Traci Hunter Abramson said...

I had a very similar experience with my daughter when Brandon came to Virginia last week. He was so entertaining to listen to and he was incredibly kind to everyone.

At 9/16/2010 11:29 AM, Blogger Michael Knudsen said...

Brandon's not only great at signings and conventions but he still, to this day, takes time to reply to fan mail and especially to encourage aspiring writers. It just might take him 6 months to get back to you ;} My current post at is all about Brandon, his incredible production, and his overall awesomeness.

At 9/16/2010 1:08 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...


I predict you'll be every bit as famous and revered as Brandon and even that other Stephenie (famous Mormon writer) ... at least among your groupies, like me.


At 9/16/2010 4:21 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Aww, Charlie, thanks.

Michael, I enjoyed your blog and WOW! I need to worker harder.

Chas, LOL, good thing the bookstore owner didn't hear your friend say that! :)

Melanie, you're so right--good food and good books--what could be better?

Traci, I'd love to come to one of your signings someday! I saw you're teaching at the Book Academy--man, I wish I were going this year!

At 9/16/2010 9:22 PM, Blogger Traci Hunter Abramson said...

I am excited about Book Academy, but I'm also planning on coming out in May for the Storymakers conference. Maybe we can do a signing together. :)

At 9/16/2010 10:05 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

That would be awesome, Traci! I can't wait to meet you!


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