I was up in Austin this weekend for the Texas Book Festival. After years of having my plans fall through at the last minute, I finally made it up there for the first time ever. (Sherman Alexie was a big part of my “I AM GOING THIS YEAR NO MATTER WHAT” mentality.) I spent October buying books in preparation for The Big Weekend. I combed through the list of authors that would be there, pulling their books from my shelves and setting them aside to be signed. Meg Wolitzer! Claire Vaye Watkins! Aminatta Forna!
Y’all, I am a complete dumbass. Because Saturday arrives, and what do I do? I LEAVE ALL MY BOOKS AND MY MONEY IN MY CAR BACK AT MY FRIEND’S APARTMENT. *headdesk*
So I was kind of sulky for a minute on Saturday, since the closest I got to Meg Wolitzer was seeing the back of her head from outside the signing tent. Our schedule also got thrown off, so I missed a few of the panels/authors I really wanted to see.
On the bright side…
The day started with Literary Death Match. Jonathan Lethem was a contestant and A.M. Homes was a judge. That was fun (I loved his reading of his Drew Barrymore stories). Later that day we sat in on a YA panel about Girl Power. We also caught part of the Claire Vaye Watkins/Zachary Karabashliev panel called “America the Beautiful?” Both authors write about the country in dark, often violent ways, so that was intriguing (have you read Battleborn yet? Because you’re missing out). Karabashliev, a Belgian author who now lives in California part time, commented on how much Europeans hate that American authors write massive 500-700 page novels these days and talked about what a nightmare it was for translators and publishers to produce.
By that point we were sleepy and tired and didn’t want to travel from the depths of the Capitol to the big tents out on the street for some of the bigger events, so we stuck around for a talk about a tequila cookbook, then went to the Beer Bitch panel about the history of beer in Austin (I totally want to read that book). I also had a raging headache, so we skipped the Literary Lit Crawl and went to the movies instead, where I had a delicious IPA called Valkyrie and watched Enough Said ( 😦 James Gandolfini).
Then came Sunday, where the only thing I cared about was seeing Sherman Alexie. He was speaking in the House gallery (the last time I was in there, I was chanting “SHAME!” at Republican lawmakers for screwing over Texas woman. Ah, memories). He read three stories and then headed down the lawn to the signing tent. I ended up walking to the tent right in front of him without realizing it, the whole time gushing to my friend about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and how I assign one of his writings to my students every semester. Then I turned around and saw him walking right behind me and was like, “Oh crap. I hope I didn’t say anything stupid.” (I don’t think he heard a word I was saying, but still.)
We got in line and found out you can only have three books at a time signed, so when the guy with the post-it notes came along asking for names (for personalized inscriptions), I handed 3 of my 6 books to my friend and informed her that her name was also Melissa (we were giggling like crazy over how obvious that was, but the guy just gave us this “really?” look and humored us…though he saw us again later and called out, “Oh look, it’s the two Melissas“).
We get to Alexie and my friend hands over “her” books, then I hand him mine and start giggling silently over how the stupid whole double Melissa thing was, at which point my friend looks at me and says, “SHUT UP!” (There are many years of grad school between us, but we basically share the brain of a tween.) Alexie looked up and asked, “Did she say anything?” so we joked about our mind-reading skills. He laughed at us, then asked, “So who’s Melissa?” I fessed up, and he looked at me and said, “you’re a stalker.” Then he proceeded to do this:
I died. I’m basically dead right now. (And of course we walked away dying of laughter.)
Let the record show that SHERMAN ALEXIE IS SO FREAKING COOL.
At that point, Manuel Gonzales’ signing was just getting started; he published a great short story collection earlier this year, so I wanted to get a copy signed. I complemented him on his book, then he noticed my bag and said something like, “whoa, you have a lot of books.” I responded, “Yeah, mostly Sherman Alexie, but there’s a few others in there…” He left me a nice note (click to enlarge):
Anyway, I’m really glad I got to meet Gonzales because his book is awesome and I missed his book signing the last time I was in Austin.
So no Wolitzer, Watkins, or Fornatta, but I did end up with a nice autographed stack anyway (I missed the Homes and McBride signings, but there were extra autographed copies available in the sales tent):
Not too shabby, eh?