Just know that when you mention you're going to spend a decent chunk of Saturday at the National Book Festival, you open yourself up to a variety of reactions. On one hand, you have the fellow bibliophiles who express joy and excitement, and on the other you have those who get a little less excited about the printed word and shoot you an odd look while trying to figure out why this would serve as an inspiration to actually get out of bed. The festival was started by Laura Bush back in 2001 as a way to promote the Library of Congress, bring together authors and book-lovers, etc. etc. I was pretty pumped about the chance to actually meet a few authors and hear what they had to say at all of the different pavilions that showcased different genres: history & biography, mystery & thrillers, fiction & fantasy; so on and so forth.
I ambitiously loaded up a messenger bag with six hardcovers, two paperbacks, and assorted other necessities (including a last-minute grab of an umbrella, which turned out to be a rather fortuitous move - sprinkles are not appreciated when you're trying to get your books ready for a signing...or when you're just walking around, for that matter), then walked off to the national mall. I only briefly regretted the amount of books I was lugging around as I stood in an extra-long Starbucks line, desperately needed my A.M. dose of caffeine, and then came to regret the pile a little bit more when I realized just how popular some of these author signings were going to be. You know me, I mapped out a plan of attack beforehand to catch so-and-so at Pavilion X at this time to hear to so-and-so speak, then go stand in line and wait for Author Y to sign, then over here then over here...unfortunately, since I wasn't there for the Wilson Kimeli Naiyomahs and Jane Hirshfields of the world, but rather the James Pattersons and John Irvings and Judy Blumes, I had a whole lot more line waiting as part of my day than I would have preferred.
I waited out James Patterson since he was signing at one of the earlier times, and after that hour and a half wait (I'm crazy, I know, but at least I was surrounded by mildly amusing people. I wish I had a tape recorder for some of what was going on around me) I did at least get to have a ten second conversation with the man...about Texas, of all things. Thank you, Austin City Limits t-shirt conversation starter.
After a successful signing and sighting, I knew I would never make it through the crazy-long Judy Blume and John Irving lines before they stopped signing, so I just played author paparazzi snagged a couple of pictures. In anticipation of this event, I managed to track down one of my Judy Blume paperbacks from the days of old (you know, like...middle-schoolish days of old when we're all struggling with the turmoil of adolescence and Judy Blume offers some kind of outlet where you're like "yes, I totally understand how Rachel feels!!" while scrunching your socks and adjusting your t-shirt clip) for her to sign, but alas - the yellowing paperback will just have to continue on with my name scrawled on the title page. I don't know why I thought anyone else would mistake the book for theirs, but you can rest assured that my loopy handwriting years marked that book as mine.
Unfortunately, all of this line waiting and author listening and walking from tent to tent (loaded down with books, mind you...paper gets heavy) was during on and off sprinkles, which may have contributed to my unwillingness to stand in another line for another hour and a half, but I was determined to make a go of one last signing just to see what this person's reaction would be when I made it up to the table. You see, I don't really think of Paula Deen as an author. I think of her as The Queen of Butter. The Queen of Butter who may put out a cookbooks with loads and loads of recipes calling for butter and bacon and all kinds of other delicious Southerny ingredients. Which is why I was a little perplexed as to why she was speaking in the Teens & Children pavilion for half an hour. Curious, I trooped over to catch a few minutes of her chatter before deciding to take up a place in line for her signing, scheduled to start at 1:00. I headed over to the book signing area, scoped out the already-formed, fairly lengthy line of Paula Deen devotees, and guesstimated that I could make it through in about an hour fifteen, hour thirty. I was willing to wait that out because I had my iPod to keep me occupied AND because I really, really, really wanted this woman to sign a butter wrapper. Yup, a butter wrapper. I just thought it would be fitting.
When the kind yet overly excitable volunteer at the end of the line informed a pack of us that she would only be signing "the lunch-box book! you MUST HAVE the lunch-box book!! it is possible she will be signing OTHER BOOKS and OTHER BOOKS only time permitting, but we do NOT anticipate that given the number of people here!," I took myself and my perfectly cleaned, beautifully flattened butter wrapper out of line and called it a day. At least it solved the whole children's pavilion mystery. Come on, Paula, don't force people over to the Borders sales tent to pick up your latest book! I didn't think you would be that way! But for those of you who might be interested, Paula Deen's Cookbook for the Lunch-Box Set is now available from Borders and other fine retailers.