Tuesday, September 23, 2014

That Time I Moderated a Sarah J Maas, Robin Benway, and Nina Berry Event + Giveaway!

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Sarah J Maas, Nina Berry, MEEEEE!, and Robin Benway. Photo courtesy of Lizzy Mason
On Saturday, September 13th, I checked something major off my life bucket list: moderating an author even. Not just any author event, either, but a signing for one of my favorite authors that just happened to include two other authors whose books I admire enormously. That's right. On Saturday, September 13th (henceforth known as the holiest of days), I had the chance to meet, hang out with, and chat with Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author of the Trhone of Glass series and bearer of supernaturally beautiful hair; Nina Berry, enviably tall author of Otherkin and the upcoming The Notorious Pagan Jones; and Robin Benway, super cool author of Audrey, Wait!, Also Known As, and Going Rogue.

At least, I think I did. Honestly, if it weren't for the above photo evidence, I might think I hallucinated the whole thing in some sort of wish fulfillment fugue state. But I didn't! And here's the recap to prove it:
The signing was held at the Barnes and Noble in Glendale, a suburb/city/semi-far-flung corner of Los Angeles, at 3 pm on Saturday. I am the sort of person who, try as I might and despite the best of intentions, is perpetually late. But of course, I couldn't be late for this signing, because I was moderating this signing. For those of you who are not familiar with the geography and corresponding traffic hell of the greater Los Angeles area, Santa Monica (where I live!) and Glendale (where I do not!) are not next to each other. No, according to Google Maps, they are a healthy 22 miles apart, 32 minutes without traffic. To which I say HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH oh, Google Maps, you are hilarious. 32 minutes.
"Everywhere in LA takes twenty minutes!"

So yes, because it is a day that ends in -day in Los Angeles, I ran into traffic and was running a smidge later than I'd intended to be running. The situation was not helped by the fact that I parked in THE WRONG MALL because apparently Glendale is the mall capital of America and has been blessed with approximately sixteen malls per block (#AccurateGlendaleFacts). Also note that it was approaching surface-of-Mercury temperatures, because Glendale is in the Hellmouth aka the Valley and, well, sorry Glendale (and the Valley).

ANYWAY. I made it (yay!), sweaty and out of breath, and saw that a rather scary-large crowd was already forming for the signing (!). The loverly Barnes and Noble people then took me to the receiving room. I felt very fancy but also like a total imposter because oh, my god, are you honestly going to let me go into the back room with the all the unsorted books and oh look, a pile of The Infinite Sea before release! I mean, what if I just took one of these? (Of course I didn't, but that's just because I haven't read The 5th Wave). I awkwardly bummed about, trying not to knock anything important over, and then the authors showed up! Yay! Sarah and I hugged, and Nina Berry and I got introduced, and we bonded over the fact that having a food last name is awesome and that we've heard just about every Berry pun under the sun. I also finally got to meet the fabulous Lizzy, star Bloomsbury publicist, without whom this wouldn't have happened. I can't thank Lizzy enough!
Lizzy is Tina Fey, Mermaid Queen levels of fabulous
It was about twenty minutes until the signing, and Robin Benway hadn't arrived yet (LA traffic, you utter delight), so we hung around in the back and chatted. Terrible jokes were made and laughed at, and Sarah apologized for the unpronounceability of  her characters' names ("I was sixteen!"). I told her about the time my mom asked, "Who's the person you're always shrieking about on Twitter? Cha... Chayote... Chew-ell?" ("IT'S CHAOL MOM GOD STOP EMBARRASSING ME"). Then Sarah told us that her names are always rough on her audiobook narrators, and that the woman narrating Heir of Fire first attempted Manon Blackbeak's chapters in a Russian accent for reasons no one could quite fathom. Then Robin arrived, and I got my books signed and we took pictures and got ready for THE MOMENT! AHHH!

When the group of us went out to the signing and panel area, we noticed that the crown had gotten much bigger. Not gonna lie, my heart starting doing a little tap routine at the sight of all those eager teenagers. But once I got past introducing the authors and we started getting into the rhythm of chatting, it all just became tons of fun. Authors are funny, awesome, intelligent nerds, and it was the most pleasurable of pleasures to hang out with them.

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Photo courtesy of Lizzy Mason

There's a pretty great recap of our actual discussion here, but here are my favorite moments:

When Sarah described the Manon chapters in Heir of Fire as "How to Train Your Dragon on crystal meth"

When I asked them which Hogwarts Houses they'd be in (Robin: Hufflepuff, Nina: I want to say Gryffindor, but probably Ravenclaw, Sarah: On a good day, I'd say Gryffindor, but probably Slytherin). This segued into a discussion on the possibility of a Hogwarts grad school and whether or not one could double (house) major.

When Sarah told us about the time she went to Scotland and touched EVERY STONE IN THE STANDING STONE CIRCLE hoping she'd be transported to Jamie Fraser's bedroom um the 1700s like in Outlander but wouldn't let her husband touch (probably because Jamie's hotness would be so wasted on him). Then I told them I'd taken it to calling it Hotlander, for very obvious reasons. This caused us all to think about Jamie Fraser's hotness for a bit, and raise your hand if you're doing just that right now.

When Robin waxed nostalgic about The Baby-Sitter's Club and how it's basically the best thing to ever happen

When Nina talked about how influential the Narnia books were for her and admitted that she went about prodding the backs of wardrobes to no avail, like Sarah did with the Scottish stones

When I turned the conversation to book boyfriends (because that's how I roll, yo. CONSUMMATE PROFESSIONAL ADULT) and Robin extolled the virtues of Etienne St. Clair, Nina spoke the truthiest of truths about paragon of men, Chaol Westfall, and Sarah talked about what a REAL MAN ROWAN WHITETHORN IS (after admitting she is perpetually twelve years old). I had to stand there and not giggle or go weak at the knees, chanting Be a professional human in my head over and over but it's hard not to go a little melty when Sarah J. Maas is talking about just how delicious a hot Fae warrior prince can really be.
Straight up ignoring the fact that he's fictional

We didn't have too much time to chat, since Sarah and Lizzy had to make a flight that night and hello, LA traffic, so I sort of had to think on my toes and adapt to an every-shortening frame of discussion time. I didn't stick to all the questions I had typed up, and decided just to follow up on whatever the authors had mentioned. I went with the flow, and then we turned it over to the audience, and they asked their questions, and then it was time for the signing line!

Most of the (HUGEHUGEHUGE) crowd was there for Sarah, so I hung out by the table and chatted with Robin and Nina about life and books and Southern California, since they're both local. They signed some books as well, and though it was all very overwhelming, I was having a blast.

Sarah also does this very cool thing where she leaves a copy of Throne of Glass out at every signing she does and asks the fans if they could sign it for her! The whole thing is full of messages and drawings and annotations. It's really lovely. I tried to find a good Chaol page to leave my own message on, but let's be honest: all Chaol pages are good pages.

It was heaps of fun, and it was lovely to keep an eye on all the readerly fans Sarah was chatting with, most of whom were young adults! Yay for teens reading! I also got to meet Morgan, a fellow Twitter booknerd friend, and one girl who came up to me said she knew who I was, loved my blog, and loved my art! I tried not to let on that I was basically having an aneurysm, but she did look a bit alarmed. I didn't catch her name, but if you're reading this, HI! YOU MADE MY ALREADY GREAT DAY! THANK YOU!

Notable line standouts include the lovely girl in the Aelin Ashryver Galathynis t-shirt (!!!!) who burst into tears upon meeting Sarah, the girl who knitted Sarah Teenage Mutant Ninja beanies oh my god they were so amazing, the girl in the Marauder's Map print dress, the girl who gave Sarah a big chocolate cookie, and Leslie the boy who may or may not have been actually named Leslie. (He said he was there to get his book signed for his sister Leslie, but we all suspected that he was the real Leslie for... reasons. This miiiight have been near the end of the line and we miiiight have been getting a little punchy and therefore thought it would be hilarious to debate this ad nauseum within Leslie's earshot, because this is normal human behavior.)
Good thing, because none of us remotely are

Honestly, the STAMINA these events take! This was the last stop on Sarah's two week, bi-coastal tour, and I don't know how she was still upright. The panel was a good hour long, and she must have signed for over two hours more. It started at three, and it was well past six by the time we left. There were... I don't know, two hundred people there? It was crazy. After Robin and Nina left, Lizzy and I caved and stole their fancy cushy chairs, sitting at the signing table while Sarah kept chatting and being lovely. (Honestly, she wasn't grouchy for one second. If I had to be that social for that long, I'd probably start stabbing people with Sharpies.)

Eventually, the signing reached its end, and we all sat there, relishing the quiet, as Sarah signed the tiny bit of B&N stock they hadn't sold. ALL of the new hardcovers had gone! One copy of The Assassin's Blade had arrived ripped and dented, and Sarah, Lizzy and I got a bit unhealthily emotional about the fact that "she'd" be sent back and pulped, and that was probably a sign we needed to go home and eat food and not be in public anymore.

After fending off a random crazy who decided to waft past our table, singing and foisting pamphlets on us (and Sarah threatened to go "New York Jew on her ass"), we left Barnes and Noble. I said goodbye to Lizzy and Sarah, thanked them until I turned blue, and wished them a safe flight. Then I basically skipped to my car (it was a long skip, because, if you remember, I was in the wrong mall), drove all 22 miles of freeway home, and collapsed. Then I changed into pajamas and ordered my weight in Chinese food. Perfect ending to a perfect day.
Presented for no reason whatsoever and without comment

I feel so remarkably privileged that I got to spend a day on the other side of the signing table, and that I got to see what goes on behind the scenes (spoiler: a HECK OF A TON OF WORK). I know I'll never look at a signing the same way again after hearing about the 3 am wake up calls and seeing Liam the Barnes and Noble event master conjure tables from thin air, calculate to the minute how long each individual signing had to take in order to get Sarah to the airport on time, and glare menacingly at people who took too long taking pictures. It was one of the best bookish (and non-bookish) days of my life, and thank you ENDLESSLY to Lizzy, Bloomsbury, Sarah, Robin, Nina, Barnes and Noble, and everybody who made it possible!

And now... a giveaway! One US reader will win a signed paperback of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, and one lucky international reader will win this mug from my Society 6 store:

Heir of Ash and Fire Mug

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a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Oh my god! I want this mug so much! I love your art and I love this quote.
    I'm also a bit obsessed with Heir of Fire in general ( I just finished it and I think I'm going to reread it soon ).
    I would like to live in the US to be able to go to those kind of events. Thanks for the recap!

  2. It sounds like the event was a huge success :D! I'm always in love with signed copies and Sarah wrote such a sweet message for you in your book. THANKS for the mug giveaway. I saw it on Twitter and I'm in loooooove.

  3. it sound like it was really fantastic!! and the authors fabulous in person as much as in the written words.
    thank you for sharing your experience with us and for teh international giveaway as well

  4. Sounds like the event was so much fun! Loved reading about your fangirling, Gillian. :) I probably would've reacted the same way you did, lol. Thanks for the giveaways!

  5. I'm so happy for you, Gillian. <3 you are amazing for hosting this event :D Though I am also super jealous, lol. <3 the authors all sounds amazing. And ack. It just sounds like you had the best time :) thank you for sharing about it. <3 and thank you for the amazing international giveaway as well :)

  6. I'm slowly building myself an eclectic mug collection and sadly, and surprisingly, I don't have any that are bookish! Love and need this mug!!

  7. Ah man, that's so cool, I'm super jealous of your moderating (I've always wondered how they pick people for that)

  8. I had no idea that was you moderating until I left the mall! I would have come up and said hi otherwise :D (Loved your dress, btw) This all sounds like so much fun - even if it was a long day! The book boyfriends question was my favorite part - screw being a professional adult ;)

    (Your gifs are perfect <3)

  9. <3 Hotlander and book boyfriends! Sounds like you had great fun! I've always wanted to go to an author signing, but after reading about your day, I've realized, I NEED to attend one.

    Dreams @ Once Upon A Dream Books

  10. IT WAS SO AMAZING TO MEET YOU IN PERSON! And thank you for the lovely shout-out in your post! You did a fantastic job at the signing and this recap is even better! Still can't believe we both parked in the wrong mall, thanks a lot Glendale. Ughhh. Sarah is seriously one of the funniest people I've ever heard talk, I just love her brain and want to be her friend hahaha and I almost DIED when she remembered me from Twitter too! Best. Day. Everrrr. And how daaare you add those Jamie Fraser gifs! Now I won't do anything for the rest of the day except stare at them (Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ Hotlander is the perfect show name). Thank you for those. And Cher of course! 20 minutes my ass. Anyway YAY book events and YAY fun Hogwarts/book boyfriend questions! So much fun, glad I made the effort to go :)

  11. I am FREAKING THE FREAK OUT at this whole post. THANK YOU for detailing everything because I wanted every droplet of detail squeezed out of this event.

    You look amazing. You did amazing. HIGHEST OF FIVES TO YOU.

    You nailed it with your descriptions of authors and I'm sure they wholeheartedly agree.

  12. This is my favorite series ever, but I've only read library copies because college kids aint got no money, so thank you so much for this amazing giveaway! :D

  13. I have live blogged my comment to you save this last bit where I go ZOMG THE MUG CAME OUT SO GORGEOUS I LOVE IT MUCHLY YOU TALENTED WONDERFUL PERSON YOU

    Also I am so glad it was magical and amazing and you had tons of fun. Also very seriously impressed with your professionalism and restraint. That is not sarcasm. Seriously, it's not.

  14. I am so jealous that you went to one of SJM's signings!!! That's on my bucket list! I would love to meet her and have her sign my book. She is without a doubt one of my top 5 favorite authors!!!!!! Thanks so much for the giveaway!!! I love your blog! :)

  15. Honestly, I just KNOW I could never have the energy to do more than one of those (as an author) a year, so hats off to the authors who do them so often. Rockstars, all. And I'm trying not to be all envy-filled at your now (additional) rockstar status. Yay!

  16. Oh my goodness GillyB, you so fancy! This sounds like such an amazing time and I'm sure you were fabulous! Also, I hear you about Sarah's hair. HOW does it always look so magically gorgeous? She must have a secret. You should have tried to get it out of her while she was lured in by your charms ;)

  17. How cool that you got to moderate! I only wish I had gotten there early enough to like...hear the talking parts of the event, haha. Darn you LA traffic! I was in that huge line against the back wall. But it was fun to say hi to Sarah and to you!

    Also, HI! I'm the girl in the Marauder's Map dress! *waves*

  18. That must have been great!!! And hilarious! I'm so jelous of you! As for the Leslie boy... i think it was for him. I don't know any girls named leslie

  19. Sounds so super amazing!!!! I am dying to have that mug!

  20. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh my gosh. Honestly, even if I didn't know the books and authors involved and how incredibly cool all that was, I would still be squealing like a maniac because GILLIAN OH MY GOODNESS THIS IS SO AWESOME FOR YOU! I'm about to split a seam I'm so pleased and proud. :D Also, it sounds like a freaking hilarious good time was had by all, so SUCCESS.

  21. the signing sounded awesome! sarah seems so funny in person! :)

  22. It's so cool that you got to meet her!

  23. Thanks so much for the giveaway and the chance to win xD

    Oh, this mug IZ GORGEOUS, ME WANTZ IT <3

    So cool your experience, right? :3

  24. I'm just popping in to tell you that you are awesome, congratulations on pulling off a fantastic event, and thank you for the random Jamie gifs. They're much appreciated. I'm not entering to win the mug because, as you know, I have already bought it ALONG WITH A PILLOW TO HELP ME WITH MY FEELS and they're on their way. HELP.

    Jamie tho.

  25. Woah, I LOVE your mug design--very cool. Congrats on the event as well!!

  26. This sounds like the most amazing event! I absolutely adore your mug design. And I can't believe I haven't read this series yet--I need to get on that ASAP! :D

  27. I'm absolutely jealous of the whole event thingy because I just cannot wait to finally attend a signing with Sarah J Maas!!
    And no wonder I loved the Manon Blackbeak bits since I also adore How To Train Your Dragon and I need a damned dragon myseeeelf!!
    Hotlander??? HELL YES!! Never a more apt name has been used!! And after those GIFs I feel a re-watch of some episodes is in order before tonight's ep!! *fans self*

    Also, THAT MUG IS AWESOME!! I adore that quote to biiiits!! Thank you so much Gillian for making it open internationally!

  28. Ahh so awesome you got to not only meet Sarah, Nina and Robin- but hosted their event! I'm sure you were fantastic! Seriously wish I had been there! :D

  29. wow! this mug looks amazing!!! I really want one for myself <3
    rafflecopter name Karin Shaim

  30. This all sounded like one very eventful book signing! It sounded just superb overall and I would love to be able to go to an author event like this at some point in time. I'm glad you had such a good time even if you did park in the wrong place! lol

  31. Ahhhh awesomeness!!! Thanks for the giveaway<3

  32. That sounds like a wonderful experience (even with LA traffic)!! I'm so regretting not going to the event now D: BUT HOTLANDER YESSS I LIKE haha :D :D Thanks for the giveaway!!!

  33. OMG this sounds like an awesome event. I so want to meet Robin because I have never met her!! Also, you look FAB in that pic!! YAY you. I'm glad it all went well.


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