Last week our store experienced two "firsts" (so far as I'm aware). One was our first true CELEBRITY event — an in-store book-signing with Julie Andrews Edwards, the author of such books as Mandy, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, and the brand-new Thanks to You; the Academy Award-winning star of The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and (for a new generation of movie-goers) The Princess Diaries; the Tony Award-winning star of My Fair Lady and Camelot, and… Need I go on?
As you might imagine, the logistics of organizing such an event were… tricky at best, terrifying at worst. Thankfully, though, everything went swimmingly during our evening with Julie, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the event, rather than fretting about it the way I had been in the days preceding.
Julie herself was wonderful. She took the time to speak with each and every one of the 400+ customers lucky (or die-hard) enough to get tickets to the signing line, and was charming and friendly from the time she arrived until the time she departed (about three hours later). From the sincerity of her responses you would have thought our customers were the first to thank her, the first to gush over their fondness for her books and movies, the first to share personal anecdotes about how much she (or their perceptions of her) meant to them, her loyal fans.
While we did have one or two extreme "fanatics" in attendance, we didn't have the crush of crazies I'd originally feared. We snaked our signing line so that customers walking away from Julie's signing table couldn't help but march right in the direction of our store's back door, making it easy for us to then usher them out and thank them for coming. From my post at the door I could see customers' reactions as they stepped up to the table to meet Julie and (better still) see their reactions as they walked away and grasped hands or exchanged overwhelmed looks with the friends they'd brought with them.
THIS was amazing! Watching 40-something and 50-something women nearly hyperventilate is an experience I've not often had at our events, even the best of them, and it was pretty remarkable to watch. It's not every day that I see people come face-to-face with one of their idols, then see the reality of it sweep them practically off their feet. It was also heartwarming to see several generations bonding in such rapid fashion. Girls and their mothers clutched each other (and their books) as they stepped out of the store, squealing with delight as they left the store and headed for the parking lot. ALL EVENING I heard thank you after thank you after thank you.
Which brings me to the second "first" of our remarkable night with Julie: the morning after, when the phone rang repeatedly with customers we didn't know personally calling to thank us and tell us what a wonderful job we'd done running the event. In my six years with Wellesley Booksmith, I have organized, executed, and hosted many, many, many events with authors and illustrators, and in all that time I've never known the phone to ring so often for such a gratifying reason. Makes me want to want to host EVERYONE's childhood idols at our lovely independent bookstore!
In order to start that ball rolling, though, you'll have to identify them for me. Enter your childhood idol in the comments space. If we wind up hosting that person, I'll give you ticket number one to their autographing or (if they can actually write and publish something of QUALITY) book-signing line!