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rachel gibson

Or we’re hoping to be adopted

The festival was a huge success. Yea to all us hard-working, long-suffering festival workers.

My panel went pretty well – I guess. My Sisters made sure I went potty before so I didn’t fidget. No one chucked rotten fruit at me so that’s a win in my book. I got laughs when I was hoping for them and didn’t when I was serious. There were nods from the audience so what I was saying must have been making sense.

Kelli’s hard work also when over well. Her slide show presentation was fun and thought provoking.

There were moments there when we felt like we must actually be writers.

For us, though, the best parts of the festival, without a doubt, is interacting with the famous and not so famous authors. Writers are funny people. I know of no other arty type who are more self-effacing and unsure of their own abilities than writers. It seems we are always amazed when people like our work.

I made six runs to the airport on Friday. I’m fairly certain I did not drive anywhere at the legal speed limit. A couple of times, like when I made it from the airport to La Paloma and back to the airport in 65 minutes, I might have broken the sound barrier.

Even with all that kinetic activity, and the amount of $3.65 gasoline I went through in my gas hog, I still had a great time. I picked up Iris Johanson and her son, an author in his own right, and they were just the nicest people. She was exactly what you’d expect from one of the classic romance divas of the 1980’s – tiny little woman dressed to the nines

Ava and Rachel Gibson

with a face full of artfully applied make-up and big Atlanta blond hair. She chattered away non-stop and I liked her immensely. Her son, too, was very genial.  How he, at no less than 6 feet 4 inches, came out of such a tiny woman is beyond me. I got big bear hugs when I left them at their hotel.

Brenda Novak, Rachel Gibson, Chris Marie Green, Zoe Archer, Angela Knight and Lauren Willig were all so much fun and encouraging you just want to eat them all up, buy all their books and make sure everyone you know does the same.

However, the best and most amusing exchanges were to be had with Elmore and Peter (his son the writer) Leonard.

Smiling Elmore and ridiculously unphotogenic Amylynn

Elmore couldn’t be more adorable and curmudgeonly at the same time. At 87 years old the man is still putting out books on a very regular schedule. We think he’s been putting out books at least one a year since like 1950. He’s written things even people who don’t know Elmore Leonard know. Things like 3:10 to Yuma, Hombre with Paul Newman, Get Shorty with John Travolta, Jackie Brown directed by Quintin Tarantino. The man can write dialogue like nobody’s business. I’ve long been a fan, Kelli will be when she’s done reading the book she just bought and Ava realized she was a fan already.

That brings us to our conversations with the Leonards.

Kelli and Ava were with me when I picked them both up for their festival appearances on Saturday morning. We chattered away in the car and all was smooth until we arrived in the parking garage. Elmore slid out of the back seat and immediately lit up a cigarette.

“You shouldn’t smoke,” Ava informed him.                                                               

“I’ve been smoking for 67 years,” Elmore told her.

Kelli & Elmore after Ava finally figured out the camera

“Then this is the perfect time to quit.” Ava wasn’t giving up.

Elmore snorted.

“Pssst,” Kelli hissed at our Sister. “What are you doing?”

“What?” Ava can act remarkably innocent when she puts her mind to it. She looked down at her sandaled feet. “He was concerned about my feet being cold. If he’s worried about my health, I can be worried about his.”

“He’s 87 years old. He’s a famous author. Leave him alone.” Kelli used her stern eyes.

“How famous?” Ava asked. “Really famous?”


“Like world famous?”

“Uh, yeah.”

Ava finally understood at the end of the day when she was watching TV and an ad for Justified came on. “Oh, hey,” she said to Ed, “that’s the guy I told to stop smoking today.”

“Elmore Leonard?” He said with his mouth hanging open. “You told Elmore Leonard to stop smoking?”

Ava could only shrug.

It didn’t get better. On Sunday morning it was just me and Kelli in the car. I had to ask Elmore to sign six books. One for me and five for Brenda Novak’s Diabetes Auction because she’s shy. Elmore is ridiculously gracious about signing. Kelli and I witnessed him sign every single book brought in front of him at a signing. Some of these people had three cases of the same book and he didn’t bat an eye.

The trip from his hotel to the venue was only seven minutes or so but it was lively. Peter and Elmore sat in the back seat.

“Did you just run a red light?” Elmore asked me.

“No,” I said with emphasis. “I did not just run a red light.”

“Are you sure? I’m pretty sure you just ran a red light.” He was very calm about it if I did.

“I did not just run a red light. Even if I did, I would still say I didn’t. When the cop pulls me over, I’d really appreciate it if you’d chime in from the back seat that, no, I did not run that red light.”

Elmore shrugged and nodded in agreement. I might be in love with him, just a little bit. For the record, I did not run that red light.  I am 100% confident about that assertion.

He’s definitely now one of the chosen Patron Saints of the Quill Sisters.

A live version of this blog

Besides being the co-chair of the romance committee, I will be speaking on a panel just like Kelli. Her’s is about cover art and promises to be quite amusing. I’ve seen some of the slides from her presentation and they’re great.

My talk is on Sunday at 11:30 at the Integrated Learning Center room 137. My co-panelists are NY Times best-selling authors Rachel Gibson and Karen Hawkins. Come to my talk,  have some lunch, then pop back over to Kelli’s at 1pm. It’s like I planned this for your convenience.

I’ve been really scared about the panel for a number of reasons.

1) I don’t like public speaking. My problem isn’t that I can’t speak in public, rather I can’t shut up. As soon as I’m nervous, bad things happen. Granted, it’s funny for the spectators, awful for me.

2) I don’t feel like I can really speak about writing with NY Times best sellers. I haven’t sold anything like what they have.

However – all those things being said, the name of my panel is You Had Me at Funny: Using Humor to Advance Plot is definitely something I can write about. But still, I had reservations. What was I going to say? What?

Karen sent some questions for us to think about that might move us in the right direction. One of them was, why do you write humor?

Then today happened. Today is such a ridiculous example of my life that I can’t wait to tell you about it. Just not today. I gave my schtick to Kelli over the phone and she was laughing away then said, “To bad you can’t use that at your talk.”

Seriously. I’m using the whole thing – nearly word for word – because it’s nonsense like this that makes me write comedy.

If not comedy, then Greek tragedy. It’s all in the perspective. Fortunately, my glass is generally half full of carbonated water.

Come to the talk on Sunday and hear the story live – with visual aids. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait till next week.

Trust me, it’s a doozy.

It’s a great reason to get my car detailed

The Festival of Books is this weekend. At this point, I just can’t wait for it to be over. We’ve worked so hard putting the festival together this year, taken so much unnecessary bullshit, and written and answered so many emails my tendonitis is out of control.

We have a bunch of fabulous authors coming: Iris Johansen, Rachel Gibson, Cynthia Garner, Zoe Archer, Karen Hawkins, Angela Knight, Jenna Petersen/Jesse Petersen, Brenda Novak and Lauren Willig to name but a few. I’m even speaking on a panel with Rachel and Karen about using humor to advance a plot.

Wanna hear something stupid? I’m totally freaked out about that panel. I feel like I don’t have anything to say about writing funny. Haven’t I told you before that writers are the most insecure people EVER.

I do have a soft spot for this Festival. After all, it was at the 2010 festival where I met my literary agent. The next year the Sisters met Julia Quinn. Julia – freaking – Quinn. When it comes right down to it, the absolute best part of the Festival is ferrying people to and from the airport and to the festival and the hotel. That’s where you get to know them and have actual conversations.

I’ve been emailing back and forth with the out-of-town authors about picking them up at the airport. For many, this is their first visit to our town. I was talking with the agent for Iris Johansen and he wanted to know if I would meet her at the baggage claim or somewhere else. My response was that we didn’t like to call our airport dinky. We prefer quaint. I promised to meet her at the bottom of the escalator. He still seemed a bit concerned. I assured him I’d be the short red-head at the bottom of the ony escalator between the only baggage carousals.

There is still a bunch of work to be done but it’s finally over in a week.

My New Year’s resolution for 2012 is to stop volunteering for stuff.

February 10

Well, here we are again. Another Friday. This means that we’ve all survived Monday through Thursday again. That’s saying something since the kid’s grades came out this week, Amylynn caught some sort of Typhoid/Legionnaires/Tuberculosis hybrid, and the Republicans are still making complete asses of themselves. Let’s hope the third week in February is less exciting shall we? It’s probably a futile hope, but we should still make an effort. Even though there wasn’t a lot to recommend this week, there was still some funny stuff.

1. Rachel Gibson.We just got an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of her latest book, Rescue Me. It’s a May release so we read it three months early (You’re totally jealous!). For all you Rachel Gibson fans out there, it’s really good, chock full of her trademark wit and superior storytelling. Amylynn especially loves Rachel’s current series because the heroes have focused on the fictional Seattle Chinooks Hockey team – although this latest one only has the barest glimpse of hockey, it does carry over a character from the most recent book. However, because this one is still on the fringes of Amylynn’s favorite sport, she did actually squeal when Rachel mentioned her favorite hockey team, the Phoenix Coyotes. One player was mentioned by name as a favorite of the character in the book – Ed Jovanovski. Unfortunately, Jovi was traded back to Florida in 2011. Rachel picked the wrong player. Shane Doan is the preferred player on the team and always will be. We like him best even if Jovi was still around. If that panda bear smuggling operation turns out alright, Mr.

This isn't the actual cake. We didn't want you to get any crazy ideas...

Doan is next.

2. White cake. The Sisters have found the place of the finest white cake in all of cake making history. We’re not telling you where it is. We told you about the red velvet cupcakes and look how that turned out. You people aren’t to be trusted. If, however, you’re exceedingly nice to us (read: you don’t aggravate the crap out of us on a regular basis) we’ll bring you a piece. Oh, how we love this cake. It comes in pieces about 2×4 inches and all the sides are covered with fabulous white sprinkles and butter crème frosting. Really it’s like having a piece of wedding cake without having to attend a hideous wedding where you have to pretend that drunken aunts doing the chicken dance is cute.

3. Bunny racing.Did you know that there is such a thing as bunny racing? Amylynn saw it on The Amazing Race last season and it was adorable. The WSJ

We're going to get one just like this one and name him Hector

reported on it again today. Fuzzy bunnies are trained to run obstacle courses with steeples to jump. You’ve never seen anything so cute as floppy-eared bunnies hopping down a lane and popping over little hurdles and stiles. It seems that this “sport” originated in Sweden were apparently all the best bunnies live, and now the activity is catching on in England. We are so in. It seems like bunnies would be more fun to cuddle and cost a lot less than horses. When asked how to pick the perfect bunny, a preeminent bunny trainer suggests, “ You want [a bunny with] a cool, positive attitude.” You can tell the cool bunnies cause they’re off smoking behind the hutch and talking about cars.

4. The Dowager. We love Maggie Smith in any project she takes on. Most recently, Ms. Smith is one of the stars of Downton Abbey, the hugely popular PBS series about the inner workings and lives of a titled English family during World War 1. Kelli is a huge fan of the show and, one of these days, Amylynn and Ava are going to take the time to watch the first season. Maggie Smith plays the Dowager and, because of her station in life, pretty much gets to say whatever she wants. We read the following quote, “I’m a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose” and decided she was brilliant. We’re going to have t-shirts made.

5. Map Guy. Amylynn and Ava took the opportunity at lunch today to torture the employees at a map store. Ava’s latest work in progress required that she find a topographical map in order to get a real handle on one of the major premises of the plot. It’s not like when create our wants and needs we intend them to be impossible on purpose, it just works out that way. If ever you find the need for a map, we suggest you try our guy. Not only was he really patient and helpful, he was also kind of funny. Kind of funny trumps a lot of other concerns. Concerns like: #1 why could we hear chirping birds INSIDE the store and #2 why did it smell like they were ironing in there. We never did find out the answers to those questions, but Map Guy did find what Ava was looking for – mostly – for a miserly $11.95, which fits nicely within the austerity guidelines Ed has set for Ava. Map Guy probably had to go lie down after we left, but we thought he was lovely.

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