I went to my first book signing yesterday. What sort of book, you ask? The latest novel? Political exposé? No, silly. A cookbook, of course! Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman herself, was coming to promote her latest tome at a Barnes & Noble 35 minutes from my home, and I just couldn’t resist.
My cookbook purchases have necessarily been cut way back – I’ve run out of places to put them. But still, every now and then a new one comes out that screams, “buy, me!” and my kind and generous husband lets me indulge. (To be fair, he does benefit at dinner time.) And lest you think he keeps a grip on the purse strings, magnanimously doling out cash according to his whim, the permission-to-spend thing goes both ways. In fact, he’s much stingier with himself.
Anyway, since the aforementioned bookstore is in parts East (read: very urbanized, congested, confusing…) my kind and generous husband agreed to drive there with me. Making a wrong turn, or missing an exit while heading off in that direction can have you winding up in Secaucus, an hour out of your way and still not knowing quite how to get home. Ask me how I know this.
Back to the signing. As my out-of-state in-laws have noted, when you ask someone from New Jersey how far it is to a given destination, they will respond in terms of time, rather than distance, usually preceded by questioning the time of day and which direction you’re headed. We were headed east during the evening rush hour, so we made pretty good time and arrived at the bookstore just after five.
The bookstore, I have to say, was very well organized. I think they’ve done this once or twice before. There was a person right by the stacks of The Pioneer Woman Cooks a Year of Holidays and Charlie and the Christmas Kitty to explain the process. We were to buy our book and get a wristband for entry, then wait upstairs. So we made our purchase, got our wristbands, and went upstairs to get in line behind the 200 or so people that got there before us.
Since there was such a crowd, with an hour yet before the event was set to begin, Dan decided to give up his seat and spend the time perusing the computer and science sections (which were, by the way, abysmally small). He’s very considerate that way.
They finally started letting us in (I was seated at about 5:40), very carefully making sure each row was full, “walk all the way down to the end”, before letting more folks in. At six o’clock they were still seating people. There were 320 chairs set up, and they had to bring more in.
We all waited with bated breath, cameras ready, focused on the door in the front right corner of the room. The staff teased us mercilessly by coming in and out of there numerous times. I finally caught a glimpse of that fabulous red hair leaning over a table writing something. A minute or two later, one of the staff came in and placed an autographed poster in one of the many frames that were around the room.
It wasn’t too much longer before Ree made her entrance. She apologized for being about 20 minutes late. Apparently the traffic caught her off guard. We’re from New Jersey, Ree. We get it about the traffic!
Ree gave about a 45 minute presentation, showing some of her beautiful photos, and some of her not so beautiful ones. She gave a history of her blog, and how she got into doing the recipes, the books, and the TV show. It was fun. She was delightful. You don’t see a lot of women wearing cowboy boots in these parts.
After her presentation she sat down under that poster and started signing books. It was very orderly – first in, first out – they did one row at a time, and the good news is you got to sit until it was your row’s turn. Keep in mind that those 200 people (well, 195 to be more precise) were still in front of me. She chatted with each and every one, and posed for a picture with everybody.
There were several staff around, I’ll call them the enforcers, who kept things moving: queuing the rows, snapping pictures, making sure everybody knew what to do. They even came around with post-it notes and wrote down what you wanted her to say in your book. All Ree had to do was open it to the predetermined page and look at the note – no misunderstandings or misspelling. I counted about a minute and a half per group of two or three.
The crowd was very pleasant. There were a number of very well behaved kids and babies there. A little girl, maybe four years old was in the row in front of me. She was so excited when their turn finally came. (Keep in mind that there were 162 people in front of her.) She was jumping up and down, and gave Ree a big hug.
At some point I waved Dan into the room and he came in and waited with me. The seats next to me had been abandonded by a mom with a cute little baby – she spent most of the time in the back corner keeping her entertained.
Our turn finally came a little after nine. Dan took the pictures while I went up. Ree was still smiling and chatty after all those people (with at least 130 more behind me). Since there were two of us I figure we should’ve had at least 60 seconds. We got maybe half of that. The enforcers couldn’t get us out through the door fast enough. They were the only negative of the whole evening, and even they were smiling.