I’m not sure anyone — Nora, the staff at Turn the Page, the readers who came out, me — was prepared for TTP’s 19th Anniversary signing. There were some positive signs it would be a success: A stellar line up of authors including Stephanie Evanovich, Christine Trent, Maya Banks, Linda Lael Miller, Shiloh Walker and Jennifer Armentrout. The weather was cooler than normal. The summer event is perfect is part of vacation planning.
So we all thought it would a long afternoon, but the reality was astounding.
Nora and I drove into town around 10:45 (the usual arrival time). Early enough so Nora could sign pre-sold books and meet the other authors. Sometimes it’s early enough that we can pop into Gifts Inn BoonsBoro to see what’s new.
Not this signing.
At 10:45, the line of people was still around the corner from the store.
When we came into the back of the store, Maya was already hard at work signing books. Nora put down her bag and we dove in: I handed her books, she signed then I re-bundled them. We worked fast to make some room on the counter for the other authors. Peeking out from the shipping room you could see the line wound around the annex as customers waited to pay.
The system worked out over the last 19 years for line management is pretty simple: each ticket has a letter and a number. Each letter of the alphabet represents a group and there are 25 tickets in each group. For example, the first group in for the signing is A1-25. Doing it this way means people don’t have to stand on line all day (though there was substantially more standing time this signing) and the staff can give customers a fairly good idea of when their group will be called. The staff gives out tickets from the time the store opens until 2 pm. Customers usually shop then pay then go off to see other stores or get lunch while they wait.
Word was tickets to the letter K were given out before noon, so we knew we’d see 300 people.
The big concern of the day was Nora’s right wrist. Typing daily for 35 years will bring on some repetitive motion weaknesses, but then you add in the sheer number of books Nora’s signed for Turn The Page subscribers, customers and signings since last fall (a number that’s pretty much tripled in a year) and her wrist gave out a week before the signing. Kat, Nora’s amazing daughter-in-law, showed her how to wrap it securely so she did that Saturday morning. Then Nora added a gorgeous wrist cuff to downplay the wrap but she was worried about it holding up. Just before the signing started,
Jason and I consulted and he fashioned an ice pack that lay on the table, giving Nora a place to rest her wrist during breaks.
The signing started at just about noon. The first group always includes Inn BoonsBoro guests who receive A tickets as part of their stay. Some stayed on Friday night, some would stay on Saturday night, but all were very happy. Excellent reports of wonderful breakfasts and leisurely wine and cheese the night before. Excited explanations of where guests stayed. Not too many reports of ghosts.
The afternoon featured a fun mix of the familiar faces of our regular signing pals and enthusiastic newbies. We fell into our regular routine: Jason takes the books, hands them to Nora who signs them while I take photos with cameras or phones and make conversation.
Word filtered up that the letters had gone through M, then through P (a previous record) then through R (unknown territory). They had to make new tickets! Finally we learned the letters went to 2 in the T group.
That’s over 490 people. Passing through a tiny bookstore. All. Afternoon. Long.
We had two breaks so the authors could stand up and get some feeling in their legs. I couldn’t sit down because I’d never get back up. Jason had to make a second ice bag for Nora’s wrist.
We had some small dollops of champagne after 4 pm to help everyone get through.
And get through we did. Six and a half hours of meeting, greeting, writing, snapping. Nora’s been at this for three decades and it was the longest signing she could ever remember.
What helped more than anything was the constant flow of smiling, patient readers who waited alone or in groups. (Believe me, the solo readers had new pals by the time they were done.) Their energy was unflagging and brought us all along for the ride.
I didn’t get a chance for a group photo of all the authors when we were done because by 6:30 pm everyone — staff included — needed to get to a place to relax. But Nora did pose for this great shot with the fabulous Maya Banks.
Oh, did I mention that the day of the signing was also my birthday? I’m not exactly sure I’d ever envisioned spending a birthday with 492 Nora Roberts readers, but it was a splendid day in many ways. After the signing was finished, Nora and Bruce had arranged for some birthday cake for me — shaped like a bottle of Patron tequila. The limes were marshmallows. The cork was rice krispies and the cake inside was yellow with butter cream frosting. And the cake was from Kristi’s Bakery, next door to the Inn.
Sunday morning was the second Fall into a Story Brunch with Nora, this year held at Vesta. After the long haul on Saturday, it was so nice to have a chance to sit down and chat. Nearly 60 people attended and about two thirds of the attendees had not come to the signing because they knew they’d get the chance to speak to Nora at the brunch. Jeannie King ran two raffles — one to sit with Nora, the other for the chance to win one of five gift baskets.
In between courses, Nora and I stopped at every table to chat, take photos and for Nora to sign a few books. Then after the meal was done and the baskets won, I browbeat everyone into sitting down while I took a panoramic photo from the kitchen area. And that, my friends, was TTP weekend. Up next, RWA. In several parts.