I’m going to try to get it all here, all the stops, all the pictures, all the stories, stop by stop. But two weeks is a long time to remember everything, so bear with me if I forget you, or you, or even you. Feel free to email me with anything I’ve forgotten so I add it here and tell the world all about your glorious contribution to the most exhausting, fun two weeks I’ve had in a long time.
This may sound like some kind of princess complaint, but these signings are much harder than I thought they’d be. Not the hours, or the travel, which have their own kind of torture on your physical being, and not the fact that Ray drove down to keep me intoxicated though the early days in the tour and then passed me off from one drinking group of people to another until the last night when I celebrated coming home by having a drink. What was really exhausting was the amount of thinking that went into each and every stop. There was a large amount of publicity leading up to the date, emailing people, giving interviews, getting in contact with the bookstores to see if they needed anything (thanks, Kim, for your wonderful advice). Then there was all of the remembering I had to do. Names and faces and stories from long ago, people who would expect me to recognize them at once, and people I was going to meet for the first time. I give out presents before the question and answer period, so every stop required an additional trip to a toy store or drug store to find ten or so items to give out. Basically I was thinking about the event all day, and the next day was spent following-up on the event. So it’s no wonder that my hair gets progressively worse as we go from stop to stop. All that packing and planning and living out of a suitcase — I forgot to pack conditioner, and I’m too broke to splurge on Kiehl’s, which is now the only conditioner that my hair truly loves. That and the Lush treatment Tara recently brought me from Canada. Oh, Canada. I love your Lush products, and how good you make me smell once a year when Tara comes to visit.
First stop: Austin.
Holy cow, it was hot. Of course it was hot, it was Austin in July, but somehow I’d forgotten just how hot “hot” is. I spent the first night with Michelle, Blynch, Ray, Stacy, Omar, Trejo (both of whom were on their way to LA in just a few hours and were nice enough to stay up late with me in the hottest bar in Austin), Dave, Chuy, Weldon, and the very-pregnant Nique. It was so hot that Chuy’s drink was steaming. And this was inside.
Speaking of Chuy…
Dude. Chuy has a baby. And he’s very small, and you can see the fear in my eyes (or is that the hangover from Chuy’s round of shots the night before?). The fear that says, “Chuy has a baby which means we are all officially adults, just like Chuy always wanted.” Baby Z is the cutest thing in Osh Kosh, and the sick, wrong part of me wants to have a cute-off between Tony and Micah, the Heilbron baby, just to make people have to choose between the two cutest babies on the planet. You know it’d be torture. “She’s got cute hair, but look at his little fists! Why must I choose?” It’s my new reality show. Wait, it’s kind of my old reality show, Foster House. (Looking over the rest of my reality show predictions, I do believe Tara’s right, and MTV owes me money for creating Sorority Life back, back, back in the day.)
But I digress…
Chuy has a baby. Moving on.
My first signing was at BookPeople on Tuesday night. BookPeople is also known as Texas’ largest bookstore. Yee-haw! If everything’s big in Texas, then just how big is this store? I don’t know, but I spent many hours there over the years I lived in Austin. And much money. Lots of money. So you can only imagine how cool this was to see as I drove up:
Apparently the week before it said “Dave Eggers, Tracy Lords, Pamela Ribon.” Why didn’t anyone take a picture of that for me? Where are my people in Austin?
Where are they? They’re all at BookPeople, apparently.
That’s three pictures glued together of the three angles surrounding my stage area at BookPeople. It was literally a stage, with a fancy curtain in the background that made it appear that Jane’s Addiction was about to perform.
July 22nd, 7pm
Number of People attended: Approx 80-100
Most surprising question asked: “Who are you, anyway?”
Statement someone didn’t think I overheard: “See! I told you she was short.”
Most surprising guests: My freshman and sophomore college roommates.
Loudest heckler: Blynch (“You have a website?!?”)
Interesting guest talent: Maori war chant, by the girl in the front row with the blue shirt and red hair
Most persistent guest: Irene, who had just had her appendix removed the day before and was about to die right there at my table if she didn’t get home and take a Vicodin.
Some of the journallers in attendance: Dave, Jette, Greg, Michelle
Blog recap: Prentiss Riddle and Alevin
Afterward we went to Club Deville for some serious Karaoke. And it was so hot the place turned into a Nelly video. I do not know everything that happened, but I do know that my shirt may or may not have been off at one time. I ran into a friend from high school, a girl I probably went to junior high with, and check this out:
Chris Fairbanks, who designed the Anne Heche poster. The girl with curly hair is Sara, who I worked with at the Annual Fund when I was in college. Then the girl in the back getting revived from the heat is Wendy, who I worked with at the dot com in Austin right before I moved to LA, and to the far right is my friend Dave, who I worked with at IBM for two years. It was pure coincidence running into Wendy, a girl I hadn’t seen since we sang karaoke together at her birthday party in 2000. And that, my friends, is the coolest thing about Austin, TX.
Then I was in the car on my way to fabulous Katy, Texas.
I’ve mentioned before that Katy Budget Books was where I spent many hours during my high school years. Looking around the house at my old paperbacks, most of them have their pages stamped with their old address, before they got so popular that they had to move to a bigger building. So for me, this was quite an honor, to be able to sign books at the store where I discovered everything from Lolita to Roots.
Yes, I was a little nervous knowing that my appearance was on a Thursday morning, and joked to more than one person that it would be attended by only my mom and me. I wasn’t too far off, to tell you the truth.
It wasn’t a reading, which I didn’t know, but a signing, where I sit at a table and watch people walk through the store, hoping they would be more interested in buying my book when they get to meet the author right off the bat. The booksellers told me the book had been selling very well in the store, which isn’t a testament to my popularity in high school so much as a compliment to the Simon and Schuster art department for making a very eye-catching cover.
Regardless, the staff was incredibly friendly and they all had me sign their copies of my book. They didn’t know that I recognized all of them. I tried to be a bit professional. But then we pretty much just had to turn it into more silliness than anything professional.
I joke that my readings have somehow all taken place next to the children’s section. Katy Budget Books took it one step further.
I’m actually in the children’s section. It gave me a chance to see first-hand many of the books we sent over to Oakland, which was nice. That table is right when you walk in the front door, pretty much in the way of someone wanting to enter the store.
Or if someone wanted to buy a Harry Potter book, they’d have to stand between stacks of my books. That’s my mom, wondering how she’s going to sell all of those copies of books to the eight people currently inside the store. She’s crafty, and somehow I know she’ll do it. One kid got excited, thinking I had written Harry Potter. When you’re feeling down, there’s nothing like breaking a kid’s heart, telling her you aren’t JK Rowling. “You didn’t write this?” she asked. “No, unfortunately,” I told her.
She was unamused.
One actual fan did show up early in the morning, frazzled from her recent home repairs, anxious because she had almost forgotten about the event entirely, but happened to see it mentioned on sweet Evany’s page.
Then Amy and her husband Kevin arrived. You can tell just from looking at them that Amy went to college with me and is very proud, and Kevin just met me three seconds ago. You can also tell that they are covered in recent-wedding-bliss glow. Their wedding was on the same day as my LA signing, and sadly I missed out on what was apparently the throw-down wedding of the year.
But they sure do look happy. You’re also looking at two soon-to-be lawyers and doctors. Amy and Kevin will take over Texas in about fifteen years. I have no doubts.
Since I hadn’t seen Amy in about six years, we had a bit of catching up to do, which was good, since there wasn’t another soul in that building looking for my signature, but having people standing around impressed the staff enough. “You’re getting a crowd!” they cheered. We went with it.
My mom did wander off a little, browsing for the latest Robin Cook book. She found an autographed copy.
I was starting to wonder if I could find a used copy of Dry in the building. You’ll be happy to know there wasn’t a used copy of my book in there. Yet.
Then my friend Amanda showed up.
I haven’t seen Amanda since high school, so I was flattered that she and her husband both arrived, fresh from the airport after an unplanned overnight stay in Atlanta due to thunderstorms, and neither of them seemed as annoyed as they should have been, keeping an obligation to someone from so long ago. The new husbands met, old friends of mine got to meet each other, and my mom decided to buy my cousin some stuffed animals. A good time was had by all. I think we even sold about ten books, thanks to Amanda buying out half the stock for all of her friends.
The bookstore frames these handprints and signatures and puts them up around the store. How cool is that? We put the bag over my Cal-finger, which looked pretty horrible that day. I had spent a month not biting my nails and putting stuff on them every night and filing them and everything just to have Cal bite through one of them, making a manicure completely impossible. All I wanted was nice fingernails since people were going to be staring at my hands when I signed books. But Cal makes it so we cannot have nice things.
Katy Budget Books
July 24th, 11am
Number of People attended: Approx 5
Most surprising question asked: “Did you know a Great White Shark would scare the life out of my big sister? Can I have some of your candy?”
Statement someone didn’t think I overheard: “My daughter wrote this. You might like it, if you like Stephen King.”
Most surprising guests: See above photos
Loudest heckler: Myself
Blog recap: Ha, ha, ha.
Some people have asked about my sister, wondering how alike we are. I offer up this photograph as the answer.
Every time I look at that piercing through her right ear, the one that goes from one side of the top of her ear to the other, my own ears ache like someone has bent them in half.
On the day of the Houston signing, we decided to spend the day together, Mom, Bosie and me, going to the butterfly house at the science museum and the Rothko chapel, in addition to a nice leisurely lunch.
It was pretty clear from the beginning that the day was going to run late and everything would go horribly wrong. We got up late, as I was up until four in the morning doing press stuff, answering email and trying to work over a thousand miles from home, still trying to adapt to a different time zone. The air conditioning broke, which made the house almost as hot as it was outside. Then we forgot to get directions to the museum, so we drove back to the house to look them up. That’s when the fire alarm went off. And it wasn’t the kind you just smack a battery out of. No, sir.
It’s the kind you call the fire department over. Like, 911.
The rest of the day went without incident. We saw butterflies being born, my mom had her favorite Katz’ sandwich, and Mom and Bosie were forced to see modern art. Then we came home to find that the bedroom closet was flooded, which the dog had been trying to tell us all day, which we had interpreted as her peeing on the carpet all over the house.
So we finally made it to the Houston B&N signing.
We weren’t in the actual signing area, but rather in the YA fiction section, in a corner, with twelve chairs and some cookies. The signing section was being taken up by the Texas PG Wodehouse Society, which apparently meets once a month. They soon became tired of telling people that PG Wodehouse is “certainly not a pamie.”
When the events coordinator left to get more chairs and a microphone for the quickly-growing crowd, we did shake our fists and shout, “Take that, Wodehouse!”
Apparently I was at the same time as Gwen’s reading, but it looks like she didn’t suffer from the competition.
Friday, July 25th, 7pm
Number of People attended: 30
Most surprising question asked: “Is that what it was like when your dad died?”
Statement someone didn’t think I overheard: “Nah, I’ll be over here when you’re done.”
Most surprising guests: Apparently someone showed up at the store the week before shouting, “I know that girl! I went to high school with her!” and then he bought a copy of the book. He was not in attendance.
Loudest heckler: The woman in front in the black shirt and white skirt (“That’s the mom? And you two are still talking?”)
Interesting complaint: “Your book has a lot of pages.”
Blog recap: Kathy
Then it was on to fabulous Oakland, where you may have heard we’ve raised a few books for them. Before we launch into the librarian thank you’s, I’d like to list the new Cool Kids, right here, and do a few library PSA’s.
The latest cool kids:
Ok, Pamie, you finally got me. In honor of the Oakland A’s, the main branch is getting Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. And, in order to get free shipping, they are getting two books that are not on the wishlist, but were favorites of mine as a child: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg.
I’ve been holding out, because I really wanted to donate to my local library or to my childhood library, but they don’t have wishlists. So, I guess that’s good for Oakland. I still plan on donating to my local libraries, but they’ll have to be happy with what they get when I clean off my bookshelves.
Thanks for bringing the wishlists to everyone’s attention.
Did some of you want to write letters to the East Bay Express? Because here’s how.
I’ve been planning on making a library donation since you inaugurated the campaign, but being a poor student I’ve never had enough money on hand. But that stupid East Bay Express article finally guilted me into it.
The library closest to my childhood home was the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, which is an immense Art Deco building. I was always impressed by the scale of it, by the ringing inscription next to the door, and by the sheer number of books they had: rows of shelves stretching as far as my childhood eyes could see. One of my proudest childhood memories was getting my own library card. I had just learned how to write my full name properly, and the letters staggered across the card proclaiming my right to borrow books all by myself, just like a grown-up. I kept that card for years, through my unhappy adolescence where I still found my consolation among the stacks of books.
In recognition of how much I have benefited from the public library, I’ve just donated 2 books to the MLK Jr. branch: a children’s biography of Sojourner Truth and a collection of W.E.B. Dubois speeches. Hopefully they will be well loved, and will belie the East Bay Express’ claim that your readers are donating to the wrong branches.[/readermail]
I’ve been wanting to donate for ages and ages but had to wait until the money was there. I sent the Cesar Chavez branch two books:
1) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix– because everyone needs the Harry. I’d hate to think someone is desparate for HP5 and hasn’t been able to get at it yet because their library didn’t have a copy!
2)The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Need to Learn About Each Other– because it sounded like an useful and maybe important book for anyone with kids in school. And I’m all about helping out folks with kiddos.
This is such an amazing thing! I’ve been watching it grow and grow by leaps and bounds and my admiration for your tenacity here has been endless. Thanks so much for the opportunity to help my fellow readers half a country away (I’m from Ohio).[/readermail]
Darcy sent me an email regarding this article, which says that Austin’s book-buying budget is to be slashed by a third, in addition to 35 people losing their jobs. She writes:
[readermail]I’ll be sending a book, but also a letter to the governor protesting.[/readermail]
And artists everywhere, here’s a chance for you to help out. Jenn let me know about Reversing Vandalism, a project for the San Francisco Public Library, sponsored by the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center of the San Francisco Public Library:
[readermail]In the early months of 2001, San Francisco Public Library staff began making grim discoveries in the book stacks at the Main Library. Shoved under shelves and hidden from public eye were vandalized books, ranging from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender topics to womens issues and HIV/AIDS. Staff collected over 600 badly damaged books. The torn and slashed books were deemed beyond repair and withdrawn from the Librarys collection. The offender was eventually caught and charged with a hate crime.
The San Francisco Public Library held onto these books and is turning a destructive act into a creative platform for artistic expression and a lesson in tolerance. We were horrified when the discoveries were made, we didnt know what we were going to do with the lost items but felt strongly that discarding them would complete the vandals crime, said Susan Hildreth, City Librarian for the San Francisco Public Library. When the idea of Reversing Vandalism was raised we were very excited to offer this unique opportunity to the community.
The project is being spearheaded by the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center of the Library. The damaged books will be offered to artists who complete a submission form and grant the Library exclusive rights to display the works of art in the Library for an upcoming Reversing Vandalism exhibition. Book requests will be accepted until August 31 or when inventory runs out, whichever comes first, and artists have until October 11 to return the completed art pieces to the Library, said Jim Van Buskirk, Manager of the James C. Hormel Center.
I sent out my request today.[/readermail]
Which leads us to my reading at the Lakeview Branch of the Oakland Public Library.
It was wonderful to put so many faces to the names of people I’d been emailing with over the past few months. Everyone was so kind and friendly. Even city council members stopped by on their way to a meeting, to shake my hand and thank us for everything we’ve done. They were a very grateful group of people. They gave me more than one bundle of flowers, and had made a thank you card that the librarians from different branches had signed. Talk about an easy crowd– they remained amused even though they were freezing from the wind whipping over the lake, even though this guy never stopped his funky porno tai chi the entire time.
They asked questions about the book, about you guys, about the internet. They were shocked at how young we were, to be activists, to be so involved. One man brought up the concept of smart mobs, which apparently are becoming the rage in San Francisco, where people get emails and text messages to all arrive at one place immediately. It’s a little too Fight Club for me to suggest ever emailing all of you and telling you to meet me at the top of some stairs for an important announcement, don’t you think?
It was crazy cold up there, though. And I got to read from the library copy of my book, all bound in plastic with a number and a check out card and everything! And it had a bookplate in it, as it was donated by one of you. Come on, that’s cool.
Lakeview Branch of Oakland Public Library
Tuesday, July 29th, 5pm
Number of People attended: 30
Most surprising question asked: “How can we help you now?”
Farthest travelled: Barstow
May have helped someone else: A girl who was declined her unemployment benefits from Good Vibrations got a card from the head of the OPL, as their hiring freeze was recently lifted. I mentioned that she was trained in making people happy.
Most surprising guests: A girl who I’d been emailing with about blurbing her book. The head librarian of the Lakeview Branch is now on crutches and almost took a tumble down the stairs. The boyfriend of the woman in charge of the Children’s Department thanked me for making life around the house much better.
Loudest heckler: That man’s thrusting was really distracting. It was right over their heads!
Blog recap: There’s an article about how I handed over a check for fifty dollars from our eBay auction. If I said I had waist-length hair, I must have been crazy from the cold. My hair was mid-back, at best.
Last stop on the tour was the Oakland Barnes and Noble in Jack London Square. A train blares past this store every fifteen minutes or so, which made for some interesting reading.
Before the reading, however, the librarians had one more treat in store — they took stee and me out for dinner at a fancy seafood restaurant. We were seated beside a group of firemen, whose firehouse was being closed down. They had news crews around filming, reporting. I watched several of the women resist the urge to shush the loud men.
Mary Farrell, who runs the Lakeview branch, hobbled in on her crutches, even though it was cold and raining. There were more presents given to me, including my very own Oakland Public Library card! And stuff from Peet’s Coffee, which was my very best friend during that cold week in Northern California. Mary offered to answer any questions you might have about voluneering for your own Public Library, organizing book drives, or helping the Oakland Public Library out (like exactly how donations help, how to get more involved, anything you want). Just send me your questions, (attn: Mary) and I’ll get them to her. She’s awesome.
Anyway, it was raining and windy and I had more than one glass of wine, which is why my hair looks the way it looks in all of these next photographs. No conditioner, humid, kinda buzzed.
The events coordinator had written me a poem, which he still hasn’t emailed me but I’ll post when he does. He read it twice.
He had me sequestered in his office before the reading, so I didn’t have the chance to chat with people before, as I’d done at the other readings, and he came in moments before shouting, “It’s packed!”
I’m learning that “packed” means “More than twenty people.” I was just as shocked, as I’d expected maybe fifteen, and there were probably a good fifty people there, most of which I hadn’t bribed or threatened at all.
It was my quietest group so far, and they were all very polite and hushed, laughing and applauding in the right parts, but not quite as raucous as I’d come to expect from a pamie.com crowd. Perhaps people are just more subdued in Oakland.
“What do you want from us,” a man in the front row said. “It’s Tuesday!”
“It’s Thursday, sir,” I replied.
After I had said enough dirty words and handed out presents, they became a little more like the crowd I was used to. But then again, I arrived flushed and sweaty, still buzzing from good wine and a fantastic dessert, so maybe they were just worried I was going to drunkenly rant all over the place. I couldn’t blame them for the hesitancy.
This one felt like my first real signing, at a place where nobody knows me, and the majority of the people there were familiar with my work already. One person had me sign a printout of the Tiny Wooden Hand entry she’d had since 1999. Another girl’s copy of WGAW was already dog-eared and tattered, which was the most flattering thing I’d seen done to my book. And there were friends out there, both old and new, and of course, lots of library people.
Since my digital camera broke, I bought a disposable. I haven’t developed the film yet, but luckily this woman was around to document every other second of the signing portion of the appearance. Her name is Jennifer, and she made me feel like a rockstar as she took photograph after photograph. Yes, it made it difficult to come up with little things to sign in each book, but it’s great that she was able to capture just how horrible my bangs were, and how they just got worse as the evening went on.
You’re about to see what I mean.
Here I think I’ve just been told that the group of women in front of me recently met Nigella Lawson at a signing. See my envy? Note how I’m still flushed and sweaty, even though it’s been probably a good hour and a half since I was outside.
I find that sometimes I completely zone out when I’m trying to write something new, or at least slightly meaningful in someone’s book. I’ve already regretted a few, like when I mess up and have to scribble, or if I write something so temporary. Like poor Sobell, where I wrote, “Say hello to the MATHletes for me.” Forever? Does she have to do that forever? Couldn’t I have just said that to her and wrote something in the book about how we’ve actually spent time together in the past? What is wrong with me?
We both look so happy here that it almost seems fake, doesn’t it? This might be when I’m talking about Nigella, though, as I’ve got the Nigella glow going on.
At Barnes and Noble signings they have these posters announcing your upcoming appearance, and since they have so many, I ask if they’ll let me have one for the people in attendance to sign, so I have everybody’s signature just like they got mine. I have three of them now, and I love them.
I am seriously sweaty. So sad about those bangs.
Oakland Barnes and Noble,
Jack London Square
Thursday, July 31st, 7:30pm
Number of People attended: 50
Most surprising question asked: (referring to the picture in the back of the book and on the poster) “How old is that picture?”
Journal people spotted: Mo, Evany, Meghan
Blog recap: Rachael (“Spelled like Michael”) Herron. Scroll down for the recap. She used to have a picture posted wearing her tiara, but now it’s a photo of Digit, her cat who is apparently the spitting image of Cal.
All in all, I had a great time at each signing. I’m glad they were so varied. It was hard to find chapters to read out loud that didn’t need explanation or serious editing due to content. And passing out presents seemed to help. One person told me that Dave Eggers passes out homemade cookies. But you know who doesn’t? Nigella. So I’m falling somewhere in between the two, which I guess isn’t that bad. I’d rather pass out a Hello Kitty pencil set anyway.
I can’t believe I just now found out about this (thanks, Tara):
When they weren’t playing games they’d surf the Net drop in on old favourites, see what was new…
Or they would watch At Home With Anna K. Anna K. was a self-styled
installation artist with big boobs who’d wired up her apartment so that
every moment of her life was sent out live to millions of voyeurs. “This is
Anna K., thinking always about my happiness and my unhappiness,” was what
you’d get as you joined her. Then you might watch her tweezing her eyebrows,
waxing her bikini line, washing her underwear. Sometimes she’d read scenes
from old plays out loud, taking all the parts, while sitting on the can with
her retro-look bell-bottom jeans around her ankles. This was how Jimmy first
encountered Shakespeare — through Anna K.’s rendition of “Macbeth.”
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death,
read Anna K. She was a terrible ham, but Snowman has always been grateful to
her because she’d been a doorway of sorts. Think what he might not have
known if it hadn’t been for her. Think of the words. “Sere,” for instance.
“What is this shit?” said Crake. “Channel change!”
“No, wait, wait,” said Jimmy, who had been seized by — what? Something he
wanted to hear. And Crake waited, because he did humour Jimmy sometimes.
Or they would watch the Queek Geek Show, which had contests featuring the
eating of live animals and birds, timed by stopwatches, with prizes of
hard-to-come-by foods. It was amazing what people would do for a couple of
lamb chops or a chunk of genuine brie.
Or they would watch porn shows. There were a lot of those.
So, yeah. Megyn Price was on The Tom Green Show. It was Friday night, not Thursday, and she was on just before the show ended. You may have noticed the part where Tom Green read over two blue notecards and appeared to just skip the Anne Heche portion of the show and read out loud something about a trip to China instead. Whether or not the bit actually got on the blue notecards — who knows. But they appear to have cut the bit.
And that’s showbiz, kids.
The Music of Your Life: Stories, by John Rowell. After the first story in this book, I curled around the book on the bed and squee’d, “I love my new book!” It was only after discussing with Tara why she didn’t like Running With Scissors that I finally admitted that I just love David Sedaris so much that I’ll convince myself that the interim Sedaris writers can sometimes be just as good. The titular story in this book is truly wonderful, told in a way that had this half-smile frozen on my face because it was just as funny as heartbreaking. Some of the later stories seem to star the same cast of characters, but the first story in this book is worth the hunt to find a copy.
Please donate a book to Oakland
- Lakeview Branch
- Brookfield Branch
- Temescal Branch
- Cesar E. Chavez branch
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch
- Rockridge Branch
- Montclair Branch
- Piedmont Avenue Branch
- Main Branch
- contact a library to send private donations
- Berkeley bookstore Cody’s Books offers free shipping.
- OPL’s help page