Saturday, September 14, 2013

Meeting Sarah J. Maas

Last Wednesday, I met Sarah J. Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series.

It wasn't easy--it was a school night. I lived about 30 miles from Naperville. My school was hosting this curriculum night thing--so my parents had to attend.

But tenacity was in my blood. I vowed to see Sarah, and my lovely dad supported me. So right after school, we took off for Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville.

When I arrived at the store, it was 4 pm and the event was to start at 7. Waiting wasn't long at all; hours passed easily in a bookshop.

At around 6 pm, I was buying a copy of Little Women at the front register. Then I saw Sarah walking down the street. She turned...and walked into the bookstore.

When I saw her, I said--no, squeed--"There's Sarah!"

In a millisecond following, I fortified myself not to collapse all over the countertop and drool.

Because she was there. I had never been so excited to see an author in my life.

So we introduced ourselves. She was very, very friendly and I commend her for not being scared off by my 14 year old fangirling vibes.

Sarah then went to all the autographing table and engaged in book-event-business-y stuff and I ran into the shelves to hide.

So fast forward to 7 pm. The people were assembled in chairs, a good-sized group. Sarah came in and instantly put us at ease.

I really can't describe it. Sarah was incredibly down-to-earth and kind. Though I had read her story to publication time and time again, she managed to make it sound fresh and engaging and hilarious. She highlighted her geeky side of childhood and confessed to having a life-sized cardboard cutout of Legolas from LOTR that was lipsticked all over--which all had us howling in laughter. She sounded humble, she sounded grateful, she was real--she spoke about how she grew and how Celaena, the main character in the series, grew with her.

But somehow, the whole event seemed surreal. While waiting in line for the signing, I chatted with a few people (Namely, Katie: and we geeked out over all sorts of books and how trilogy thirds like Champion and Allegiant were coming out this fall. It was amazing to talk with people who actually knew the books and could carry on a conversation. We talked about the saddest deaths in Harry Potter (I voted Fred Weasley, Katie voted Hedwig) and then I found myself standing in front of Sarah J. Maas.

It wasn't until then that it all became very, very real.

I stacked the books that I had brought--and the books that my friends had begged me to bring--all in one pile.

"My friends and I love you," I said.

And that was the beginning of everything that spilled out. Sarah was so amazing, and she listened and smiled while I told her how I discovered her on NaNoWriMo, how I followed her blog, how on the day Crown of Midnight came out I swore to my dad, "This is going to be a NYT Bestseller"--and it did. I showed her my friends' fan art, told her how she was such an inspiration for a young, unknown writer. I told her how she deserved Every. Bit. Of. Success. that she got because hell, she had been working on it for ten years and more and how when she was on The List, we all felt like we were on the list with her.

And at one point, Sarah stood up, and walked around the table to give me a hug, and told me she just KNEW I was going to be published one day, and it was one of the most gratifying moments of my life.

And when my shaking hands finally took the signed books off the table, I walked to a corner of the bookstore, gingerly set down the books, and knelt there, just staring at her books. My brain was completely numb.

It's hard to tell someone else just how much Sarah J. Maas means to me, how much her writing and her story to publication speaks to me. But she was struck down, again and again, and she stood up. When she first got her book deal, she put up a video thanking the people that helped her--and sobbed in it. The journey took her through everything and she came back and she is one of the authors that deserves her success, and every bit of it. The whole time I talked, she kept thanking me. 

I am so INCREDIBLY grateful for the night I had, for the sacrifices my dad made to drive me to and back from the event.

And I so, so, wish that I could give back. I wish that one day--one day--I could give her a book I wrote and thank her, again and again, for what she did to me.

...One day.

Monday, September 9, 2013

So...2013 is more than 2/3 over?

Oh my goodness. I just realized that.

2013 is no longer a shiny new year.

Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.

I realize that I'm ranting like an old person here,

Time does pass fast.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A beautiful song

So yesterday, my awesome German teacher showed this video to us. 

Of course, it was all in German, and I am in the beginning stages of learning the language. I always has this stereotypical concept of German songs being a mix of guttural syllables and angsty hard rock. I had NO idea why. But  that has been totally wrong, and German music has its own kind of strange beauty too.

Watch it. Watch the video and you'll see why I teared up.

It's not about youth painting the town or doing drugs or whatever American songs are about these days. It's a friendship/love of an elderly man and woman, spray-painting the town walls, skateboarding, pulling pranks, doing what the children and the young do, like what Liesel and Rudy did in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

And again--I had NO idea what the song was about, but I think it's something about having a childlike spirit. And I see the two in the video--free of burden, laughing and smiling.

And this made me sort of smile and tear up at the same time, because I think that as we get older, our souls kind of get heavier and heaver. I once heard Jennifer Lawrence say that as a teenager, she was a sort of a hotheaded, rebellious girl, an all-goes, almost naive kind of spirit. She said that as she got older, she got more more self-conscious, more aware of her mortality. 

And I think--when you get that old, is it possible to still have a light spirit? Are you forever a well of memories and burdens and regrets? Is it not possible, if your body is willing, to be old and still raise hell and smile easy? 

This was totally not a writing post, but in a way, it may have been. I don't know. But this was a song that made my week, and I hope it would make yours too :)

Any songs that you would like to recommend?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How Rainy Days turn out to be Extraordinary

Yesterday, it poured.

I live around Chicago, so rain isn't too rare an occurence, but yesterday, it rained in kind of that ominious inky sky, downpouring sheets of rain kind of way.

My brother was going for this tournament of his. It was in Naperville, and I found out that morning that authors Rae Carson and CJ Redwine were going to be in town.

I had actually been keeping my eye on that Sarah J. Maas event, but I thought, hey, why not?  I liked Rae Carson--I had LOVED her Girl of Fire and Thorns books. Plus, I had never been down to Anderson's before.

So long story short, I found myself sitting in the small, cozy bookshop of Anderson's that afternoon.

The event started out quietly--just the two authors first introducing each other, giving reading recommendations, and then answering questions from the crowd of about 20-25. Not too big--it was great. I sat in the second row and managed to get a good view of the authors. Rae and CJ were witty and amazing and I found myself nodding along to CJ's Strong Female Characters argument (check out Erin Bowman's kick-butt post on that: and I asked a question of my own.

I wanted so badly to buy their books but I forgot to bring money. So after the event ended and the signings commenced, I slunk quietly to the bookshelves and settled down with a book. After a bit, the crowd had cleared and the chairs were packed up, the two authors wandered over to the bookshelves. And Rae Carson was there, standing literally two feet away from me, scanning the Sci-Fi and Fantasy shelf.

So I screwed up my courage and spoke. She recognized me from the event. I told her she was an inspiration to me and how I was a writer too, and how I wanted to be published some day. At this point CJ Redwine had joined us. So it was the three of us, talking about writing and publishing. The two ladies were so kind and humble and there and real. 

And at one point CJ asked me, "What's your name?"

"Christina," I said. "Christina Li."

"Christina Li," Rae said. "I'm going to look for your name on the bookshelves one day."

And that's what made me nearly teary and absolutely giddy with happiness. To have an author--A NY Times bestselling author--look me in the eye and say that to a young unknown teen...I was speechless. And endlessly grateful.

And I spent the rest of the afternoon reading The Bone Season, which was stunning and complex and completely, totally epic. It lived up to my expectations and more.

My kind of a perfect afternoon.