By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian
I’ve mentioned before that being a librarian, especially a teen librarian, occasionally comes with fun perks (like getting advanced reader copies of books!) And of course, there’s my favorite perk, of getting to hang out with and talk to awesome teenagers on a regular basis (seriously folks, best part of my job.) But another part of my job that I always get super excited about is the chance to meet authors! Thanks to the library conferences and professional development that I attend, plus the occasional bookstore signing, I have been lucky enough to meet some incredible authors. And you might think that, after the first couple authors, I would have learned to play it cool and not act like a besotted fangirl, but you would be wrong.
So even though I am still somebody who stammers and occasionally sweats and can barely garble out an “OMG I loved your book so much and you are so cool,” and therefore hardly an expert on meeting authors, I wanted to share the wealth, and make some suggestions for meeting and respecting authors when you get the chance.
The first step, of course, is finding authors! Bookstores are a great place for this – authors will often go to a bookstore to sign books, or even do a reading from their books. We are fortunate to be near enough to Anderson’s Books to see some of the incredible range of authors who visit their store, but smaller stores and libraries in the area will often host visits from authors as well, so keep your eyes open. If there’s a particular author you want to meet, check their website – most authors will post their appearances well in advance, which gives you time to plan a trip to Chicago or a road trip if you really want to.
Once you’re there, the most important thing to do is respect the author. In my experience, most authors are thrilled to meet fans, sign books, and even take pictures. But everyone is different. Some people prefer not to shake hands, because they are averse to physical contact (or sick!) Some prefer not to take pictures, whether because they don’t like pictures or because they don’t want to hold up the signing line. Some are happy to personalize a book, some have to sign so many books at once that their name is all their tired hand can manage. So by all means, ask away, but be sure to respect what an author says!
The second most important thing is, don’t be afraid to talk to the author! Even if you only have a minute or two, it can be really rewarding to tell an author what you liked about their book, or ask a question, or share what made you connect so powerfully to their work. Telling Dhonielle Clayton how reading Tiny, Pretty Things made me realize how much I like reading about cut-throat, ambitious, sometimes mean characters, and having her respond and agree that mean people are indeed super fun to read about, was completely awesome. Even though it was a short interaction so I didn’t hold up the line behind me, it’s something I’ll remember, and an individual moment with an author that belongs to just to the two of us! Along those lines, don’t be afraid to ask for things like a picture, a hand-shake, or a personalized signature. Just remember the most important thing (respect the author!), and don’t push it.
Lastly, enjoy yourself! You’re getting to meet someone who has created a work that you love (or like, or are interested in.) That’s something that should be savored, and remembered. Don’t worry about being nervous or red-faced or awkward. Even if you are, the authors will be thrilled that you are there, interested in their work. Plus, there’s no way you’ll be more flustered than I was when I met Tamora Pierce. Seriously, NO WAY.