Yesterday, I attended my very first mall book signing. The authors in question were Ransom Riggs, Tahereh Mafi, and Veronica Rossi. Now I have to confess, Riggs was the only one among the three I’d read, and the main reason I was there. Simply because I’m not terribly familiar with recent YA, and not because I’m prejudiced against it. (Am not an author myself, but if I were, I’d choose to write for ten- to twelve-year-olds. That point when a child is at his most intelligent and still likes to go on adventures; that is, before the sudden limits of teenagedom.)
Still, I edit for a living and reading for pleasure has become a luxury. But two years ago, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children caught my eye in a bookstore, and my little brother gifted me the book for Christmas. I’m not about to launch into a book review here, so suffice it to say it may have been my favorite gift among that year’s stash. I particularly loved the idea of using a collection of vintage stories to tell a story, and the cliffhanger meant I had to get my hands on the second book as soon as it hit the shops. So when I did go and purchase the second book, the salesladies were kind enough to tell me about the upcoming book signing.
I thought, Well, why not? The author seems an interesting person. It wouldn’t take long. He’d be sitting at a table with two other authors. I’d get in line for a few minutes, say hello, probably ask a question or take a picture, and thank him and move on.
See what a noob I was?
The mall opened at ten a.m., the schedule for registration. I calmly strolled towards the venue, glancing at shops here and there . . . and a teenage girl RAN past me. Er. Okay. I resumed my stroll and ANOTHER teenage girl did the same. And a third, and a fourth . . . wait. Was I missing something here? We were all headed in the same direction, it seemed.
Culture shock. Was I at the right place? Had I accidentally walked into a One Direction concert instead?
First of all, despite the mall having just opened, I was the 161st person in line. A quick look around revealed I was probably also the oldest. Teens, teens everywhere in T-shirts with the authors’ name on it, carrying banners and fan art and literally (yes, I know how to use the word) hopping and flailing. Every so often a cluster of them would combust into a random scream. (Note that the authors in question were due to arrive at two p.m. yet and were nowhere in sight at this point.) I stifled the urge to pipe up in a creaky voice, “Back in my day, young lady, we only did this in boyband concerts.”
Then I found my equally traumatised friends, and we gathered for coffee and relative sanity and thought of how we could possibly navigate this madness.
Oh right. With more madness. Here are the fruits of our brainstorming, by four bored girls:
Plan A (scrapped)
One friend, Fritz, lamented how he felt like a pedophile. So I thought, Why not wear pedobear masks, go up to Ransom’s table, and say with a twisted grin, “I love your book . . . about peculiar children.”
Plan B (scrapped)
Since there was an awful lot of screaming, we figured we could step up to the signing table, let out a bloodcurling scream, and hurl the book at Ransom, after which, we also figured, he would probably start screaming himself.
Plan C (scrapped)
Make Him Cry
Now one of our friends sings so beautifully she makes grown men cry. Ransom, going by his picture, was a grown man, which suited our purpose. The plan was to have her suddenly sing, after which we would collect Ransom’s tears in a vial for future use in potion-making. (It is known that nerd tears are able to cure a variety of ailments.)
The Ransom Conspiracy
As all the previous plans would have ended up with someone calling security and our tiny selves being muscled off the scene, this is what we ultimately went with. But this is a longer story, and for this, I must now return to the scene of the signing.
Upon arrival, the number of excitable fangirls and boys had quadrupled dramatically. There were now groups of people squatting in every conceivable square meter of space in the vicinity. Each time a chair was so much as moved by one of the organizers, the screams became louder and more persistent.
One of the bored girls wisely proposed we go one floor higher and watch the proceedings from there. It was an inspired choice. Not only were we a safe distance from the hullabaloo, we had a fantastic view. It was like watching a people aquarium.
The best, it turned out. Ransom, Tahereh (Mafi), and Veronica (Rossi) actually walked past us. This gave us a good look at their shoes. They had very pretty shoes. Tahereh was quite possibly the loveliest author I’d ever seen.
Then they went backstage, and from our vantage point, we could see them there. They emerged with Riggs taking a video of the very enthusiastic crowd.
Patience, Padawan. I’m just getting to Plan D.
While Q and A was happening, Kring started sketching Ransom on one of the pages of her little notebook. She noticed that he didn’t have much in the way of a chin. Based on that and an ingenious fan banner, we shook with giggles as we imagined actually telling the guy, “Ransom, y u have no chin? Did someone . . . kidnap it for ransom? Is this why you’re so handsom?”
No, we didn’t actually tell him that in person. We did, however, write it on the note. Since there was still space on that small piece of paper, we added a few more drawings (thanks to Kring) and messages. One had him smoking a Holmesian pipe with a really bad Sherlock-related pun. Another had a squirrel we named Random Riggs. And on the back page, a formal letter from Charles Xavier discussing possible collaborations involving the educational prospects of these youngsters and a feisty old lady who begged for an erotica book because she “had her needs” and children just wouldn’t cut it. You get the picture. Perfectly horrible stuff.
And yes, though we didn’t really get to have a nice, long chat with him (pity, he seemed like a fun sort of person), we did get to say hello and get a picture and our books signed before we were moved along. Kring got to ask him if he liked Doctor Who (apparently he’s not a Whovian, which is okay) and most importantly . . . we got the message delivered.
Also, when they were taking a selfie with the crowd (it really is a thing nowadays, isn’t it?), Ransom happened to look up at my perch in Mount Olympus, and this happened:
We called it the Ransom Conspiracy.
While it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever respond to our nonsense, we did have quite an experience. And this morning, the same Mr. Riggs posted a tweet about reading everyone’s messages and how the people at his Philippine book signings were “insanely creative.” I’d like to think we contributed a fair bit to the “insane” part of it.
And there’s something else that tickles me about all this: These days, authors seem to be the new rock stars. Kids are getting genuinely excited about books and the stories in them. Reading, for many of this generation, is no longer something they’re forced to do at school. No sirree, they now throw themselves into it willingly–fan art and fan fiction attached–and wear the T-shirts proudly.
You may roll your eyes, but if childhood fans of Conan Doyle can end up creating (and, in Gatiss’s case, acting in) my favorite modern take on Holmes, I say this is all bloody awesome.
Now I’d better read his second book.