Saturday, January 5, 2008
Luck plays a big role in book collecting. You spend years looking all over the country for a book...and then it happens to turn up in the used bookstore down the street. You despair that a favorite author will never sign your books because he lives in Australia...and then he does a book tour that comes right through your midwestern city.
In other words, you may hunt and search all over for interesting books...and then end up just stumbling across the most special things.
I had such an experience this summer when my favorite independent bookstore held a party celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary. The event was held on a Friday evening and I planned to stop in on my way home from work. Halfway between my workplace and the bookstore, the dark sky erupted with the worst thunderstorm of the summer. I had to pull into a parking lot and wait it out, as the rain drummed on the roof of the car, lashed at the windows so hard that I couldn't see, and flooded the parking lot several inches in just a matter of minutes. As soon as the rain slowed, I continued on my way, though now there were downed tree branches littering the streets and the parking lot of the bookstore had turned into a wading pool. My shoes and socks got soaked just walking from the car to the store.
The weather probably prevented a big turn-out for the party, but one of the people who did attend was author Kathe Koja, who started her career writing adult books and has recently been writing smart, offbeat novels for young adults, including STRAYDOG, BUDDHA BOY, THE BLUE MIRROR, TALK, and GOING UNDER. My friend the bookstore owner told me that Koja's latest YA novel, KISSING THE BEE, had just arrived in the store that very day. I said, "I'm going to get a copy. Maybe she'll sign it for me." So I bought the book, then made my way over to the author and asked if she'd sign the book. (Her husband held my punch cup and paper plate while I got out the book and pen, then held Kathe's paper cup and plate as she signed the book. I later learned he is the photographer who provided the book's arresting cover photo and was sorry I didn't have him sign the book as well.) Kathe Koja was very surprised when I approached her with the book, as it had just been released that very day. She told me that this was the first copy of the book she'd ever signed and inscribed it, "My very 1st signing of The BEE!!"
How neat to have the first signed copy of the book -- and how special that the author herself documented that fact in her inscription! This unexpected gift makes me especially treasure my copy of Kathe Koja's fine new novel.