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Frugal fun: Attend a book signing

Hear your favorite author talk. Maybe there will be snacks. And no, you don't HAVE to buy a book.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 30, 2010 11:52AM
Earlier this week I attended a book signing by New York Times food writer Kim Severson. Her new book, "Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life," is getting plenty of positive press.

Severson confessed to a case of the hometown jitters: She used to work at the Tacoma News Tribune and some of her old softball buddies were in the audience. But even the people who'd never been on her team were charmed by the author's wit and candor, and by her reading of two parts of the book.

The free wine and chocolate handed out ahead of time didn't hurt a bit, either.

I was one of about 75 people who showed up at the University Book Store on a dank, drizzly Monday evening. Kim is a former co-worker from my days at the Anchorage Daily News, and I was glad for the chance to say hello.

I didn't buy the book, though.

Listening to authors

You see, I already have a copy of "Spoon Fed." It didn't seem kosher to bring a book obtained elsewhere to the bookstore to be personalized.

Besides, I wasn't the only person who left empty-handed. I'd estimate less than one-fourth of the folks in the audience purchased the book and had it signed. Maybe the others had their own copies. Or maybe not. Some people just like to listen to authors.

I do. If you've never been to a book signing, I suggest you give it a try. It's entertaining to hear a writer talk about what led him or her to write the story. You might get to hear an excerpt read. You'll probably get to ask questions.
If you're lucky, there will even be a door prize. The University Bookstore had made up a nice little prize bag with a copy of the book, some local specialty foods and, I think, a spatula or two. (I didn't win.)

Oh, and book signings are usually free. Every now and then an author might stage a full-on "event" with an admission fee to benefit some cause or another. But generally signings take place in bookstores, which means a chance to see the author up close and personal.

What writing means

Some authors are great storytellers in person as well as on paper. Both Michael Chabon and Eoin Colfer left me spellbound. Don't ever pass up a chance to hear Sue Grafton, because you might very well die laughing.

Jill Conner Browne, of the "Sweet Potato Queens" series, is raunchy and forthright and possibly the funniest author I've ever read/heard. Alaska mystery author Dana Stabenow is not only funny and personable but also a passionate spokeswoman for the Last Frontier; I bet people book trips north an hour after hearing her talk about the place.
It can be very exciting to listen to an author talk about what writing means to him. Sometimes he or she will reveal something intriguing about the research, or the post-publication fallout. And it's always a relief to hear that writing is just as hard for veteran authors as it is for the folks sweating through freshman English.

Check the arts section of your local newspaper, or sign up for bookstore mailing lists about upcoming author events. It's free, it’s often fascinating, and it may be your chance to ask your favorite author a question.

But please don't ask, "Where do you get your ideas?" Don't take more than your fair share of the wine or chocolate, either.

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