Whether it's former classmates, guys I shared a floor with in college, or else meeting complete strangers, one of the coolest things about these tours has been my path crossing with others.
Oh, and seeing wicked awesome Reading posters like the Garfield one I found hanging near the Carmel Middle School library last week.
Also, some of these schools have hooked me up - I have two new Francis Parker Montessori t-shirts, a Carmel backpack, coffee mug, and t-shirts too. Understand I don't expect these sorts of things...but if you give me a school t-shirt, it will be worn. ;)
But back to my main point...
Showing up takes effort. I mention how grateful I am to those who take time out of their lives to come see me so often that some of my friends roll their eyes.
That doesn't make my words less true.
Over the past couple weeks, I've visited ten different schools, met with over 7,000 students, and run myself ragged in between. I could list a hundred stories here in recap, but instead I'll just share a few of my favorites. ;)
I was a resident assistant (R.A.) in college and maintain that I learned more in those three years about life, relationships, and myself in the dorms of Ball State University than I ever learned in any classroom.
Well, save one lesson I learned that was put on display every fall during R.A. training.
One of the top Housing & Residence Life bosses, Joe, had this trick he liked to play on us 100+ resident assistants. Joe would introduce himself, look over the crowd, and then he would quietly state he knew all of us in the room. Then he would dare any of us to challenge him on his assertion.
Ten points to Ravenclaw if you can name one R.A. who challenged Joe.
And so I, like many others before and after me, bet Joe he didn't know me...and was promptly proved wrong. Joe went on to tell me my full name, where I was from, etc. Then he did the same to several others in the room who dared raise their hands also.
It blew my mind.
Not because Joe knew such things about me. (This was before Facebook, but I gathered Joe had access to information on all of us R.A.s). What took me back was that this high-ranking guy had taken the time to study up on us. He had taken time out of his life to know our faces, names, and learn even trivial things about each of us.
I doubt that I'm the first author, exhibitor, etc. to know the fear of not recognizing someone when they approach you/your booth.
But it also makes it fun when you do recognize someone by name or hint.
One conversation that made me laugh occurred at the 50's Festival in my hometown of Lebanon, Indiana. A woman approached my booth and kinda gave me this knowing look.
"Have we met before?" I ask, (though I was certain we hadn't).
"I'm Brittany's friend," she said.
"Please don't take this the wrong way," I say. "But I know a lot of Brittany's."
She kinda laughed and told me Brittany's last name.
Then the lightbulb went off in my head. "Oh," I said. "You're so-and-so."
Her eyes lit up and she touched her husband on the shoulder and said, "He knows me!"
That one was for you, Joe. ;)
This past Saturday, I arrived to the Festival of the Turning Leaves a little late due to having participated in the Ovar'Coming Together Walk/Run earlier that morning in Indianapolis.
Mom had been kind enough to man my booth in the meantime, and I found her grinning like crazy as I walked up.
Aaron: What's going on?
Mom: You're going to have a visitor today.
Aaron: Okay...do I know this visitor?
Mom: No, but she's read your books and wants to meet you.
Aaron: That's awesome. Is it one of the students who heard me speak at her school?
Aaron: Well, where is she coming from then?
Mom: From Decatur.
Aaron: But that's three hours away from here.
Mom: She wanted to meet you pretty bad.
But the story goes deeper than that.
Her dad and other family members were there to take pictures.
Then I heard my mom drop this bombshell.
"Aaron, Barbara's dad drove from St. Louis to pick her up at home and bring her here."
I look at her dad. "You drove how far?"
He kinda shook it off like it was no big deal, but holy wow am I still impressed.
Barbara, not only was it amazing to meet you and email back and forth about stories and our favorite books, but your dad deserves a Father-of-the-Year award.
Thanks again for driving all that way just to meet this crazy author. ;)
And finally, one last story.
One of the things I try and teach students during my author visits is that they too can do anything they set out to accomplish, if they're willing to work hard, stay positive, and keep their dream alive.
Something I've reflected on throughout the tour has been this: What a difference a year makes.
A year ago, I had two schools inviting me to give an author talk (and one of them being my former elementary school for Career Day). This year, I visited ten schools and, unfortunately, needed to turn others away due to time constraints.
A year ago, I couldn't believe I had sold near 200 books on a tour. This tour, I sold over 700 books.
A good friend of mine (and fellow author/actor), Jay Disney, posted this image (that I love) to my Facebook timeline while I was on tour.
Thank you all who came to see me, bought a book, or just stopped by to say hey. It means more to me than I could ever write about.
Author. Actor. Rascal.