Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, spoke in Stanwood, Washington yesterday, and I drove the 45 minutes to that small town way off the interstate to hear him.
I hadn’t any idea what to expect, but the ad in the newspaper—tiny and more than a week before the fact—announced the gathering to be on the third floor of the Norgaard Cultural Center, a century-old building that used to be an I O O F hall. I thought there might be thirty or forty people there.
My first clue I was wrong was when I couldn’t find a parking place in any of the parking lots within two blocks. I didn’t worry about finding my way to the Cultural Center, I just followed the two ladies discussing Jamie Ford’s book as they walked purposefully in a northerly direction.
After reaching the center, I climbed two sets of stairs and found Jamie in the lobby. He and I almost shared a podium at the Whitney Awards where he won Best General Fiction when Counting the Cost won in the romance category. I attended. He didn’t. Last night he explained that he was traveling at the time, and we chatted about that until it was time for him to speak.
By that time the room was so full that I had to carry my own chair in from a stack in the hall. There must have been 200 people—and remember, Stanwood is a small town. When Jamie asked how many had read his book, probably three quarters raised their hands. Wow! What would an author give to have that response?
Jamie gave a wonderful talk, full of humor and gentle good sense. He spoke of being drawn to love stories and used Casablanca as an example, saying that half of the story was played out off screen. He explained that the viewer wasn’t privy to the most intimate moments, but that absence only made the story more poignant and powerful because the viewer’s own experience and imagination filled in the blanks. I was thrilled to have this nationally acclaimed writer speak out for restraint in sexually explicit prose. Less is more, he said, and I agree.
The kicker of the evening was to find what had prompted this bestselling author to be in out-of-the-way Stanwood. Each year Stanwood Public Libraries hosts a community read. Books are nominated and a committee selects a book to be read by everyone in the community. Then they invite the author to come and speak, first at the high school and then at the cultural center. Jamie said he was impressed with the process-oriented questions asked by students. The community had lots of good questions, too.
All the way through, I was cursing my senior memory for forgetting my camera. A picture with me and Jamie Ford would be wonderful for my blog. But wait—I had my phone! I stood in a loooong line to have Jamie sign my book and asked if I could have our picture together. He graciously assented, and I had a lady behind me take our picture with my phone…and then I didn’t save it. Not only my memory, but my technical maladroitness betrayed me here. Ah well.
But it was a great evening. I wrote a few weeks ago about the state of flux the publishing world is in right now, with ebooks and self publishing on the rise, but last night only reinforced my conclusion that the story’s the thing. People will always welcome a well told story.
I haven’t read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet yet, but luckily I’ve dealt with all my promised reads and have a clear slate to begin. I’m looking forward to it, and I’ll review it here when I’m finished.
Follow this blog! I'll soon be posting my review of Jamie Ford's book, and I'm going to post my healthy fried egg soon. You won't want to miss that gem. Plus, I'll be writing about the Northwest Writers Retreat.