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Friday, March 28, 2008

More Adventures in Book Signings

Y'all know I have a story to tell about the PLA signing I did on Wednesday, right? I always seem to end up with stories. :-)

I had two hours from the time I finished at the Evil Day Job (EDJ) until my scheduled hour for the signing. RWA (Romance Writers of America) asked that I be there 15 minutes early, so actually 1 hour 45 minutes, but that's still a lot of time, right? Um, actually not so much.

First, I talked for about 15 minutes with a couple of guys at the EDJ, then I went to the ladies' room and started getting ready--you know, put on makeup, change clothes and all that. It left me with an hour to make it from the EDJ to the convention center for the signing. Since Google Maps informed me it was a 17 minute ride, I figured that even with traffic, I'd still be there in plenty of time.

I was wrong.

My problems began when I saw the construction ahead signs. Months ago, I'd heard that they were doing work to separate a highway and a freeway where they ran on the same stretch of road, but I'd forgotten all about it until that moment. It was an area I never travel in, had not plans to travel in, so why would I retain that information? It all came back to me as traffic came to a dead stop. I kept looking at the clock going, OMG, I'm going to be late!

I was on that freeway for about 7 miles and it took an incredible amount of time to go that distance. Every time I thought it would get better, we'd stop again.

Then there was the off ramp to I94 being backed onto the freeway I was on. I didn't need to get off there, but the road I needed to exit on was the next one after 94, and because I'm so unfamiliar with the area, I didn't realize I could have gone around those cars and still been able to exit. Instead, I sat in my SUV, creeping forward little by little.

Luckily, I didn't get lost and I even found the entrance to the parking ramp attached to the convention center. It was 4pm. I needed to be at the booth by 4:15 to sign at 4:30. I got a decent parking spot and high-tailed it inside and across the skyway only to discover I was parked as far as I could be from the PLA exhibit hall. Gah!

The first two exhibit halls were also in use and packed with people there for their meetings. I had to thread my way through them as I headed toward where I needed to be. I finally found the PLA Attendee check-in, but couldn't find the Exhibitor check-in, which is where I needed to be. I got in line anyway and was pointed to the correct area.

Only when I got there, I found Will-Call, On-Site Registration, and Accommodation booths, but no Exhibitor check-in. I got in line at on-site and was guided to exhibitor. They were divided by alphabet and I got in the line that included the grouping for the letter R for RWA. I was wrong again. It seemed they'd rearranged who had what part of the alphabet, but didn't change the signage. I got in another line.

Finally, badge holder and booklet in hand, I could enter the exhibit hall. I need booth 307 for RWA. I'm looking through the booklet as I walk, trying to locate a map of the hall. I can't find one and no one I asked knew if there was one in the book or not. I decide to wing it. I turn to the right, looking for a booth number somewhere. Anywhere. I see none.

After a few eternal minutes, I find signs hanging at the very back of the hall, number the aisles. I, of course, had turned the opposite direction. The 300 aisle was on the other side of the hall.

I have to thread my way through lots of people who are looking at the other booths, which means their pace was leisurely while I'm in a panicked, "OMG! I'm late!" mode. I reach the aisle and turn right. Wrong again. I need to head the other way.

Hurrying down the aisle, I'm frantically scanning for an RWA sign, but I see nothing. I make the cross aisle, nearly at the opposite wall, but there's no RWA. OMG!

I can't find anyone to ask. I take another frantic scan of the area and spot a rack with tote bags on them. The rack says "Romance Writers of America." I look up at the sign, but it says something like Cafe de' Amore. (I might have the name wrong, I did mention blind panic about being late.) The booth was done in a really cute, Italian bistro theme, but there was nothing except the tote bag sign that said RWA and that really threw me.

It was 4:27.

I took off my jacket, grabbed my signing pens out of my purse, and began autographing books.

Overall, the signing went well, I think. I didn't say anything too stupid, although I did ask a librarian from Roseville, MN how she was enjoying Minneapolis. Sigh. In my defense, I didn't look below her name on her badge, so I didn't see the Roseville part (it's a suburb of the Twin Cities). I think that was the dumbest thing I said all afternoon, though--I hope!--so I can live with that.

I ran out of books in half an hour, but hung around to talk and pass out bookmarks until my time was up at 5:30. I managed to 1) find my car without any difficulty! and 2) make it to the freeway I needed to be on without getting lost. Anyone who knows me well, knows these are two things I can't take for granted. :-) (And once I was on said freeway, I knew where to go, so it was all good from there.)

The librarians I talked to were wonderful and it reminded me why I always enjoyed hanging out in libraries while I was in school.

Overall, it was a great experience, but I almost wonder if being late wasn't the universe's way of keeping me from stressing about signing? I mean, how could I worry about sounding like an idiot when I was frantic about how late I was running?