Monday, May 30, 2016

Readers...Rock Stars...Synonymous!

by Shirley Hailstock

If I didn't know before, I am in no doubt now that readers are our Rock Stars.  For years I've heard about the invitation-only Reader Appreciation Luncheon that former Publishers Weekly Contributing Editor, Barbara Vey, host in the mid-west. As I'd never been invited, I didn't give it much thought. But last year, during the Romance Writers of America Conference, I was sitting in the bar talking to Sharon Sala when Barbara came over and Sharon introduced me. Barbara and I had met several times, but without a name tag, the same clothes and hairstyle, identity is totally lost on most of us. But I digress.

Barbara invited me to the weekend and I accepted, not knowing what I was going to do with my daughter since I would need to be there for at least one whole school day. But I was determined. I wasn't passing up this invitation.

To my surprise, the reader luncheon had grown into a weekend. Tickets for the readers went on sale at 12:01 August 1st for a weekend that was eight months away and sold out in a few days.
In April, sixty authors and 500 readers flocked to South Milwaukee, Wisconsin (which I learned is a different town than Milwaukee.  It's not part of the Milwaukee we think of, but is its own incorporated city.).




Each author was responsible for decorating a table for eight attendees (including herself). The tables do not need to be elaborate, but you're talking to creative people and they pulled out the stops.  Look at this one from Brenda Novak.




And this one from suspense author Alex Kava. Take a close look at those Crime Scene runners.  They are actually knitted, not made of plastic tape.  




As a newbie, I was unsure of what to expect or what I should do.  Checking with some other authors, who were attending or had previously attended, I got an idea, but I was unprepared for the elaborate outlay of decorations or the warmth of the readers who'd stood in line to get in and visit with us.



Notice the centerpiece that Tina allowed me to use. There jar is a Texas boot.

The theme for my table was weddings because I have so many books with a wedding in them. My decision was to fold the napkins provided by the hotel into tuxedos, place a wedding gift in front of it and have some kind of centerpiece. I could carry all the things except a centerpiece (somehow I missed the part where I could ship everything to Barbara and she'd have it delivered to the hotel).  But we're writers and wonderful sharing people. So to my rescue comes Tina DeSalvo, an author I met for the first time that weekend. Her table also had a wedding theme and she offered me a centerpiece. I'll love her forever (and buy her books).



Tuxedo Napkin



These had to be the best cupcakes in Milwaukee.  I even had one for breakfast Sunday morning.


Seven wonderful readers (six women and a man) sat at my table for the luncheon.  Three of them drove from Detroit, MI just to have lunch with me.  Then they had to rush back to another conference they were attending. Do I feel honored or what...





I can't tell you how long I smiled, how genuine that smile was and how much I appreciated the readers.  We talked books, plots, stories we'd read and appreciated. It was like having family visit and bring friends you hadn't seen in ages. Even in the hallways, we'd meet readers . Yep, definitely rock stars.

I can't show you all the photos.  I took almost 200 of them.  Most are on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/shirleyhailstockfan).  However, some of my favorites are below:



This is an actual book, where the pages are folded into a flower.  (I gotta learn how to do this.)



Susan Elizabeth Phillips wearing a cheese hat.




Tina DeSalvo's wedding table. The cake is made of the small cake boxes that guests usually take home with them. The photo does not do the table justice. It was absolutely beautiful.

I sure hope Barbara invites me again. I already have a hundred ideas for table decorations.  But more than that, just being able to meet and talk to so  many readers is worth all the effort. Bravo Barbara for bringing readers and writers together!

As always, keep reading...


24 comments:

  1. This sounds like SO MUCH fun! I envy you getting to participate in that. Thank you for sharing the pictures.

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  2. Thank you for sharing the experience with us, Shirley! I can understand why you would want to participate again.

    Congratulations for being a National Readers' Choice Awards finalist!

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    1. Thank you. Being able to talk about fictional characters who are REAL to people who understand, an absolutely great experience.

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  3. What great photos, Shirley. And your table is beautiful - love the white roses and the cupcakes! Readers are the reason for it all and while I've never been to such an event, I've met them at other conferences, or at signings, or by mail, and they provide such encouragement - and such enrichment of the writing-life when they tell you what your books have done for them! Next to marriage and children, the best relationship there is!

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    1. Amen. I'm sure most of us have a tear-jerker story a reader has told us about how something we wrote helped them.

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  4. Shirley, These photos are amazing. It looks like you had a wonderful time. And I agree about our readers - we literally could not do this job without them. When someone spends a few hours of their precious time reading a book I've written I'm absolutely honored. When they call or email or review it, I'm beside myself with joy.

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  5. It looks amazing! Your tuxedo napkins are so cute. :) Thanks for taking photos and sharing.

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    1. I love napkin folding. I always embers list my holiday table with something special like those.

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  6. What an amazing event! So happy you had a fun and successful adventure!

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    1. It is amazing. If you get invited, do whatever you can to attend.

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  7. Shirley, what fun. Your table looks marvelous as do the others. I know a couple of authors who have gone to this luncheon. I don't know that I ever realized how much decorating was done. But how wonderful that the people who sat at your table were truly reader-fans.

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    1. Some of the designs were awe-inspiring.

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  8. Shirley, what a great event and how wonderful to share with your readers. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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    1. Those readers who drove 8 hours just to have lunch with me, then spent 8 hours going back to another conference was truly humbling.

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  9. What a wonderful gathering, and the tables are beautiful.

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    1. If only I could show their true beauty. Even though the photos are good, the way they actually looked is so much more than a picture can provide.

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  10. Barbara Vey is so much fun! And I love your table. Congrats on being a National Readers' Choice Awards finalist.

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    1. Thank you. I was so surprised about the nomination.

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  11. What a great post! I love seeing the pictures of the table decorations. Your tuxedo napkins are perfect!

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    1. Thank you. The napkins are a favorite of mine.

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  12. What a wonderful event! Thank you for sharing this special experience, Shirley!

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  13. How awesome! Your table was lovely. Looks like you had a great time. What a wonderful way to connect with readers.

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  14. Wow! What amazing table displays! I thought yours was very elegant!

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  15. Harlequin needs to organize one of these and invite us and readers!

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