Monday, November 29, 2010

The Other Nicholas from Nebraska: A Day with Nicholas Sparks

For those of you who don't know, I work in the Advancement office of a private school. So, my work life is full of event planning and fundraising. One of our biggest fundraising events is our Signatures event. We invite an author to give a speech at a luncheon in a fancy ballroom and often to sign books afterwards. The money raised from this event supports the fine arts at the school. In year's past, the school has hosted Barbara Bush, Anthony Bourdain, and John Grogan (author of Marley and Me). This year, they managed to snag Nicholas Sparks, author of A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, Dear John, The Last Song, and eleven other rather formulaic (according to my mom) sappy novels. I have never read any of his books because I never liked any of the movies. Although, he is a famous person, and he might be the first to admit it, and I can't hide the fact that I was a little excited to meet him and hear what he had to say. I think I was ready for his slightly inflated sense of self, what I wasn't prepared for was the role of bouncer/body guard to keep back the seething masses of woman. Personally, I think I should have received some compensation for putting myself in harm's way for the man, but I'm just the hired help.

His visit began on Thursday night three weeks ago. Several days earlier, he announced to us that he would be willing to give a more in-depth version of his Friday luncheon speech to faculty and students on Thursday night. This was very generous of him as many teachers and students could not skip school on Friday to attend the fundraiser. The Advancement office briefly met Sparky (our nick-name for him) before he was escorted to the stage of the Performing Arts Center. His talk was titled, "Learning the Craft." Many of us had brought pen and paper, prepared to take detailed notes from this author who has had half of his novels turned into movies (which indicates, I think, that he writes bubble-gum novels). The talk was funny and engaging, but it was all about HIM. It was a focus on how amazing he is, how lucky he was, how he does everything. If anything, we hopeful writers learned that we should capitalize on the tragic things that happen in life (all of his books are based on true family stories) so we can sell them for $1 million a pop. Great. I don't consider my life full of sappy love tragedies. Or vampires. I'm screwed.

I will say this about him, he is very good with students. He took lots of questions and answered them all. He even answered a girl's question on how to tell her mom not to make her quit sports because she has a B in science class. He also told us the answer to what is, according to him, the most frequently asked question: he wears boxers. I knew it.

Friday was the big event. I put on a short dress, black tights and tall boots. In hindsight, perhaps I should have worn steel-toed boots and a muscle tee that read "Security." Registration and set up for the event went smoothly. I even got a picture with Sparky.

His speech for the luncheon was an edited and shorter version of his speech the night before, which was fine with me because I was focused on my food. Man was I hungry. No sooner was I done with my dessert (cinnamon and peach cheesecake), and it was time for us, the Advancement staff, to start preparing for the book signing.

Dear Lord, the book signing.

Ladies, start your engines. The moment women spotted us setting up the table, they were up out of their seats and queuing  up. I even saw some of them reapplying makeup. That's right. When it was their turn in front of Sparks, they were gonna look so darn fine that he would be inspired to right his next book about them. Uh huh, you keep those pipe dreams alive ladies. In the meantime, better apply an extra coat of that cherry flavored lip gloss (just in case Sparky leans in close while signing your book) and I'm going to get ready to play your personal paparazzi and his personal body guard. Ready, go!

You think I'm joking? Well, I'm not. I had to walk up and down a line of several hundred women, aged 12-75 and remind them that Mr. Sparks only had time to sign two books and no, he wouldn't be able to personalized them. Now please have your books ready and opened to the title page. If you would like a picture while Mr. Sparks is signing your books (remember, only two books per person), then please hand me your camera or iphone when you reach the front of the line. You'd think that after repeating these simple instructions multiple times these adults would be ready when they reached me and the table with Sparky. Oh no, all of these instructions had to be repeated while with one arm I physically held back the rest of the line and with the other free hand tried to work the camera feature on an iphone.

I think the funniest thing about the whole ordeal was that, despite multiple reminders and me shouting "look at me! smile!" 99.9% of the women forgot to look at me while Nicholas Sparks signed their books. All you could see was a wall of brown or blonde hair...yeah, who's going to believe that's you tagged in the photo on Facebook when we can't see your face? Epic fail. Sparky, on the other hand, never failed to turn, smile and pose perfectly for every shot. Good boy, Sparky. Kinda felt bad I didn't have a treat for him.

Thanks to the hard work of us line Nazis, and Sparks' signing efficiency, we finished on time, despite the last seven ladies in line who kept rotating through to make sure all 10 of their books were signed.

At the end of the day, after seeing Sparky off to the airport in his town car, we all went for drinks in the hotel bar.

Yes, I'll have two amaretto sours please. Cheers!


  1. Oh Imp!

    I loved hearing about your adventures with Sparky. Maybe you can write a novel about an everyday girl who ends up having a tragically sappy 100 million dollar Blockbuster romance with a celebrity who is really that full of himself and the girl is satisfied with the relationship even though she knows he's cheating and doesn't really love her because she knows that for the rest of her life she can say she dated Whatshisface. And they'll live happily ever after consumed in their own lives. Interestingly enough his novels, not that I have read them, but I've seen two of the movies that were based off of his books, reflect the same idea. The Notebook and The Time Traveler's Wife place such a focus on the lives of the two people who fall in love and how their falling in love is the only thing that makes life worth living. Essentially, he fulfills every girl's idea of a Romantic fantasy that will never come true and contributes to a generation of dillusional girls who will end up divorced because their relationships with their husbands isn't as epically sappy or dramatic as the books they have read. Essentially what I am trying to say is, I'm glad you had such a nice evening! ;)

    But seriously, it sounds like it was fun and a crazy experience. Sorry about my rant back there. I just figured a guy like that would be that full of himself as you said. If you get the chance to read my blog you can read about my experience at the French premier of HP7. The Weasley twins were there as well as some of the other minor stars from the movies. It was really cool!

    Hope you're well! Can't wait to see you in less than three weeks!!!!

  2. Ariel this is awesome! I've heard Nicholas Sparks is a bit of a blowhard. He compared himself To Ernest Hemingway and Shakespeare. Kiddo, slow down! But it must come with the territory. I'm so sorry you had such a crazy day of it, but it sounds like the event was a roaring success! Now, if only you could stay in Texas next time I'm in town . . .

    Happy Monday!

  3. Uh yeah, he definitely said he was a better writer than Cormac McCarthy because he sold more books. I literally died laughing before ripping him to shreds (not that my family was remotely interested in listening to me compare NS and CM, but tough cookies).

    This was a great story. I met Lois Lowry when I was 12 and since then I've disliked famous people. This was a great story though- crazy, hectic and definitely a character study of people. Oy vey. Thanks for sharing!!