Lexington: Table for One, Party Talk & The Memoirists Collective

Let it be known that I just spent an hour dutifully filing my last post from the Spring Tour only to idiotically lose all my "work" when I went to check a link. I will try to recreate the magic, but I can't promise any miracles. Ugh. So I arrived in Lexington a bit of a mess, having risen at 3:30am to fly from Pittsburgh via Chicago. I dozed on the plane and looked like someone who had dozed in a gutter. I was too early to check into my hotel at 10am, so I had the choice of sitting at the breakfast buffet or going over to the Lexington Center to check out the Bluegrass Festival of Books, where I was expected at 9 to sign books.

Obviously, a breakfast buffet might have sent me 'round the bend to the Dark Place, so I wandered over to the convention center, where I thought I'd anonymously scope out the fest and then hie to the nearest Starbucks. But on seeing a big ol' table with my name on a giant placard and piles of books waiting to be signed by wandering festival attendees, I decided to stay, in all my greasy, ponytailed, makeupless, Altoid-breath glory. The books don't sell themselves, people.

I was frankly shocked that anyone stopped to chat with me, all wide-eyed and dead-asleep-smiling, but they did, lots of friendly Kentucky readers, which made it all quite worth the while. I left at around noon to quickly shower and dash back for my panel at 2pm. It wasn't actually a panel, come to think of it, as I was the only person on the panel, but more like a talk/interview. With the tremendous Cheryl Truman, books editor of the Lexington Herald Leader, who was funny and congenial and told the crowd, much to my delight, how she and I try to one-up one another with our exercise playlists (she has evidently banked some serious street cred with her daughter for my ridiculous-lyric drum-bass-rap running CD that I sent her). She said she felt like she knew me, even though we'd only ever talk on the phone for a story she did on the book, and I felt the same way. She was all the more impressive for a woman who had just wrangled 1200 people through a lunch with Paula Deen. (Yes, that's right, she's here, just as I suspected! If you ever want to know where I am, anywhere in the world, just look for Paula D. I think things have gone too far, actually: there was a handwritten banner in the window of the Starbucks that said "We Heart You Paula." Come on, there are 79 other writers here, some of whom got up at 3:30 to be here. Share the love, Lexington.)

After the panel, during which I chatted somewhat hazily but hopefully charmingly about how to throw a party/how to be a good party guest, I met up with some family that I hadn't seen in years who drove in from Louisville. It was so great to see them, and so generous of them to come, especially on this, the eve of the Kentucky Derby. I was really excited to see some familiar faces; life has been so filled with the unfamiliar lately, it was joyous to actually know people. I had to dash back to my table and sign books, so they wandered the festival and I think got some good books before heading back to Louisville for fireworks.

I stuck around signing and oh I met this impressively 24-year-old culture writer for the Herald Leader named Jamie whom I just adored chatting with, and the writer David Matthews who wrote the memoir Ace of Spades about growing up black and Jewish in Baltimore, which I can't wait to read. I also met the cool kids of the Memoirists Collective. I read Josh Kilmer Purcell's book when it first came out and enjoyed it very much. Devoted readers will recall that Hillary Carlip's book once saved me from a dark night of the soul in Denver not so long ago. Hillary was just as I expected, bright, funny, outgoing -- which I think speaks to the strength of her voice on the page.

The high point of the afternoon was meeting Rachel, who organized the event and therefore must be even more exhausted than I am, and especially Jared, who works at Joseph Beth Booksellers, which sponsored the festival. Oh how I love Joseph Beth. My event was at their Pittsburgh store last night and I marvel at how they manage to be an independent chain that has several locations in the Midwest and South, still managing to be as massive as a Barnes & Noble but with smart displays, millions of little recommendation placards, tons of paper products and soaps and candles that I want desperately but absolutely do not need. Jared is (here comes that word again) hilarious, 22, and has lived the life of someone 10 times his age. I wish I could tell you his story but it's really not mine to tell. Jared, you really need to write a book.

I went out to dinner with Hillary, Josh, Jared, as well as Maria Dahvana Headley, who lives in my favorite-city-of-the-hour, Seattle, and writers Brad Barkley (he writes YA novels among other stuff) and the very funny Ann Hood, who wrote The Knitting Group. Jared introduced us to some Kentucky delicacies like fried banana peppers and this very bizarre chocolate covered dried cream candy that I think may be called "Blue Mondays" but somehow that doesn't seem possible. These are some fun cats. I think back to the gray days in Michigan and Kansas and think it was a million years ago. I think, "There is sun here" and "Tomorrow, I go home."

memoirists et. al. lexington

Brad at the end of the table, then clockwise: Jared, Ann Hood, Me, Hillary Carlip, Maria Dahvana Headley, Josh Kilmer-Purcell.

Oh, did you know that the Radisson has Sleep Number Beds? I don't know how I feel about this, but I think I can safely say that having napped on a Sleep Number Bed, I don't think I really want one. And that I'm a 35, which is softer than I thought, but there it is. 70 is like sleeping on a marble slab.

Is there a White House Correspondents Dinner every night? Wasn't there one like a week ago? I thought they had one per year. Rich Little??!? Doing impressions? This is so off.

Also, remember how I was traveling down that dangerous road to becoming a dotty old lady who collects mugs? Well, Joseph Beth gave me a JB mug full o' Crabtree and Evelyn products last night, and today at the festival...another JB mug! So I've got a matching pair, I'm well on my way to being a Mug Lady now. This means I don't have to scour the Lexington airport looking for some strange kitschy vessel tomorrow, which, I think you will agree, is good news.

One more thing: I've read some author blogs recently and they seem rather show-offish, like look where I went and look who showed up and I'm pretty glamorous. I don't think this one comes off like that, but I wonder if I should be doing more bragging. I'm not up to it, but I'll consider it for another entry. I want to say that this tour has been unbelievable, I've met ten trillion people and I can't keep anything straight except I do know I've been having fun. I've seen a lot of baggage claims. I've claimed a lot of baggage. I'm having a good time. I'm going home.

Tour, TourMelissa Kirsch