This was a weekend full of fun: meeting Anna; attending the National Book Festival; and dinner with Terry Pratchett, Holly Black, and Harry Turtledove (not to mention the charming people of the Washington Science Fiction Association). What could be better?
Anna came into town for the National Book Festival and also to be a tourist, so on Thursday night when she arrived, we got together (with Dave) at Georgia Brown's near McPherson Square for dinner and to finally meet in person (at which time I was very impressed by Anna's lovely hair, which is very long and wavy). Dinner was great (I got a spinach salad with pulled duck, goat cheese, and a maple vinaigrette, and it was fantastic. Anna's bacon, date, and feta appetizer wowed us, and Dave and Anna enjoyed their chicken wedge salad and crab cakes, respectively) and we had a good chat. Then Anna went off to her hotel, and I went home to work on a project for the National Book Festival: since one of the main impetuses for our attendance at the Festival was Terry Pratchett, and also since we are organizing the first North American Discworld Convention for 2009, I had hit on the idea of painting t-shirts for the festival publicizing the convention, and also giving one to Terry as a surprise. So I had bought t-shirts for me, Anna, and Terry (I already had the paints from previous projects) and was working on the long process of assembly-line painting 3 similar but different shirts at once! It takes awhile, I can tell you.
After being up WAY too late doing the turtle parts of the shirts, I went to work on Friday and then met Anna for dinner at Kinkead's in Foggy Bottom. Kinkead's did not disappoint. I wasn't super-hungry, so I got a bowl of she-crab soup with cream sherry (I think?) and brioche croutons. Amazing. Anna got that and the rare tuna dinner, and we both got yummy and very artfully prepared desserts (mine looked like a small piece of modern art, with a curl of milk chocolate, a thin piece of bittersweet chocolate with a hole in one end, and a dab of gold flake icing on top). Even with not being that hungry, I could have eaten about a pint of the hazelnut mousse part of mine.
After dinner Anna went off to see some things, and I went home for another painting marathon. This one took me until 4 am, but I finished Anna’s and Terry's shirts and the front of mine, which I decided was enough (I'll just have to do the back of mine noting the convention later).
On Saturday I put on my turtle shirt and met Anna at her hotel around 10. She tried on her shirt (which fit perfectly!) and we headed to the festival.
Since Terry wasn't on right away, I went to the book sales tent to get a couple of books for signing. I got Making Money for me and for my boss, and picked up Ironside by Holly Black. The line was ridiculously long a la Disneyland, but there were sadly no rides at the front! Poor Anna had to wait for me (I hadn't anticipated the loooong line) but at least some people asked about our shirts while in line and we were able to let some Discworld fans know about the convention. My lack of sleep was justified! :) When I finally got to the front of the line I think I was the most cheerful person the poor B&N register guy had seen that day, because he seemed very glad to find someone actually joking with him about the line instead of complaining.
After the line, we headed over to the Fiction & Fantasy tent to get good seats for Terry's talk. Thus we actually got to hear much of the talk of the preceding person, Lalita Tademy, who was quite interesting to listen to; I believe I shall have to get her book! During the talk, Anna spotted Terry arriving near the tent, so she went over to have a word with him and his escort, while I held onto our seats and numerous bags. At this point I should explain that Anna has been to a number of Pratchett events and Terry has dubbed her his "Official Designated Stalker" (in the nicest way possible). So she happened to know his favorite American beer, and happened to have the idea of bringing him some as a nice treat for after the festival. We had been on the hunt for this beer for awhile, and it turned out it wasn't available in DC at all, but thankfully it had turned up in Anna's local grocery, and she had actually transported it across the country for Terry. So we had a cold six pack of beer that we had taken turns lugging around all morning. She asked Terry's escort, a very nice man named Ken, what to do with it, and he let us know we could drop it at Terry's hotel for him.
When she came back I went over to greet Terry and also to give him or Ken the t-shirt I'd painted for Terry. As luck would have it this was during a moment when Terry was not being talked to by another fan (rare, rare!) so I was able to show him the shirt. At which point he said, "And I suppose you’d like me to wear it?" and I replied, "Well, you don't have to." To which he said, "Ladies, here's something you won't see again in a hurry," handed me his hat, bag, and author badge, and proceeded to change shirts in the middle of the National Mall! It was quite possibly the funniest moment of the weekend. During the process, while he was between shirts, he joked, "If a fan came up to me now, they would be too scared to ask me to sign anything." I was glad to see the t-shirt fitted him pretty well (we had asked his size of his assistant), and we hurried over to the tent for his talk (at which point I almost absentmindedly walked off with his bag, but fortunately Ken rescued it).
Michael Dirda of the Washington Post introduced Terry.
Terry's talk was fantastic, and definitely the funniest I saw that day (which is not surprising, as from what I've seen he's unfailingly polite, charming, and modest, as well as amusing). The questions were for the most part of good quality, and Terry had good answers for all of them. I think my favorite question was from the person who asked if Terry was ever tempted to write darker novels in which a favorite character went bad. You could tell that this person really wanted Terry to write something like that. He kept asking, "but aren't you tempted to do it?" It was pretty funny. Of course for me (and probably many others) one of the best qualities of Terry’s work is that the good characters are able to resist going bad because of certain good (or maybe not good, but at least human) qualities, which is very natural and true to life. And Terry answered along that vein, saying that there would have to be a very good reason for someone like Vimes to go bad.
Terry, talking and wearing the convention shirt:
After Terry's talk, Anna headed over to Nancy Pearl and I went over to Charles Simic. Even though his signing line wasn't as long as some, it was fairly hefty (as he is this year's Poet Laureate), and it was HOT there in the sun. Whew! When I got to the front I introduced myself, and he asked what my sister was up to these days, so we had a brief chat, but of course things had to keep moving. It was nice to meet him, though. His accent was thicker than I’d thought, and from a distance he looks vaguely like Michael Caine. Heh.
Charles Simic, signing and looking vaguely like Michael Caine:
I then went over to Terry's signing line, but from all appearances it was 100 miles long (Terry's poor hand!) so I tried Dr. Sanjay Gupta instead. He had a somewhat smaller line, so I was able to get there fairly quickly. I had him sign near his picture in Steve Raymer's book, and we chatted for a minute about Steve. He was very nice.
(OMG I forgot to take a picture of Dr. Gupta! Doh!)
After that we attended some of Harry Turtledove's talk and then some of Holly Black's (overlapping scheduling! No fair!), then took the beer to Terry's hotel, and took the Metro back. Anna was glad to be able to see Union Station, which was on her list of tourist things. The Metro got stuck at Judiciary Square for a bit, so we opted to walk back, allowing her to also see the main hall of the National Building Museum (which is quite impressive). When we got back to the festival I got in Holly's signing line, since I had her new book. The line wasn't too long, but that was because it was already past her designated signing hour! I then met Anna at Ken Burns' talk, and we heard a bit of that before heading back to Anna's hotel to freshen up (the dust on the Mall was horrendous – I think I swallowed about a quart, and you don't even want to know what happened when I blew my nose).
Holly Black, signing with completely awesome hair:
A few days ago, we had learned that the Washington Science Fiction Association was hosting Terry, Holly, and Harry for dinner that evening, so we contacted them post-haste and they graciously made room for us to attend as well (even though I haven't officially joined WSFA yet, though I've been meaning to). So once we were somewhat dust-free (when I untied my shoes a puff of dust went up!) we headed over to the dinner.
Terry hadn't arrived yet, but there were a couple of spaces at Holly Black's table, so we got to sit with her for the meal. She's very nice and engaging, even though I'm sure she was tired! It turns out she is from Monmouth County, as I am, so we talked some about New Jersey and its particular pros and cons, among other things. The WSFAers who were at our table were also nice, and I am looking forward to working with them at Capclave in a couple of weeks. Their chair, Colleen, is very helpful and nice and is going to float me around at the con so I can see how all the different areas function.
Holly Black at dinner:
Harry Turtledove was at the next table over:
Here are the 3 authors with Colleen of the WSFA:
After dinner we got to chat with Terry some more, as he came to talk to us about the convention for a bit. He had some good ideas for things to consider, and I think is looking forward to seeing the Phoenix area again. He was still wearing the t-shirt, (Anna had changed after all the dust, but I still had mine on, not too much worse for the wear), so one of the WSFAers asked for a picture of the two of us in our shirts.
(Anna is the other person in these pics.)
Other Terry pics:
I told Terry how to wash the shirt (i.e. don't dry it in the dryer, just in case), and he said he is going to wear it for the next two signing gigs. Which is excellent, as it will help spread the word about the convention probably better than anything else at the moment. (I believe there will also be a podcast of his festival talk, during which hopefully the shirt will be visible.) Anna gave Terry a button that a fan had made based on Going Postal (and he burst out laughing),
and I got to show him my horseshoe nail ring that my grandmother gave me from when she was young. (Discworld reference: Wintersmith.)
I did not remember to tell him about these:
but I expect he would have been amused.
About that time the authors left to, I expect, collapse tiredly in their hotel rooms, and Anna and I also left, I to my bed (thank everything) and she to see the Lincoln Memorial before collapsing in her bed.
As I said, it was quite a fun time!
*Starred photos taken by Ernest Lilley of the WSFA. Thanks, Ernest!
ETA: the webcast of Terry's Festival talk is up.
ETA Part 2: Another blogger's pics of the Festival, including Terry.