Sunday, March 22, 2009

Christian Book Expo

Well, I had an incredible and unique experience yesterday. I went to the huge Christian Book Expo in Dallas. It was the first event of its kind. It was also the first time I had ever been to anything like that.

My mother, Telpe, Anywhere and I got up early in the morning to drive over there. We listened to the Les Miserables soundtrack on the way. Telpe had taken the book Do Hard Things from our friend Linte's family's house (they were gone on a Spring Break mission trip), and I started to read it because I knew the authors, the Harris twins, would be at the Expo. I was immediately drawn in, and I ended up reading half the book on the drive over. I had to stop every now and then to just look out the window and take in what I was reading. I couldn't believe they were brave enough to say what they were saying. I started to feel incredibly warm and peaceful inside as I read it, because it started to resolve something that had been unresolved in my head for a long, long time now. I think I'll write a review of the book after I actually finish it.

We got to the Dallas Convention Center with surprisingly little hassle. We didn't even get lost. We did have to park a little ways out though, as the place was quite crowded. We walked down a rugged sidewalk and then into the building. It was quite large, so we had to ask directions once or twice to find our way to registration.

As a side note here, I've found something interesting these past few months: ever since my ordeal in the airport in December, I haven't cared about getting lost places or finding my way anymore. I have no problem with asking people for directions or instructions. I don't feel confused. It's funny, the way it worked out.

Anyways, we walked a long way before we reached the registration booths. After my mother checked herself in, we had to go to the family check in table to check Telpe and I in. I'll admit that I found it hilarious, ludicrous, and a bit humiliating to be checked in as a child. Because it was exactly a month before my 18th birthday, I could get in for free, but I had a different wrist band and was officially classified as a child. Anywhere and I were tempted to switch bracelets (she had to register as an adult), but that wasn't possible because mine would have torn. I realized somewhere half-way through the day that that was probably the last time I would ever be classified as a child. Oddly enough, the thought didn't bother me.

We went into the massive exhibition hall. I was very overwhelmed at first, as there were rows and rows of booths and displays. All I wanted to do was to find Legossi, who was there with her father, Mr. Davis (the author of the Dragons in Our Midst series). We must have looked lost, because someone who looked official came and asked us who we were looking for. We told her, and she said they had been over in the kid's area. So we followed her over there. The walk seemed to take ages, but that was just because there was so much to look at on the way. When we got over there, they weren't there, so the official-looking lady asked someone else, who said she had seen them over in the seating area.

So we walked back across the room again, and almost immediately spotted them. At this point Anywhere admitted that she'd noticed them when we came in, but hadn't thought it was Legossi. I felt rather silly for not noticing her.

One way or another, we met up and hugs and greetings went around. It was so good to see Legossi again. She was one of the first Clean Placers I met – she came and stayed with my family for three days back in September of 2007. Her parents are both really neat people too, so it was good to see them again as well.

Telpe, Any, and I were a little lost, so we just followed Legossi. We ended up in the children's section again. There we were greeted by Legossi's sister, “Mr. Bunn.” I had no idea she would be there, so that was a nice surprise (I met her last summer at the moot). She was getting her face painted.

We spent a long time in the kid's section. Legossi got her arm painted, and then was waiting to see if the lady would be willing to paint in her autograph book.

Oh, I have to mention this: Legossi had one of her hippo friends, PJ, with her. PJ had an autograph book, and Legossi was helping her collect autographs. Anywhere, Telpe, and I all signed it and left little notes for PJ. All day Legossi was busy getting more.

Anyways, we listened to a reading of a kids book, met Mr. Davis's publicist, and just looked around. By this point I was feeling really out of it. As most people who know me are well aware of, I am extremely dependent on caffeine, and if I don't get the right amount at the right times my whole system gets thrown off. So Anywhere, Telpe, and I decided to go find the Starbucks we had seen somewhere else in the massive building. We left the exhibition hall to go find it.

As we walked out, we passed two young guys who were walking with and talking to an older guy. One of the guys nodded to me as we passed. As soon as we had passed them, Telpe whispered “that was the Harris brothers.”  I just nodded.

It was incredibly weird to just walk past the authors of the book I'd just been reading. I had totally not been prepared for it, so I got really hyper and shaky for a few minutes. After that I calmed down. I sort of have this “meeting famous people mindset” I can get in where it's not weird at all to me anymore to talk to people who would be considered “famous.” But it always takes a few minutes for me to get into that mindset.

Anyway, we found the Starbucks, and all got drinks. I started feeling a little more normal almost immediately. We went back and found Legossi, after which we watched a reading/dramatization of the children's book The Princess and the Kiss. It was kind of cute. There were some guys there helping out with the dramatization who were from a town near ours, and apparently trained in sword fighting. Legossi told Telpe and I that she had seen them carrying swords just like ours (shanais), which made me guess that they might even be part of the Christian sword fighter's group that our teachers had been part of.

Well, we went to talk to one of the ladies who had coordinated it, and I was right. They knew Telpe and I's swordsmanship teachers. That was really exciting to us, to have that connection.

It was around this time that we met up with our mother again, with the general intention of finding something to eat. We three girls were fine with the idea of skipping lunch, but my mother wouldn't allow it.

However, on the way I did manage to get her to lend me some money so I could buy a book I've wanted for a long time – Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I haven't read it yet, but I've read about it, and I've heard enough to know I really want to read it and see what he has to say.

Donald Miller was by the book display actually, signing. So I went over to get my book signed, as I figured this was a once in a lifetime chance that I would be crazy not to take. Not many people were at his table at that moment, so I got lucky. We went through the preliminary greetings (authors and musicians must get so tired of that), and he signed my book for me.

Now, this whole time I'd been wearing my cloak. So he commented on it, and asked why I wore it. So I explained that I'd been really into Lord of the Rings for years now, which had started it, and that I'd been wearing cloaks since I was quite young. So then he asked if I knew whether Peter Jackson was directing The Hobbit movie or not.

Before I knew what was happening, I was standing there discussing the details of The Hobbit production plans, how close to the books the script is likely to be, and how it will pan out with making two movies instead of one. Somewhere in middle of this the thought crossed my mind: Wait. I'm sitting here talking to Donald Miller about Lord of the Rings. How surreal is that? But I didn't really care, because it was a fun conversation.

I think a lot of people would say I wasted my time talking to him. I know I didn't. These past few weeks have totally changed my concept of meeting “famous” people. First I met VOTA, DecembeRadio, Bread of Stone, and the Newsboys, and then I met Donald Miller and later the Harris twins. One thing I've had confirmed for me, more than ever before, is that they're just people. They're cool people, people who God has chosen to use in a special way, but they're no more “special” than I am. They're fallen humans, redeemed by the grace of Christ. They laugh, they cry, they smile, they hurt, they tell jokes, and they make mistakes just like any other person would. Because of that, I've had this realization that I'm not going to have really intense, powerful conversations when I meet people like this. After all, I'm a poet, but no one expects me to spout off beautiful poetry in casual conversation (or at least I certainly hope not!). In the same way, it's almost more meaningful to me to talk to people (like Don Miller) about real, normal things. It proves they're real. It proves they're human too. It proves that no one is any more “worthy” of fame than anyone else. In the end, it's just a matter of who God chooses to use in certain ways, or (in the case of secular celebrities) who He allows to succeed for reasons we as humans couldn't possibly know.

So anyway, all that said, I had a good chat with him. I got to talk to him for a while, after which I went back to rejoin my group.

Telpe, Any, my mother, and I got lunch at a little snack bar, the only place selling food. The food was ridiculously overpriced. Once we started actually eating our sandwiches (we three girls were sharing two sandwiches between us), they just upset Anywhere and I's stomachs, so we gave up.

We went back and found Legossi again, as well as her friend. The five of us went and played the famous clapping game that Telpe and I taught everyone at the moot. We also played “forks” (there was an absence of spoons). After that Telpe, Anywhere, and I headed down the escalator to attend the Harris brothers' seminar.

We got there early, and I drank some water to try to feel a little better. We went in early, and Brett and Alex came over and introduced themselves to us, got all our names and where we were from. They were such friendly guys. I found myself wishing they went to my University.

They gave a great talk about the concept of Do Hard Things, as well as having a question and answer session. I enjoyed it very much, though I was feeling somewhat spaced out. Afterwards there was a signing. I went and mixed some of my caffeinated energy drink, which didn't really help much, but it at least mostly stopped me from shaking. Telpe had Linte's family's book with her to be signed for them (of course they had no idea she even had borrowed it), so she went first. Brett took it, and Telpe asked him to address it “To the _____” family. However, he accidentally just said “to _____” at first, so then he was trying to right over the “to” and make it “the,” which totally wasn't working. Alex was teasing him, but he also whispered that he should just get a new one. So Brett took Linte's family's book and slid it under the table, and then grabbed a new one and signed that. I couldn't help but laugh.

After that I gave them Telpe and I's book to sign, which they did. Then Anywhere got a picture of Telpe and I with them. I felt ridiculously tall, which makes me feel extremely awkward, but that's normal for me.

Afterwards we went back to find Legossi again. The afternoon is kind of a blur to me, because I started feeling really dreadful... I think it was a combination of not enough food, not enough water, not enough caffeine, lots of walking, lots of adrenaline, and the fact that I've slept really badly almost every night for the past two weeks. We did a lot more walking around and looking at things.

The Davis family left, and we had to say goodbye to Legossi. It felt like we hadn't been with her anywhere near enough time. About an hour later my mother got out of her last seminar, so we headed out to drive home (and get dinner on the way).

Overall, it was a very unique experience. It was fun to hang out with friends, it was fun to meet authors, it was fun to get new books and new experiences. For me, I've found it's a lot easier to enjoy myself if I got out of town. If I'm here anywhere in my home town, I can't stop thinking about everything I'm not doing – the homework at home, the dirty laundry, the unanswered e-mails. But when I go out of town my brain just accepts that I can't do anything about it. People ask me often if I enjoy something that I've just done. I never really know anymore – it's not a matter of whether or not I enjoy something, it's a matter of what I have to do and what I can't allow myself to do. But I think I enjoyed yesterday, for the most part. I'm not 100% certain I did, but I'm pretty sure.

God bless,

- Elraen -


Joy said...

Wow Raen... such a neat day for you! I recognized every one of the names. As I said, I read the Harris twins blog faithfully (incidentally... my older sister was Joshua [I Kissed Dating Goodbye] Harris penpal when they were both in their late teens. She met him at a homeschool convention and they really hit it off.) I also adore Blue Like Jazz, in a small way, that book changed my life. I find it uber cool that you talked about LotR with him! Donald Miller also runs a hilariously random blog... which I also read faithfully.

But the greatest shock of all... Bryan Davis is Legossi's father? And you've met him?! *makes startled noises* Bryan Davis is one of the people who made me decide I wanted to be a writer. That's just... too awesome for words.

Joy said...

Oh, and I also know what you mean about our thoughts on "famous people", who are really just people that a lot of people know about. Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Ken Ham (Creationist Extraordinaire, founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum). I must have been blushing like crazy when I shook his hand, because he was trying to make me feel at ease, and kept saying things like, "You're a beautiful young lady," and, "I promise not to bite." And then I had a lovely conversation with him about my future. It was so surreal.. and yet it changed forever the way I thought about people.

And also going out to eat with the Annie Moses Band... who hired me as their "bodyguard" and blew wads of paper at me when my back was turned. :)