I've been to a lot of booksignings and author readings over the years, first as an English major at Atlantic Christian College and in later years as a reporter at The Wilson Daily Times. Some of the authors who come to mind are Alan Gurganus, Bland Simpson, Clyde Edgerton, Tim McLaurin, Margaret Maron and Sharyn McCrumb. I loved their books and I loved their talks.
I became almost addicted to McCrumb's books soon after her reading at Barton College. And I have a happy grin on my face each time I hear Margaret Maron read from her popular Judge Deborah Knott series.
Saturday, I got to hear an author whose books I've never read. My daughter, Anna, has read them, though.
The young adult fiction author is Sarah Dessen. Her books include "Just Listen," "The Truth About Forever," "That Summer," "This Lullaby" and the new one, "Lock and Key." Dessen has quite a following among her teenage fans, many of whom turned out for the reading at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh Saturday. They had books in their arms and questions on their mind.
I enjoyed listening to the girls ask Dessen about her characters, her inspiration, how she first got published. The girls were smiling, Dessen was smiling, the parents were smiling. It was all such a fun, rewarding experience for all of us. Here were close to 100 people, I guess, on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon talking about BOOKS! Who would have thought...
I was close to the desk where Dessen signed books at the end of her talk, and I heard the girls tell Dessen how much her books meant to them. I listened in amazement as girls told how many states they had traveled to be at the talk Saturday.
Even before Saturday, I had wanted to thank Sarah Dessen for doing something no other author has ever done for my daughter; she has helped Anna realize it's possible to love books, to love to read. Before she read Dessen's books, she looked at reading as a chore, something she had to do for an English class. She honestly couldn't imagine what her dad and I found so rewarding about reading a good book. She read slowly and hated every minute. Yet, she zips through Dessen's books, absorbing the story and loving the experience. She "gets" it now.
So, thank you Sarah Dessen. Thank you for taking time out of your own Saturday afternoon to make dozens of teenage girls happy. Thank you for writing books that young girls enjoy. Thank you for opening up the world of books to by child.