A flood permeated St. Louis on the day I was to see Elizabeth Strout. It had been raining since Wednesday and it was now Tuesday. The ground just couldn’t take it. Yet nothing, not distance nor flood waters, could keep me away from a Pulitzer Prize winning author and so, I went.
Gifted by my principal with a half personal day (well, it’s in our contract, but I’m still grateful), I grabbed a Teacher Appreciation Week sub, two cookies, and hit the road. The drive was smooth, no traffic, no flooded roadways, although, when you look of to the side of the road and see a street sign looking very short in the middle of a lake you know there may be some water issues.
My first stop after passing near the colossal Gateway Arch was Left Bank Books. I parked in the loveliest, tree lined, upscale residential area. Gardener’s trucks lined the street along row houses with the most beautiful flowers! There was nothing I’d love more, I decided, than to be a guest at one of those homes on a hot summer day, sipping iced tea, visiting, and people watching.
Stepping into Left Bank Books, I was greeted by Clare who I adored instantly. I asked her what I NEEDED to read and after a brief conversation, books were selected and a pile formed at the checkout so I could continue to browse comfortably without simultaneously working on my arm strength. Shane also helped because the absolute best part about visiting an independent bookstore is getting recommendations. I’d like to consider myself pretty educated on new releases, and have even read many prior to publication, but each time I find my way into an independent bookstore, I leave with a stack of new discoveries. I travel for bookstores, honestly, and each trip is like a treasure hunt in which I get the treasure, every time!
Leaving Left Bank Books I made a quick taco stop for a budget friendly dinner before continuing on to the highlight of this micro vacation, Elizabeth Strout! I arrived at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters at 5pm, doors opened at 6pm, and so… I got in line. Wait, that is not accurate language, I made the line! Soon after, more women joined my line, each of them formulating a sentence or two of small talk before pulling out their purse books (a purse book is a thing!). And so there all of us were, a line of women reading, united silently in our love for Elizabeth Strout.
Finally, doors opened and I got the best seat in the entire place. Front row, first seat (This seems to be the norm for me at author events, at least it was for Marilynne Robinson, Ann Patchett, Adam Haslett, and R.L. Stine this year. I’m also good at sneaking into events without a ticket but that is a tale for another day. I promise I am only a rebel concerning literary matters) The identical seat on the other side of the aisle was reserved for her husband and thus, my seat was best!
So there I sat in a sea of middle-aged women, soaking up every ounce of Elizabeth Strout that I could for one of the most bliss filled hours of my life. When it came time for questions, I raised my hand and asked the first question, into a microphone, with zero anxiety (I used to be much more timid in my younger years) I asked Elizabeth what books she brought with her while traveling or what she had read recently and loved. Sidenote- this is a question that authors get asked at every event, this question, or some variation of it, is pretty much a guaranteed question. She answered that she had read Moonglow by Michael Chabon and was also reading a number of biographies. You can see a detailed list here of books she has loved and re-reads often.
The talk ended and I was third in line for signing. She was so friendly and gave me prolonged eye contact after she finished thanking me. Elizabeth Strout genuinely loves her readers! It was official, I now had THREE signed Pulitzer Prize winning first edition novels, owned a signed copy of every book Elizabeth Strout ever published, and had spent my 30th year of life meeting 75% of my favorite authors of all time (I still need to meet Donna Tartt, but that seems to be a bit more of a challenge) I hurried out of there, racing home, and arrived to my apartment at midnight; it was a school night after all- the best school night ever!
What authors have you met?