Are You Familiar with Amelia?
Valentine’s Day, 3AM: Sent #3 and her dad off to pursue basketball glory in the state regional championships, which naturally was being played a couple hundred miles in the opposite direction of the book festival where I would head later that afternoon. I spent the rest of the wee hours trying to get ahead of the laundry, making sure I packed or planned for every contingency, and debating whether or not to pack heat for the road trip even though I discovered earlier in the week that I neglected to renew my pistol license. Note to self: go by the courthouse.
Valentine’s Day, 7AM: With the Jeep loaded for the trip, I hauled #4 to school and whipped through the drive-thru for my traditional on-the-road fare: I got the bacon, egg, and cheese McGriddle with that tasty hash brown patty and a big ole Coke. Nutrition and driving are incompatible! Granted, my road trip wouldn’t begin until after I finished my “regular paying job” for the day, but I had to attend a system meeting off-campus, so I went with it. Had I actually read the memo, I would’ve known breakfast was provided at this meeting. Double-score! Note to self: read the whole memo next time.
Valentine’s Day, 11AM: Stopped by the quicky lube on the way back to campus since this would be a particularly long drive and I’m just as fastidious about keeping up with oil changes as I am about keeping up with pistol licenses. The oil change man handed me my receipt along with a slightly oiled box of chocolates and a surprisingly heartfelt “Happy Valentine’s Day, Ma’am!” Nice or creepy? I’m still not sure, but the lean was definitely toward the creepy. I decided to whip through the drive-thru for lunch, because, why not? I’d already blown any semblance of caloric sense for the day anyhow. This time it was beef-n-cheddar, curly fries, and…you guessed it…a big ole Coke. Tanked up, I finished the workaday and hit the road for real. Note to self: I bet that fellow gave all the ladies a box a chocolates. That doesn’t make it better.
Valentine’s Day, 3:30PM-well past midnight: “East bound and down…we’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there…”. Tried stopping at that cool winery to stock up on their delicious muscadine wine. Arrived at 5:10. They closed at 5PM. Topped off the tank and doused my disappointment with a big ole fountain Coke and a Slim Jim. I drove plumb to the end of Interstate 10, and then drove some more. I was so tired by the time I arrived at the hotel that I didn’t even notice the only thing separating my Jeep from the beach was a curb. Note to self: Fly next time, even if you have to go to Atlanta first.
Friday, 7AM: Left the hotel only to drive back the way I’d come for about 45 minutes to Florida State College (not to be confused with FSU), where I was scheduled to speak at the Amelia Island Book Festival Writers’ Workshop and hopefully sell a few books. They fed me breakfast AND lunch! I presented a 45 minute talk titled “Marketing in the Flesh”, which was generally about how to get folks to pay attention to you when you aren’t quite a famous author yet. The irony there was that I signed autographs and posed for photos at the end, but didn’t sell any books! Nevermind about that, I networked my guts out. I also got to speak with Steve Berry who is a super-famous author. His books are at all the airports. I haven’t done that yet. Note to self: Do your follow-up, Rock, and practice what you preached. You’ll get there.
Friday Afternoon: It can’t all be Powerpoints and glad-handing. I had to spend a few hours back at the hotel working on my grad school assignments. Then, my roomie—an awesomely fun lady who is an author and owns her own bookstore—and I enjoyed nachos, wings, and some live music at a beachfront restaurant that was a little rough around the edges. I enjoyed a rather tasty margarita and then called it a night. The time had come to pay the piper for that 3AM wake-up call. Note to self: DON’T get up at 3AM, work all day, and then drive 7 hours. That’s insane.
Saturday: Festival Day! This time the drive was only about 5 minutes, which made the hotel choice make a lot more sense. The Amelia Island Book Festival venue was a middle school gym, stuffed to the gills with perfectly organized author tables, multiple authors dressed in character, and hundreds of book lovers milling about the tidy rows. From reception to lunch, authors were treated with utmost courtesy. This event was a well-oiled machine (like my Jeep!). I saw all the big names I expected except for one. I also got to hug most of them because EVERYBODY wanted to meet me. Don’t worry, I don’t have the big head. Well, actually I did. Everybody wanted to schmooze with a giant manatee! They just didn’t know it was me sweltering inside that humongous suit. I was absolutely thrilled to debut the first public appearance of Arthur, the Florida Authors and Publishers Association’s new mascot. It was great publicity for FAPA and fun for me. I think I only terrified one child, and, yes, Arthur totally flossed. Note to self: manatees may not need straws, but parched manatee mascots do. Oh, the irony!
Saturday Afternoon-on toward bedtime: “West bound and down…” This time, I got some of those Caribbean jerk boneless wings from Zaxby’s and a big ‘ole Coke. I drove through a depressing swath of destruction that darkness hid along my way before. Tens of thousands of downed trees lined the interstate as I chased the sunset back to Sweet Home Alabama. Although I drove as fast as the law would allow, I missed that cussword winery by about ten minutes again! It also did not help my road-weariness to see Buc-ee’s signs from over 200 miles out. The new Buc-ee’s is located at the very exit where I get off the interstate for the last leg home. I was in full horse-to-the barn-mode by the time I arrived at Baldwin County’s newest attraction, so I didn’t stop. That place looked like Walmart on a Saturday morning!
So there you have the account of my glamorous weekend as a “famous” author. I travelled all the way to the Atlantic. I met a celebrity or two along the way, but my happiest moment was returning to Moore’s Creek Farm. Note to self: Glenda the Good Witch had it right-there’s no place like home.