Saturday, March 17, 2007

OMG, I Met Jodi Picoult!

I am not of those Jodi Picoult fans. I had never even heard of her until recently. I was vaguely aware of My Sister's Keeper, but she truly entered my radar after her most recent book, The Tenth Circle , came out. I devoured it. It was heartbreaking, surprising, and groundbreaking. I immediately lent it to one of my students and we started one of those fun you-have-to read-this book chains.

My husband, a former bookstore manager, always warned me that The Tenth Circle was different from Jodi Picoult's normal books. He described her typical reader -- soccer moms -- with a sneer. But I ignored him.

Jodi Picoult gave a reading at a nearby bookstore to support her newest book, Nineteen Minutes, so we decided to go. I'm glad I went. She is a fantastic reader and she had a lot of interesting things to say, from a writerly perspective. Which I'll get to in a minute.

But let me just say that true Jodi Picoult fans are scary. I was elbow to elbow with women in high waisted acid washed jeans, whose daughters (with equally low waisted dark blue jeans) hung on them like they were furniture. Their haircuts were all the same -- spiky and highlighted in three different colors or iron straight and wheat blond. While waiting in line to get my book signed, I had to listen to one of these suburban mommies review Jenna Jameson's memoirs. I am not kidding!

But on to what the reading was like, without the frightening audience stuff. Jodi Picoult is a one woman marketing machine. In her acknowledgements to her latest book, she thanks her publishing company for making her a brand name. She works it and she knows it. She read from her new book for exactly 12 minutes then took questions for another 20 or so. She anticipated every question that would be asked and provided genuine (and genuinely rehearsed) answers that were insightful and funny. She also pimped her next two books in a way that seemed naturalistic, sort of.

As a writer, she says that she works from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm on her novel. A audience member gasped and said, "It's like a job." Jodi replied, "Yes it is a job. I love it, but it's a job." I think the audience member was disillusioned. Jodi says she knows the ending of her novels before she writes the first word and that every novel takes exactly 9 months to write. All the mommies in the crowd chuckled, and she likened it to gestating a child. My favorite part of the discussion was when she said, "If I'm doing my job right as a writer, I should feel like a dishrag at the end of the day." I can slag on her all I want for her audience, but she is a writer who is emotionally invested in her art.

Overall, I'm glad I went. But after waiting 30 minutes for a signed copy of Nineteen Minutes (scribbled with a drying out Sharpie), I ran from the Borders as fast as I could, before the housewife cooties could rub off on me.