I think the biggest thing that I looked forward to after Book Expo and Book Con was the launch party for Sarah Dessen’s ONCE AND FOR ALL at Books of Wonder. I had been on

the fence about being able to go, but things worked out and I was so excited to also see both Jenny Han (ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN) and Jennifer E. Smith (WINDFALL) again. I knew that it was going to packed since it had been one of Sarah’s first appearances in NYC in a while and good gosh, I was right. By the time I arrived at Books of Wonder, it was standing only at that point – luckily, one of my friends had been there to secure me a seat with ideal opportunities for taking photos of the event.

I think that the Penguin staff had gone all out for the launch since the date (6/6) was also Sarah’s birthday. So there was a huge banner where people could write messages and take photos (w/photo-taking opportunities to hashtag them #SayYestotheDess), balloons, flowers, and cake (of which ran out before I could partake L) The energy in the bookshop was really buzzing and I could certainly feel the excitement everyone felt.

Once the three authors came out, the attendees sang a chorus of HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sarah which really did seem to touch her and it was so nice to see how happy she was to be spending her birthday this way. Jenny sat in the middle of the three because it seemed that she was going to be moderating the panel, which I find so freaking awesome because she’s just so funny and always has a great repartee with whoever she talks to. She went over how Sarah’s book was about weddings, her own book had a wedding, and Jennifer’s book…had a lottery! If you were in that room, you could feel the ease at which these three authors were at while they talked – it was just so funny and easy going.

Jenny kicked off the event with what each of them would do if they won the Powerball lottery:

Jennifer: We’ve actually talked about this. Jenny thinks my ideas are impractical. I would wanna buy a little cottage in Scotland. I would want to give a lot to charity. I’d want to do random acts of kindness. And I would also just want to travel a lot. I travel a lot anyways, but I would wanna do even more and potentially in first class.

Jenny: Just for the record, it is impractical to have a cottage in Scotland when you could just go visit there and stay in a lovely hotel instead of committing yourself. What about you, Sarah?

Sarah: I would travel also. I was asked during one of these five hours’ worth of interviews where I’ve always wanted to go that I’ve never been. I’ve never been to Italy. I haven’t been to Europe since I was twelve. I was really afraid to fly for many years and so now I have a daughter and I don’t really wanna put an ocean between us and I’m just a little nervous about that. But she’s getting old enough for us to go. We’ve been watching MASTER OF NONE and now I’m just like we’ve got to GO. But I think the first trip for us is London – lottery or not. I feel like it’s user friendly for a nine-year-old moreso without the language barriers. I would definitely travel because I haven’t done that. I would just yank my kid out of school and pay for an awesome tutor because then I wouldn’t feel guilty about dragging her around the world with me.

Jenny: I have to say that these are very modest wishes.

I think one of the things I really love and admire about Jenny is that she can be soextravagant and have these beautiful and expensive things, but at the same time – she’s just so down-to-earth and relatable. If she had won the lottery, she would have wanted to start her own production company focused on stories about people of color and women (to which Sarah emphasized that Jenny would always best them). It’s an answer like this that just enforces why she became a NYT Bestseller and became so widely appreciated for both her thoughts and stories. They enforce the idea of #WeNeedDiverseBooks.They went back to talking about Jennifer’s book and we heard a little more about what it was about. It’s pretty much about a girl who gets a lottery ticket for her best friend (who she’s obviously in love with) as a joke but he really ends up winning. If you have not read this yet or have yet to put it on your TBR pile, then do it now! It’s very much in the same essence as her bother novels and it just grounds you into realizing that things are more than romance (but romance doesn’t hurt). It was then that the news was dropped that WINDFALL as optioned for a movie which earned plenty of collective gasping and applause. I am very excited to see how it comes across film. Both Jenny and Sarahexpressed their excitement for the news. Sarah, in particular, thought Jennifer had done a good job of showing what effect the lottery can have on someone and what dreams could really come from winning so much money. Jennifer talked a little more about what she had done as prepwork for WINDFALL (in terms of research). She spoke about the more research she had done, the more happy she was that she hadn’t won. When you get past the idea that there’s just so much money won, there’s also a grim side to it too. There are winners that have lost the money and gone broke and winners that were taken advantage of as well. However, she’d apparently done a questionnaire and asked multiple people what they would do if they won the lottery. She had been surprised by the responses, most of them being very big-hearted and generous. I imagine that if I won $140 million, I would definitely spend a million of it first and give half of it to my parents so they could live happily and without worry. What would you do if you won the lottery?

I think the conversation grew much more lighter when Jenny asked her second question: In a few words, describe your ideal bachelorette night.

Sarah: My wedding anniversary is actually June 10th. So my birthday is today and my wedding anniversary is 4 days later. We don’t ever celebrate our anniversary because it’s right after my birthday. But gosh, I had a really good bachelorette party for my actual wedding back in 2000. My friends from high school and some girls I’d made friends with since high school – we just went out and had a big dinner and went to a bar and danced. And we had this big joke that I had all these leis around my neck, or maybe they were bracelets. So at the bar, the deal was that I had to give these bracelets away to different boys…or men.

Jenny: Did you kiss them or no?

Sarah: No, it was a kiss on the cheek!

I couldn’t help but laugh as she talked about how there was a box of Polaroids (hidden away from her daughter ;)) of her kissing various people on the cheek that were not her husband. I do think that Sarah hit the nail on the head about the essence of bachelorette parties – that beyond the risqué plans that it’s a night about a woman and her friends having her last hurrah as an unmarried woman.

Jennifer: I’d go to the cottage in Scotland.

Jenny: That’s not a bachelorette party – that’s a writer’s weekend away in the woods…Mine would be like…Paris. We’d get a suite at the new Ritz and they would be photoshoots and cake.

Sarah: I want to be invited to this bachelorette party by the way.

And how do you follow up a question about your bachelorette party? Well, who would be your bridesmaids? I’d taken this to mean a whole, OH, WE WOULD BE YOUR BRIDESMAIDS! Like each other. Of course, Jennifer answered Jenny and Sarah automatically. Jenny was a little more extravagant with her picks, (Oprah, her sister, a few of her friends like Morgan Matson and Siobhan Vivian). I laughed when Jennifer countered this by saying she would have family and friends, but not Oprah because she probably wouldn’t be invited.

Sarah explained how she only had one bridesmaid because she had been to so many weddings that it was either pick one or have twenty people in her bridal group. But I couldn’t agree more with her fantasy picks of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. This segued into Jenny asking about Sarah’s research on wedding planning since both she andJennifer were impressed by the amount of detail that went into that side of the story – to which she confessed that she made up a lot of it, haha (especially the acronyms). She did mention that some details were from her own wedding and the planning that went into that for her. I mean, have you seen THE WEDDING PLANNER? Or even 27 DRESSES? But it was kind of fun to listen to her talk about the downsides of her wedding (like how hot it was in the Carolinas and uninvited people that her guests invited). Of course, then there was talk of Instagram and Pinterest and the pressures of having the perfect photo wedding that was not present back when Sarah got married (to which I felt like she was grateful for, XD).

I thought one of the most interesting tidbits was when she brought up how she had gone to her first wedding since writing ONCE AND FOR ALL and how she was very aware of the wedding planning aspect. The wedding had started an hour later since there was an accident on the highway and this would not have been a good thing for Natalie (the wedding planning mom in OAFA). She emphasized that since she knew what it was like to go through a wedding that she was far more sympathetic and enthusiastic about the endeavors of a bride (like how “This is a beautiful napkin.”). She just notices everything now.

AND THEN THEY TALKED ABOUT FOOD. What food they would have at their wedding:

Jenny: What are your visions for the food?

Jennifer: I would have funfetti cake. Just kind of your…standard…

Jenny: Carving station?

Jennifer: I’m just gonna have Jenny plan my wedding.

Sarah: Jenny would be a great wedding planner.

Jenny: I would definitely wanna do Korean food meets Southern. So there would be kalbi with the barbecue. You know…corn on the cob, potato salad, and that kind of thing. And a late night nacho bar.

Can Jenny and I just be friends? I want to go to her wedding and pretend to be Oprah and partake in pink champagne and a nacho bar where I would pile on the sour cream and cheese. Mmmmm. All of the food talk is making me hungry as I write this (even after having a cupcake and a turnover).

I think there was definitely a chorus of AWEs when Jenny asked Sarah about the first song she and her husband had danced to – which was AT LAST. When I think of thatsong, I think of two things entirely – it’s for cheesy moments on television, or it’s definitely for romantic moments like Sarah’s wedding which seemed really low-key despite the trials and tribulations she went through. She talked about their relationship and how they had gotten together in college, broke up a few times, and by 1989 – no one thought they were going to get married because they’d been together for so long. To me, that is a very fitting song.

And of course, she delved into the drama side of weddings – the bridesmaid that has to make it about herself, the crying, when something doesn’t go right – and she told us the most adorable story of when her daughter was four and she had been a flower girl. Sarah had given the people in the procession before her M&Ms to lure her daughter so that she wouldn’t stop or veer off the aisle – which earned a lot of laughs.

I was pretty sad when the discussion was coming to an end – but Jenny definitely ended with a great question:

Jenny: If you could pick your signature cocktail, what would you call it and what would be in it? I’ll start. (which earned a lot of ooh’ing and laughter)

Jenny: Mine would be…True Love Waits. And it would have a delicious raspberry – fresh raspberry with strained, no seeds and a premium vodka and a nice champagne on top and taste really refreshing and delicious.

Sarah: How am I supposed to follow that? I’m a wine drinker. So I would probably have a really nice wine and just call it…At Last. I’m not a signature cocktail drink. I would probably outsource that. My sister does that. She would do it for me. It’s fantastic.

Jennifer: I’m not a cocktail drinker either.

Sarah: She would have a really nice beer.

After that, there were a few questions from the audience that were written on index cards prior to the event starting which I will do a quick recap and talk about the conversations I found really interesting.

1.       Because they had all written a number of books, they were asked if they ever went back and read their old books.

a.        Sarah does not – her philosophy was that once the book is printed, there was nothing that she could go back and change. There’s so much time spent writing, editing, and copyediting that it would only make her wish she could go back and improve upon things she wasn’t 100% about. She told this hilarious story about being on a plane a while ago and her seat mate had asked her what she did for a living (trying to get her to divulge more and more information). When Sarah told him/her that she was a writer, she was asked if the book she was reading was written by her. The answer was no. I am constantly surprised by the way that people go through their thought processes and how they come to ask the questions that they ask.

b.       Jennifer expressed the same sentiment, especially as an editor as another job for her. For her, she spoke about how it’s hard to read anything that’s finished without wanting to do something to it.

c.       Jenny – being the only one that’s written series, she has to go back and read. She made a great point in saying that despite having three different series, she thinks of those separate books equating to one whole story which is definitely a concept that I’ve never realized until now.

2.       How do they feel about reviewers tagging them when reviewing their books?

a.       According to Sarah, there seems to be a lot of discourse about this. She said that she doesn’t often click on the links and learned that Googling yourself is like looking for your name on the bathroom wall. She expressed that she’s a curious person and would always have that urge. Because OAFA is her thirteenth book, the idea of negativity is easier to roll of her shoulders, but she still resists.

b.       Jennifer answered that she appreciates when people take the time to review her book, but she tends to not click and if she does, it’s just to read the first few sentences. I felt like a lot of authors would agree with her – that when a review is like…90-99% positive, it’s that fractional remainder that hits the hardest to a writer. I so agree with her because reading that sort of thing can become addicting and unhealthy. She equated that kind of moment to someone walking to her front door and just saying, “You suck.” It came off as great comedic timing, but at the same time – it’s so true.

c.       Jenny believed that reviews are meant for readers and not for authors to look at. She’s looked at reviews for some of her books before but does not make it a habit because of its ability to squander her enthusiasm for the rest of the series. There was a brief moment of laughter when she talked about reviewers who don’t leave the best reviews, but then show up at said author events. I didn’t even know that sort of thing happened!

d.       Sarah’s words of wisdom (borrowed from Meg Cabot) – You’re not a $100 bill, not everyone’s gonna want you. She led with an anecdote about how people had been complaining about how similar her books are to one another and when she wrote THE MOON AND MORE, she had meant it to be different than her other books. When that came out, people were also dissatisfied and frustrated with how different it was from her other works. SPOILER ALERT for THE MOON AND MORE – The girl and guy don’t end up together and Sarah expressed a sense of female of empowerment: the girl doesn’t need to end up with a guy in the end.

3.       What book did they write was their favorite and why?

a.       Sarah – To her, it was hard to pick a favorite since each one was a representation of a different part of her life and where she was at. But she did say that ONCE AND FOR ALL was special to her. After writing SAINT ANYTHING, she hadn’t been sure that she had another book left in her since she’d been writing for 20 years and all good things come in 12, but ONCE AND FOR ALL was just that bonus book that made her happy to be where she was.

b.       Jenny – SHUG was her very first book to be published and that probably had a special place in her heart.

c.       Jennifer – the same sentiment was expressed from her as Jenny – THE STATISTICAL PROBABILTY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT (which is being made into a movie if you hadn’t heard! And it’s starring Hailee Steinfeld whom is an ultimate fav of mine).

4.       This question was to Jenny Han and Asian representation in teen lit (which I have a deep interest in ;)):

a.       She spoke about TATBILB and how it was something that she remained thoughtful about. She had the idea about a girl who wrote love letters to boys and how she wanted to cast the girl as an Asian American because she thought the idea had enough effervescence to it that people would be drawn to the idea. And she asked herself why the main girl couldn’t be Asian? Why did the story need to be relevant to the fact that the girl was Asian? This was a story about an American girl that just so happened to be Asian. She talked about the girls who came up to her and talked about how meaningful it was to them that there was an Asian character, but also girls who were not Asian that came to her and talked about how relatable Lara Jean was to them. Something that hit me really hard was Jenny’s whole goal behind TATBILB was that when someone walked into the bookstore that this Asian character was front and center on the cover. It was something that you couldn’t hide. As an Asian American girl, I found this so freaking important and even when I sit here writing thing and thinking back to that moment, I truly find myself bonding with this idea and just how thoughtful Jenny Han is. I am so happy that she and this series were so warmly and well-received because she has done so much for the diverse reading community as a whole.

After one last question, Jenny presented flowers similar to the ones on the cover of ONCE AND FOR ALL with the intention of having her throw them over her shoulder like a bride with a bouquet. I have to say that I love these sort of spontaneous (but not reallyspontaneous) things that transpire and it was so great to watch her do that to just round out her launch event. I will say that there is nothing to end an event than giving the birthday girl her birthday cake. When her cake was brought out to her and she made her wish, everyone was surprised to see that she had gotten frosting all over the top of her white dress. How can an event end anymore perfectly than this? Of course, Sarah seemed to brush it off and it was in such good humor that people wanted to make sure she was okay.

Once the signing line started, I was grateful that my friend and I were in the first ten so that I could leave since my commute is long. I couldn’t help but laugh when one of my friends took out a large pile of books for Sarah to sign. She certainly didn’t mean to take up much time and went without personalization in most of her books for the sake of keeping the line moving (she’s considerate like that). I had a fleeting moment with Sarah since I only had one book to sign and I loved chatting with Jennifer and Jenny because they’re both such personable and down-to-earth. I couldn’t help but mention to Jenny how much when she talks about the spot gloss on the covers of the new editions of THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY just because I’m in production and I totally understand the effect it has on a book’s aesthetic.

I left in such good spirits and it was another great event to remember for me. Were you at the same event? Let us know how your experience went!


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