Friday, March 16, 2012

Jodi Picoult does DC!

By Melissa Amster

Last night, I had the pleasure, for the first time, of hearing Jodi Picoult speak live and in person. She was at Sixth & I Synagogue in Washington, DC. (The Rabbi in “Change of Heart” would be thrilled.) I’ve been a fan of her books ever since I read “The Pact” in 2004. After that, I was devouring every book of hers that I could get my hands on. I’d have Jodi Picoult book marathons! (I didn’t read “Plain Truth” because I saw the movie version first…I just hope it stayed true to the book more than I heard “My Sister’s Keeper” did.) I haven’t had a chance to read “House Rules” or “Sing You Home” yet, but after seeing her last night, I want to read them right away! I’m reading “Lone Wolf” now, and after hearing about her research for the story, it is even more interesting than it already was! I don’t normally consider her books to be chick lit, per se. They’re a bit darker in nature (sometimes grim) and more law and medicine based. However, after hearing her speak last night, I knew I had to talk about her on this blog!

Listening for a response after a wolf call
Jodi was being interviewed by Ron Charles, Washington Post Book World, Fiction Editor and weekly critic. They had a very easygoing banter laced with humor. He had interviewed her last year when she came to speak about “Sing You Home.” (I would have gone at that time, but I was still sleep deprived after having a baby a few weeks prior.) So they already were familiar and comfortable with one another. He first asked her about the medical background for her book and she explained about traumatic brain injuries. Then they started talking about wolves and things really heated up! It was fascinating to learn that she had met someone who actually did live with wolves (Shaun Ellis). Some of what he did sounded pretty gross, such as eating raw animals. This is reflected upon in “Lone Wolf,” so don’t eat food while reading it if you have a weak stomach! She learned some howling patterns from him and even demonstrated them for the audience. She had some brave audience members come up to learn them along with her. The number wolves (pack fillers) call was hilarious. It was even funnier when the audience member did it. Ron Charles posted a video on YouTube, if you’re curious as to how they sounded. Jodi has a powerful voice and it’s not just for doing wolf calls.

After the wolf call excitement, she talked about “Between the Lines,” the young adult novel that she wrote with her daughter, and how that process came about. She even gave an advanced copy to a teenager in the audience. (Lucky girl!) I don’t normally read YA fiction, but I would definitely read this story. It sounds so fascinating and she uses artwork throughout the novel. Then she talked about the amount of women’s fiction that gets reviewed vs. men’s fiction (men definitely have an advantage, which explains why some women have used initials instead of their full name). She even mentioned Jennifer Weiner’s support for this cause. I know I normally wouldn’t review Jodi’s books for this blog (at least I haven’t since I started it because I haven’t had much of a chance to read them) for the reasons I mentioned earlier, but after hearing what she said about how books written by women are reviewed far less than books written by men, I plan to review “Lone Wolf” here when I’m finished reading it.

There was a Q&A session where she received some interesting questions, including one from yours truly. I asked her what her most challenging book to write was and she answered with “Second Glance,” which is one of my favorites of all her novels. Standing right behind me in line was none other than the lovely Sarah Pekkanen. It was so good to see her again. Jodi endorsed “These Girls,” so it wasn’t too much of a surprise. She also introduced me to Ron Charles after the signing, and he was really nice too. I enjoyed hearing her answers to some of the other questions, especially about what happened with the transition of “My Sister’s Keeper” from book to film. Her comments about that were so funny. I also found out that there was a Lifetime movie for “Salem Falls.” How did I manage to miss that?!?

At the end, we got to have our books signed. There were a lot of people, so she didn’t have time to do posed pictures. However, she took a few moments to talk with everyone who had something to say to her. (In all my excitement, I forgot to tell her that I know her number one fan in Canada…Kim Walker). I did tell her how I graduated from the same high school she spoke at in the Chicago suburbs last week. (Of course, it was much smaller when I was there.)

While we were waiting in line, there was a woman who had physical disabilities and was in a wheelchair. Instead of making her go all the way up the ramp, Jodi came to her and signed her book. The woman could not physically speak, so she used a keyboard to say what she wanted, which was to write a book about someone with a physical disability. Jodi told her that she should go for it and really give herself and others a voice. I was really moved by this, to the point of tears. I’m getting emotional again as I write about it now. Also, there was a guy who had hearing loss. The person signing to him asked Jodi (during the Q&A) if she’d ever write about someone with hearing loss. I was even thinking that a book about the cochlear implant controversy in the Deaf culture would make an interesting story. She then told the audience how her son had lost some of his hearing when he was younger. I was able to relate to her even more in this regard.

Overall, I had a wonderful time hearing Jodi speak. She has a lovely and dynamic personality. The whole time, I kept thinking that she “sparkled” on stage. Jodi was just very lively and energetic the entire time and it showed the most in all her hand gestures. Her hands moved all over the place whenever she talked, like she was painting a picture with them. She even said that she wanted to be an actress at some point. She really embraced the stage (or the bimah, in this case) and it embraced her back. She could make the phone book sound fascinating. My mom was with me last night and she had a wonderful time, as well. (We had a mom and daughter "double date" with Kritter and her mom.) We both love reading her books and seeing her in person emphasized exactly why.  If you ever have an opportunity to attend one of her book signings, you totally should! I know some places charge money, but it's so worth it and you get a book out of the deal too!


Kim W. said...

Ok, Melissa, now you are my very best friend in the world! Thanks for the mention as her biggest fan ;-)

I especially loved the part about the girl who can't talk and Jodi's encouragement with her. As you know, I can relate to this as my own daughter doesn't speak.

I would have killed to have been there....maybe one day I'll get the chance!!

<3 Kim (your new bff)

Nancye said...

I LOVE Jodi Picoult!! Her books are amazing! I found 5 or 6 of her books at my local Half Price Book Store for $1.00 each!!!!! Can you believe my luck!! I was SO excited! I now have almost all of her books. As for "My Sister's Keeper" the book and movie are TOTALLY different. I enjoyed (& cried!) both, but I have to say that I was disappointed that they didn't match up. Thanks for sharing your experience. I would enjoy seeing her speak too.