Saturday, April 14, 2012

Nicholas Sparks

Kendall & I had an amazing opportunity to listen to Nicholas Sparks speak on Tuesday night.  I happened to be in the University Union picking up tickets to see a film called "First Generation" (about first generation college was excellent!) when I stumbled upon this poster:

I was so excited to see this that I just grabbed two tickets without asking Kendall if she wanted to go.  Nicholas Sparks is one of her favorite authors, if not her favorite, so I knew she'd "think about it".   just wasn't sure she'd actually want to go.  I sent her a text telling her what I'd done & got one back that was the equivalent of screaming teenage girls.  Woohoo!  

I wanted it to be a special night, so Tuesday night we went to dinner at Pa To favorite, but she likes it, too...then headed to Prochnow Auditorium.  There were about 500 college girls there & maybe 10 boys.  There were a couple of people my age, but clearly this was an event for the students.  There was lots of giggling & whispering...& a chick behind us snorted like a pig every time she laughed.  That was entertaining in itself!

Let me start by saying this was a wonderful event to participate in.  Nicholas Sparks was funny, relevant, & kind.  In his 75 minute talk he shared with us so many personal details that really made it special.  I'm sure he gives the same talk thousands of times (it had an easy flow) but you never felt like it was per-rehearsed.  Here are a few of the things he covered:

  • He was a track star in high school & earned a full ride scholarship to Notre Dame, where he still holds a record (for what I couldn't tell you)
  • He suffered a plantar & achilles injury at the end of his freshman year, effectively ending his track career
  • That summer he was recovering from his injury & driving his parents bonkers with the energy that he could no longer run off.  His mom told him to go find something to do.  Like most petulant teenagers he said, "oh, yeah, like what?"  "Go write a novel!"  And he did.
  • His first novel was a Stephen King sorta book that will not likely ever see the light of day
  • His second novel was written in a six week period 3-4 years too, will not likely ever see the light of day
  • After that, he got married, they had two kids & his wife thought maybe he ought to get a career.  So he became a pharmaceutical rep.
  • When he was 28 the tv show Cheers came to an end.  His mom died suddenly & his sister was diagnosed with cancer.  He didn't particularly care for Cheers, but the end of it had him contemplating what he was doing with his life.  He started thinking about life in 12 year chunks...I think that's how long Cheers was on, but I could totally be making that up.  How many 12 year spans do you get in your life?  The first 12 don't count.  What are you going to to with the 5-7 more chunks you have left?  Was this all there was to look forward to?  
  • He decided to write his first book...The Notebook.  (One of my favorite movies!  Kendall says the movie is better than the book.)  This book was inspired by his wife's grandparents.  It seems that when he married his wife, her grandparents called the night before & said they were sorry but they were unable to attend because of ill health.  The next day Nicholas & his wife put their wedding finery on, grabbed a slice of cake & the wedding video & went to her grandparents.  They watched the video, enjoyed the cake & learned that her grandmother had Alzheimers & that was why they were not able to attend.  Her grandfather explained to them that every day he told his wife the story of how they met.  Some days she understood it was them.  Some she did not.  
  • After writing the book he sent off a letter to 25 random literary agents & tried to sell his book.  He got one response from a young gal who had been an agent all of 6 months.  She found a publisher for his book & he received $1 million dollars for it!  Before the book was printed, he secured the movie rights.  
  • Message in a Bottle was his second book.  This is undoubtedly the saddest book that I have ever read.  And it is based on his parents.  Which makes it even sadder.  When his mother was 47 years old she went out for a horseback ride along the river with her husband.  Her horse spooked & she was thrown.  She landed on a rock & was killed instantly.  After the accident his father collapsed.  He could not cope.  At times he cut off contact with his children, his mother, his family.  He was in a deep, deep depression for 3-4 years.  Finally he started going to friends the store...and finally, 7 years after his wife died, he met a woman & fell in love.  He called Nicholas & told him that he was in love & getting married.  He was so excited!  Two days later, driving home, he fell asleep at the wheel & hit a tree.  He died instantly. 
  • His next book was A Walk to Remember.  It's a book about a girl who is a little odd, a little bit of an outcast, very secure in her convictions...a girl who gets cancer & falls in love.  The story is based on his little sister.  She died from cancer 12 years ago.  When his sister was 12 years old he asked her what she wanted most in life.  She responded she wanted to get married.  And just like the book, a boy proposed to her so she could have her wish before she died.
  • He talked about his son who was diagnosed with autism in a time before people really knew what it was.  They told him autism, that he was deaf, that he was retarded...really, they had no idea.  His book The Rescue is based on his son.
  • Dear John?  That's his cousin.
  • Safe Haven?  Strictly from his imagination (I suspect his imagination was watching Sleeping With the Enemy)
  • He didn't go over every book, though I would have loved to know about all of them.
  • He does NOT like it when anyone in the audience tries to record him.
  • At the end we all lined up to have a book signed.  One book each.  No personalization.  No photos.  Too many people.
  • When we got to our turn in line, the girl in front of me had him sign a ticket stub.  He saw her book & said, "Let me sign that too".  On my turn, I said, "uh, oh, you're going to get into trouble!"  He said that it's important that she leaves happy & got what she came for.
  • Kendall was next.  He stopped & took a breath & looked her right in the eyes & said "hi, how are you doing?"  It was awesome!

She's keeping her book & my book...forever.

Kendall's take on the whole event?  It was AWESOME!  She loved the stories he told about the books.  She listened to every word he said & just soaked it all in.  Most of all, she was thrilled to get to meet him.

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