The Autograph Ninja

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In A Nice Surprise, I stated that I have a knack for getting autographs and it got me thinking about all the signatures I’ve collected over the years.  A friend recently called me a “ninja” and I think she might be right, especially after receiving the latest addition to my collection.

My collection includes a variety of autographs, but not all come from household names. Like everything else I collect (books, rocks, etc), every signature means something to me on one level or another. Gathering autographs is all about connecting to people who have inspired me or have had a positive influence in my life.  They are all attached to memories, beautiful moments, and sometimes life-altering experiences.

It wasn’t easy to find all my autographs, but I did manage to locate the vast majority.  Many autographs are personalized to me, so in order to safeguard my identity I’ve blotted out my real name.  Sorry about the fuzzy areas, but it had to be done!   To save space, a number of photos have been made into thumbnails, but one click will enlarge them to full size.

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This week, I hit what I consider to be the mother lode of autographs because I never thought I could get Stephanie Meyer to sign my books.  She is rather reclusive and her fame is a bit out of my league.  However, through a brilliant stroke of luck I found myself in contact with a link in a chain that lead directly to her.  I sent my Twilight series and The Host down the chain and hoped for the best.  In just a few days, my books came back to me signed!

  

 

Along with the books, I sent a letter to thank her for the pivotal, even if inadvertent, role she played in the completion of my novel.  After failing three times to get a first draft off the ground, I was ready to give up.  I needed a kick in the butt and my mother gave it to me through an aptly timed phone call.  After reading an article on Meyer in the local newspaper, she told me, “If Stephanie Meyer can do it, so can you.”  In a strange twist of fate, that phone call came just as I was about to leave to catch the Twilight movie on opening night.   The next day I started writing my novel (again) and didn’t stop until I finished it.  While I have a village of people to thank for supporting me during the writing process, my mother and Stephanie Meyer both helped to wake up my muse.  Needless to say, these autographs mean the world to me.

Keeping with Twilight, I’ve also stumbled upon a couple more signatures related to the series. Peter Facinelli (left) came to me through a set of collector’s cards for the first Twilight movie.  The autograph was included in a collector edition binder I got through amazon.com (before the craze went haywire).  As for Justin Chon (right), I met him at a Twilight event a week before Eclipse opened in theaters. Both were dumb luck!

 

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During a trip to China, I had the honor of meeting Yu Hua, an author who writes novels that deal with the Cultural Revolution and Chinese culture, (most notably To Live and Chronicles of a Blood Merchant).  His stories are intense journeys in to the human experience and explore complex emotions within families and friendships. In Beijing, I got the rare opportunity to hear him speak in a small group setting.  For two hours, he discussed his writing process, the challenges of writing in a country that censors everything with great scrutiny, and the power of words and creativity.  When I see his autograph, it reminds me how lucky I am to be a writer who has the freedom to write without penalty or restriction.  Despite the obstacles he often faces, he is a true example of how writing can set the soul free.

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Back in 2007, I attended The Office Convention in Scranton, PA.  The stars seemed to align during the whole weekend as I found myself almost constantly in the company of cast members, writers, and producers.  While a fan’s ultimate dream, the convention and the people I encountered had life-altering effects that still impact me today.  Throughout Seasons 3 and 4, I wrote a series of posts on The Office message boards that analyzed each episode and a friend of mine brought them to the attention of one of the producers.  He liked what I wrote so much, he personally presented me with a cast-signed Season 3 DVD set.   Furthermore, he invited me for a one-on-one encounter with the writers of the show.  For close to an hour, I got to rub elbows with some of the most creative and amazing writers in the industry.  During this event, the same producer introduced me as a writer.  It was the first time anyone had ever given me that distinction and it changed my life.  Every time I sit down to write, I try to live up to the title of “Writer.”

The Office is a big reason why I started writing after a very long dry spell, so these autographs serve as a monument not only to fandom, but also as a constant reminder that I must keep writing.  One day I hope to send a published copy of my novel to the producer who gave me such a wonderful gift.

1.Steve Carell 2.Leslie David Baker* 3.Mindy Kaling* 4.Rainn Wilson 5.Oscar Nunez* 6.Paul Lieberstein 7.Brian Baumgartner 8.John Krasinski 9.Angela Kinsey* 10.Jenna Fischer 11.Kate Flannery* 12.B.J. Novak* 13.Ed Helms* 14. Phyllis Smith* 15.Creed Bratton*

*I got a second personalized autograph from these cast members when I met them at the convention.

In addition, many of the writers, other producers, supporting actors, and even the creators of the show were kind enough to sign my autograph scrapbook.

   

Left to right: Gene Stupnitsky, Justin Spitzer and Mindy Kaling / Bobby Ray Shafer / Kent Zbornak / Andy Buckley

  

Left to Right: Craig Robinson / Michael Schur / Greg Daniels, Lester Lewis

When I got home from the convention, I had another little surprise waiting for me in the mailbox.  Jenna Fischer answered my letter and returned an item I asked her to autograph.

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There’s even more after the jump . . .

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It’s All About the Music

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The London music scene has long fascinated me, so it was only natural to set aside a day to load up on CDs. This Saturday, I decided to head to Portobello Road for a good ol’ day at the market and to visit a couple music stores that were in the same area.  I had a mental list of artists I wanted to find, but I was also open to finding new music and taking a few chances.  Much like the book vibe, the same tingle helps me pick out some good music.   It goes without saying that my record it still very much intact!

Classical Music Exchange on Notting Hill Gate

Think of a used bookstore and replace all the books with used CDs and vintage vinyl records.  Everything is marginally alphabetized and you are invited to take as long as you like to sift through every single item.  It was like rummaging through someone’s basement and I loved it!  Instead of putting out the actual CDs, they only put out the paper inserts, which is awesome because you can read through the lyrics and get a good sense of the artist’s personality.  Here’s what I bought:

  • Doves – The Best Of.  I know and love two songs, so why not try a few more?  After giving it a listen, it was worth every penny.  Very cool music with a nice vibe.
  • Johnny Flynn – Been Listening. This is possibly one of my favorite artists of all time.  I have everything he’s ever done, but its all digital. I’ve always wanted a physical CD and the price was right.  Plus, I got a bonus poster!
  • Fifth House – Stanzas for Sail.  I’ve never heard of the band, but the lyrics were very poetic and it was in the same section and genre as Johnny Flynn.  I figured for the price, it was worth the gamble, (and I got a major vibe hit off this one!).  When I got back to my room, I gave it a listen and it was incredible.  The lead singer has a beautiful voice and the melodies are as brilliant as the lyrics.  Click here to listen to some tracks they have loaded on facebook.
  • The View – Hats Off to the Buskers.  This was another mystery band where I decided to take a chance.  Once again, the bet paid off.  I’m on a roll!  These guys have a very retro vibe and a funky beat.  All in all, a fun collection of songs.
  • Glasvegas.  I had seen this band on iTunes and I knew the album got rave reviews, so I picked it up.  Eh.  It’s okay.  A lot of the songs sound the same, but it’s a nice mood album that will fit nicely into a playlist I have on my iPod.  It’s not a loss, but I like the other albums I got a lot better.  For the record, this does not count against my vibe.  It was a choice based on logic, which if anything is an argument for using the vibe instead.

Street Band, between Pembridge and Portobello Road

On the way to Portobello Road, I stopped to listen to some buskers – The Ryan O’Reilly Band.  They were fantastic, so I pulled one of their CDs out of the guitar case and bought it.  I was even lucky enough to get it autographed, (hey, you never know, these guys could hit it big!).  So far, its my favorite purchase of the day.  These guys are incredibly talented songwriters and musicians!  Click here to give them a listen.

Rough Trade

I’ve known about Rough Trade ever since I became a fan of Johnny Flynn a few years ago.  This store carries all the best music London has to offer and pays particular attention to indie artists and the underground, which is why I knew I absolutely had to get to this place at one point or another.  I’ve been after the latest release from a particular artist for a while now and if anyone would have it in stock, its Rough Trade.  The place is small, but its rammed with vintage music posters, vinyl, new and used CDs, and concert ads.  There’s nothing fancy about it, but it feels like a safe haven for fans who dig music that’s just outside of what’s popular.  It took some persistent searching, but I managed to find the last copy they had of Marcus Foster’s most recent EP.  His last batch of songs never made it to States, so I can’t even begin to state how excited I was to get my hands on this CD.

While it was fun to find Marcus Foster, it was even more fun to surprise the guy at the counter.  He didn’t expect an American to know this obscure artist, nor did he expect me to be so knowledgeable about his past work.  I even threw him a curve ball with knowing Foster’s full-length debut had been delayed.  It’s not often I get to talk about my favorite artists with someone who has actually heard of them, so this was seriously cool.  By the way, I highly recommend visiting Marcus Foster online to listen to some of his songs. He is amazing!

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I could have easily gone to one of the major chain stores like HMV to buy music, but there is something almost holistic about visiting music exchange stores.  Bands and artists that might not otherwise have a chance to be heard, line the shelves on an equal playing field as platinum selling artists.  Slick advertising campaigns and radio have nothing to do with my decisions on what to buy . . . its about the music, just as it should be.

c.b. 2011