Meeting Leigh Bardugo (aka Maren’s rise to fame)
King of Scars Tour
Feb 1, 2019
When I discovered that an author I greatly admire was going to be within driving distance for a book tour stop just one day after my birthday, I knew it was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed. I quickly claimed the date so my husband couldn’t spring a golf trip on me or something, set up a babysitting situation for my oldest with her grandparents, and recruited my bookish bestie (and fellow DAGMN contributor) Michelle to come along for the ride! I was thrilled! My last bookish plans (attending BookCon in New York in 2018) were thoroughly squashed by my being too pregnant for travel at the time, so this was something I needed, as much as wanted, to do.
Originally, I had planned to leave the baby overnight with her dad, which was why I was having my mom babysit Madeline, but I decided it was too early for me to go so far from Maren overnight. Since she’s little, not yet mobile, can sleep for several hours in her car seat, and requires no food I can’t produce on demand, I figured she’d be an easy companion. It wasn’t until Leigh reminded people in one of her stories to dress up, that I realized Maren would be more than easy. She would be awesome.
I didn’t have the funds or the items already in my closet to create a costume for myself without spending way more than I should, but I had a spare $7. It bought me the fabric I needed for Maren’s Inej cosplay cloak! I found a poncho type infant coat on Amazon to style the cloak after, reverse engineering and then eyeballing it to replicate it.
With the help of my mom and her sewing machine (mine broke) we created the perfect little hooded cloak to match my favorite fan art of the character. (Pictured below. Art created by Stephanie Brown. Find her here: https://www.offbeatworlds.com ) I also borrowed the small plastic knife Madeline had recently gotten in a play kit so that Maren could be the complete assassin package! We were set!
The drive was about 6 hours for us, given a few stops for lunch and gas, so on the day of the event, we left at 10:30, aiming to be at the event space at 4:30. 2 stops and half an audiobook later, we were there! The event was held at The Edison in Oxford MS. It was hosted by Square Books. It was a lot smaller space than I anticipated, but it worked out really well. We arrived with just enough time to freshen up, change Maren’s diaper and clothes (all at the back of my car, mind you) and head in for the start of the meet and greet.
When we walked in, we got our pre-ordered copies of King of Scars and a group number for the signing. Then we went on the hunt for a seat. There were roughly 30 people there by the time we stepped inside, and lots of seats were occupied with stacks of Bardugo books as their owners milled about chatting or doing some of the activities in the adjacent room. I walked toward the front seats, and was amazed to find two empty spots in the very first row. We claimed those immediately. I couldn’t believe our luck! See those green chairs to the left of Maren? That’s where Leigh was going to be. I took this photo standing in front of our spot!
After that, we wandered around like everyone else, letting people admire Maren’s adorableness, and me slowly starting to sweat from carrying around an extra… she must be 20 lbs by now… while more and more people filed in and found their spots.
There were several tables set up in the adjacent room, filled with goodies and activities. My first stop was the button table, where you could discover what kind of Grisha you were and take the coordinating button.
I happened to have fingerless gloves and no shame, so I palmed every available button style into the gloves as I examined them, and called it a day! (I guess they missed a button type, as I am clearly one of Kaz’s crew).
Aside from my low-level thievery, I perused the raffle table, watched others enter their anonymous questions into the Q&A bucket, and then stood in line to get my photo taken in front of the King of Scars step and repeat banner.
The fun part about this was that we were getting these tiny little polaroids that were then taped into another goodie at the final table: Grishaverse Passports! Complete with a stamp for this event!
When the festivities were done, we headed to our seats and waited (im)patiently for Leigh to come out for the Q&A. In the meantime, they had a table full of all of Leigh’s Grisha-related books, including her new guided journal, The Severed Moon, which I had only learned about the week before, so I was very happy to be able to buy a copy of that while we were there.
It did not get signed, however, because I had my First Editions of the Shadow and Bone series to get signed, and it didn’t make the 3-book limit cut. Still, it is beautiful, and I’m really excited to play around with it.
Finally, 6:00 arrived, and Leigh along with it. She walked out with her cane (which I fancied had a crow’s head handle, but I think that was my imagination) and a smile. Her hair was in gorgeous beachy waves, her dress a lovely lace-textured black with lacework on the sleeves. She looked properly witchy and wonderful. Exactly how one would picture the author of the Grishverse, honestly.
She quickly explained that in past tours, the Q&A time, which she very much enjoyed, had always been given so little time that she wanted to do things differently and really get a chance to do this segment properly, so Q&A was all we did. I have to agree, it was a really cool way to do things. So many different people with so many different angles for questions makes for a lively and interesting conversation. We were told there was no microphone, so we would all just need to stay as quiet as possible, which was fine for everyone except Maren, who occasionally felt the need to chatter about something or blow raspberries, and once or twice (when Leigh’s comments made us laugh or cheer) almost start to cry, but was thankfully very well-behaved.
There were a lot more of us than the event coordinators expected, but it still amounted to maybe 100 people. It was really fun like that. It was like being in a very large book club, chatting with the author about books we all loved! She discussed many things, hinted that if we fans stuck around long enough (like that was ever in doubt) we’d get to see a third Six of Crows book, told us more about Ninth House, which was very exciting, talked craft, and, as one does in a Q&A, answered all manner of bookish questions!
If you ever get a chance to hear Leigh speak in person, I highly recommend it. She is smart, funny, personable, and poised. She makes you feel at once like an old friend you could talk all night with and like you were meeting, say, Professor McGonagall or the Dowager Countess of Grantham (so basically Maggie Smith). Michelle said it best to me later that night: “I got more nervous about meeting her the longer she spoke, because I realized I really wanted her to like me.” It’s true. You stand in line and you can’t help but want her to like you as much as you find you like her after hearing her speak!
Once the Q&A was over, the signing began. It wasn’t long before it was our turn. Maren had spent the entire Q&A doing stand-up alligator rolls in my lap, and I was so shaky and worn out from lack of food and wrangling her, that I didn’t have any energy left in me to be nervous, which was a nice change from the first time I met her. But this time, I was mostly excited, because I was essentially handing her a tiny cosplay baby to admire, and the reaction I got from her was everything I hoped it would be, and more!
She was delighted! She said she felt like she had really made it now, asked to take Maren’s picture, took what she said was “like 18 photos of your baby” and then chatted with us as she signed our books and took photos with us.
Pretty soon after, we loaded up our many things and prepared to find some food, because I felt about 10 minutes away from passing out! Before we left, we were handed an amazing cookie with a little note attached. It is a testament to my will that I managed not to eat that cookie then and there. I knew I would have to photograph it, so, you’re welcome for my restraint. Because now you get to see how gorgeous this cookie was! (I say was because I did eventually eat it).
The next day, after we returned home from another 6 hour drive, Maren showed up in Leigh’s stories on IG and then got her very own post on Twitter! (And she wasn’t the only one who mentioned her)
That is something Leigh does a really good job of. Not only does she make her fans feel like friends when she meets them, she also champions them and their artwork/cosplays/etc and shares about them in social media. Not everyone does that, and it really makes you feel valued. Which is why when my husband asked me if the two hour event was worth the total 12 hour drive in the car with an infant, I answered, without hesitation: yes!