Sunday, October 28, 2012


Ms Linda Morrison, Manager
Mr Peter Scott, District Manager
Barnes and Noble Northgate
401 Northeast Northgate Way # 1100
Seattle, WA 98125

Dear Ms Morrison and Mr Scott,
I attended your book signing with Ann and Nancy Wilson of the band “Heart” yesterday, Oct 27, at your Northgate store.
I would like you to know first that I have a Nook from Barnes and Noble, and that I am a member in good standing and regularly order books online from B&
Yesterday Ann and Nancy Wilson of the rock group HEART were supposed to be at Barnes and Noble in North Seattle at the Northgate Mall B&N at 2 pm to sign their book, "Kicking and Dreaming" which was written with the help of Charles Cross.
They were going to have a "conversation" with Mr Cross, after which they were supposed to take questions from the audience and then sign books, records, guitars, etc.

My husband, son and I live in Maple Valley, which is about 30 miles from Seattle, and about 40 from North Seattle. It should take us about 40 minutes to get there, but with horrible traffic in the rain, it took us an hour and a half to get there, though I had planned for this and we left early, hoping to arrive early so that I could show them that I had purchased my copy of "Kicking and Dreaming" from Barnes and Noble online, because I have a membership card and get free shipping.

We arrived at 1 pm (an hour early) to find that parking was almost non existent, and once Jim dropped me off at the door, I went to the counter to show my proof of purchase and get a 'wristband' something I was told I wouldn't be admitted without. The guy at the counter said "Oh, we don't have any more wristbands, so you're just going to have to try to get in by showing your book." Great. I approached the small area where the event was to take place, and noticed that there was quite a long, winding line, though they were allowing people in with wristbands, who sat in the few seats provided (WHY were there so few seats? Heart is rock and roll royalty in Seattle, you HAD to know there would be a huge crowd there for their appearance).

After they were all seated, the rest of us were told we had to stand in the aisles for the event. I was not expecting to have to stand, because I wore nice shoes and dressed up to see these two women whom I'd idolized since I was a teenager in Iowa in the 1970s.

I recall, clearly, the day I found the "Dreamboat Anne" album, and how I devoured the music on it, because my brothers were always playing Styx, Rush, AC/DC, Journey and Bob Segar albums, loudly proclaiming that only men could produce quality rock and roll. Then when I got "Little Queen" and listened to the glorious songs on that album, I felt as if they were singing to me, that they understood what it was like to live under the shadow of your brothers and father, who had no problem telling you how worthless you were, just in case you hadn't gotten that message from the many bullies at in high school who beat you down every single day. I wore out my first Little Queen album, and I saved up my money to buy another one, though I had all the songs memorized, even with the skips where the scratches were on the record.
I saw a Washburn guitar poster with Nancy Wilson on it and I pitched the first huge fit of my life (I was the easy, tractable middle child who didn't make trouble) when my parents got me a cheap guitar from Sears for my 16th birthday when I so desperately wanted a Washburn, just like Nancy Wilsons! It didn't matter that I couldn't sing like Ann Wilson, it only mattered that they were women, and they ROCKED, so well that I was sure no one could put them down. They gave me hope. Hope that, despite my size and my gender, that I could actually make something of myself, someday.
However, now that I am an old woman with Crohn’s Disease who is obese and has sore joints, my ability to stand for hours is severely compromised. But I tried to make the best of it, standing there, talking to the people around me, among them a young man who had brought a guitar for the Wilsons to sign, a mom with two daughters, (one about 7 and the other 13 and crazy for Justin Bieber), who had to listen to her tired and hungry daughters whine louder as the hours went by, and a senior woman who was wearing leopard-print spiked heels, and a guy with a Heart hat that he'd gotten during one of their concerts years ago, along with some treasured vinyl albums. There was also a senior lady in line who was hassled by a clerk because she didn’t have a book in hand. The lady explained that she had purchased a book previously and had gotten it signed, but she wanted to come to this event to hear the Wilson sisters speak. She was told she’d have to leave unless she bought another book. So this elderly woman had to get out of the standing room only line and walk over to purchase another book and then walk to the back of the line, which was patently unfair.

We stood for 3 hours, with the Wilsons arriving a half hour late, only to discover that the microphones either didn't work or couldn't be turned up at all, so those of us standing in the aisles couldn't hear anything that Ann or Nancy said. We could hear the smug Mr Cross rambling on about how well he knew the sisters Wilson, but no one really cared about his story, they wanted to hear about Heart, and the book.
The sisters and Cross talked briefly, but we could hear next to nothing that was said, and after about 15 minutes Cross threw it open to questions from the audience. A flamboyant black gay man got up from the seated section and blathered about how much he and his husband loved their music, which he thanked them for, but he really didn't have a question. Then a woman from the seated section asked another question, which we couldn't hear, and then we couldn't hear the answer that had those in the seats laughing. Another question was asked, and then they stopped the questions, after only 3 or 4 of them (if you count the gay black man who just wanted to blather) and said they'd be signing all the stuff people had brought with them, but of course they'd start with the seated section first. Note that no questions were answered from the standing crowd, though several raised their hands!

By this time, my feet had gone from numb to burning pain, my guts were starting to twist and feel like my intestines were going to fall out of my body, and I hadn't had the chance to seek out any of the books on the list I'd brought, or sit down, or go to the bathroom or get a drink.
My husband called from a nice pub across the street to say he was planning on just waiting for me to get done, but I told him he needed to get to the bookstore, take my place in line and let me go do some book shopping and sit down, even if it was only in the bathroom. 30 minutes later, husband arrives and they won't let him in until I charge forward and tell them that I need him to take my place in line, ostensibly for book shopping, because I felt that money was the only thing the clerks would listen to at this point. 
I charged upstairs, found someone who basically told me that she'd order me some books online because it would save me a lot of money over buying it in the store (I didn't tell her that if I wanted to get them online, I could do that myself at home, I didn't need to drive for hours to get to a store), then I went to the bathroom and then stopped by the B&N coffee shop to get a juice and sit down next to two seniors who had literally given up on standing in line waiting for their books to be signed.  I waited until my feet no longer felt like they were going to fall off, and I walked back to the line, only to see my husband saying that I was "next!"
Just as I handed my book to the B&N clerk, an officious man walked over and said, "No more signing of anything but books." So I couldn't get the two photos of Ann and Nancy that I'd been holding on to for years signed, because now that I finally got to stand in front of them, I was being chivvied along by the man who had said they couldn’t sign anything else. I do not know if he was a B&N employee or working with the Wilson sisters, but he was clearly impatient to get me away from them.
I tried to tell Nancy about the Washburn guitar that my parents finally ordered for me and purchased for $600, which was a heckuva lot of money in 1977, but it was clear that they just wanted me done. I took a pen and pencil set with me in a nice wooden case, as is my habit when I meet authors, to give them a pen as a gift. Unknown to me, my husband had taken the pen out of the case and not put it back into the case, hoping to get the sisters to autograph my book with my name by writing it on a note on the front of the book. They ignored that completely, just signing their names. And now I know that the pen/pencil set that I wanted to give them was incomplete, because of my husband removing the pen from the case. So I don’t even have the good feeling that comes from giving a heart-felt thank you, via a gift, to a couple of your childhood idols.

As we were leaving I noticed that the guitar guy had a signed guitar in front of him, and the guy with the hat had a signed hat on his head, so obviously I was the only person not allowed to have things signed other than the book.  Which is terrible, really, since I've been dreaming of the moment I'd meet the Wilson sisters since 1976, when I first heard "Dreamboat Anne."

Now I am left heartbroken, footsore and embarrassed, and feeling that Barnes and Noble really had no clue how to run the event properly. I wonder why members weren't given preferred seating, but at this point it doesn't matter, since I am sure I won’t ever get another shot at seeing the sisters Wilson.
I just thought you both should know that your event was a major disappointment for this fan, and several others who stood for a long time in the aisles of your store (not to mention spending a lot of money on gas to get there and money for the book itself).
I know that Barnes and Noble is a big corporation, so you probably don’t care if 50 or 60 people have a bad experience at a book signing, and a lone freelance writer writes to tell you about it and posts about it on her book blog.
But with so many bookstores closing and so few real bibliophiles like myself remaining, I think it should matter to someone.
Here's a bit from Shelf Awareness:

Robert Gray: Trick or Books
It's not the book ghosts; you're never afraid of them, even when the
shelves are full and all those authors, living and dead, whisper: "Read
us... Read us... Read us..."

"Did you ever notice how books track you down and hunt you out?"
Christopher Morley wrote. "They follow you like the hound in Francis
Thompson's poem
They know their quarry!... That's why I call this place the Haunted Bookshop Haunted by the
ghosts of the books I haven't read. Poor uneasy spirits, they walk and
walk around me. There's only one way to lay the ghost of a book, and
that is to read it."

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