Courtney S. Barr

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Join me, the Princess, on my Royal Adventures in the Land of Writing!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Monuments, Injuries, & Duff oh my!

The past few weeks have been a flurry of activity. After I returned from Arizona I found myself more excited than ever about certain ideas for my life. Again the move towards actually completing them is the actual issue I find myself dealing with. But for once I have been able to actually wrap my head around the possibilities and can see the promise.

Work has been busy & good. It sent me to Washington D.C. this past weekend. I had a 3 day conference (Sunday - Tuesday). The conference took us on a few tours and they were wonderful!

One was a cruise of the Potomac, with food and everything! It was a beautiful site to see old Town Alexandria, the base, and the beautiful homes that are down the waterside.
Oh my gosh, the International Spy Museum has this awesome attraction: Operation Spy that you can do as well as just tour the exihibits. It takes 12 people and you get to interact with a "Covert Agent" in the field as he/she is trying to discover who stole a nuclear weapon & whether or not our contact is a double agent. You run up stairs, you hit the floor, you crack a safe, you listen & decode conversations... for about 1.5 hours. It is so much fun! There is nothing like 12 adults acting like 10 year olds. I thoroughly enjoyed this attraction. The museum is neat too, really did you know that they really did use the transmitters in the bottom of their shoes in the 70's or that the KGB hollowed out umbrella stems for documents or that women would line their dresses with important documents? There are also some quite disgusting ways that history shows us information was transferred, but I will let you visit the museum yourself to discover those...
Though I have been to D.C. many times before there is never enough time to see everything. It would take months to see all the museums and sites. With the changing exhibits it would take even longer! This trip though I was able to see some things that I have never seen, like this monument dedicated to Columbus. It sits at Union Station. Three poles hold the American flags and represent his three ships. There is also a monument to the Liberty Bell right behind it.
At the museum of Natural History this Colossal Head sits and watches everyone who passes. It is huge and the only remains of some temple ruins. The tulips at its base make it much more cheerful than it really is.

There are so many memorials here. The WWII memorial is absolutely beautiful, the Vietnam & Korean Memorials elicite erie otherworld type of feelings, but majestic is a word that describes the below 4 memorials.
The Lincoln memorial yields a view of the river and the path way down the Mall. Its huge columns & state seals definitely create an imposing structure. It is said to be the most visited monument. I believe it. People are everywhere at this one, climbing the huge steps, standing in small repose beside the huge state of Lincoln. It is beautiful!

The Jefferson sits over the water and cast a gorgeous reflection, it is a very striking building. All of them bring thoughts of Roman & Greek historic architecture.

The Washington Monument is just so tall! You can see it from everywhere. They even have a law that a building cannot be built over 9 stories tall or at least it cannot be the height or taller than the Washington Monument. 899 steps to the top... or ride the elevator. :)

One of the interesting things to me was Fords Theater (where Lincoln was shot) and the house where he died. The theater is literally 45 steps fromt the house across the street. Did you know that there was really only 6 people in the room with him (the room was so small) and that he died while laying diagonally on a small bed due to his being so tall that he would not fit lying on it from head to foot?
I met some great taxi cab drivers from all over the world. Everyone was so nice. D.C. is not exactly known for being cordial, so this trip was quite surprising. All the times before when Nina & her family lived there we did not have bad experiences per say with the people of the District, but they are definitely separated from the south by more than just the bridge! :)
I saw these tulips at the Australian Embassy. They were everywhere & I thought of New Moon. The flowers were just gorgeous. Tulips were everywhere in D.C. but the Australian Embassy is the only place I saw the two toned.

Even though the conference was well worth my company's time & experience and I learned a great deal more than I did know there was a downside... you know me....clumsy me...I fell down, quite hard, got to tour a local medical station in the Georgetown area.... X Rays, blood, VERY sprained ankle. Nasty swelling, pain medicine, wrapped foot & lots of pain. YEP. I have to laugh.

The first day when I arrived in D.C. my taxi driver from the airport was so nice. I inquired as to whether or not he knew where Charm City Cakes was in Baltimore. He said yes. He had customers before me who had wanted to go there just to take a picture of the door. (they won't let you in unless you are a real customer). For those of you unfamiliar with Charm City Cakes: Duff is the Chef; he has a crew that makes some of the most extraordinary cakes you have ever seen. He has a show on Food Network: ACE of CAKES. The CakeWrecks blog also has featured some of his wonderful creations on her SundaySweets blog entries.

Anyway, I had set up for the same driver to pick me up to take me to the airport. So I mentioned again that I would love to just have a picture of the door and see where their workshop is. He said it was only about 10 minutes from the airport so it would be no problem to get there before my flight. Mind you I am seriously hobbling due to my injury so my driver, Randy, was like: I will help you get a picture however I can.

So we get over to the location. It is exactly as it looks when you see it on t.v. So Randy & I get out of the taxi & proceed to try to get a good shot. I notice in my peripheral vision someone walking across the street from a little hole in the wall diner. At first I don't even pay attention, but then the person gets closer.... IT IS DUFF!!!! I whisper to Randy: Holy crap that is HIM! THE GUY - DUFF!! Randy then calls out: Mr. Duff, hey, this girl came all the way from Alabama do you think she could have a picture?~ (please forgive the horrible pic of me - no makeup, travel clothes, crazy hair...yeah he probably thinks southerners are crazy people!)I almost pass out. Duff laughs, smiles, and says sure! SO as I am still laughing over the whole moment, Randy takes the picture & we also get one of Duff in the doorway of his establishment. I realize that he is holding an empty plate with a fork. So I guess that Diner might house some good food. :) Anyway, he was a doll & very kind to have posed and spoken with me for a few minutes. What luck? WHAT TIMING. Crazy. So even with my blue & green foot my luck comes in who is to say what is lucky & what is not...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Project Book Babe: A picture is worth a thousand words and a million memories...

Yesssss..... I was in Phoenix, Arizona a mere 7 hours ago. I sat in an airport and watched the sun come up over the mountains. To be honest I sat bewildered and in shock. Only last night I walked amongst such talented people as James Owen, Shannon Hale, J.S. Lewis and others - including the amazing and so down to earth Stephenie Meyer.... I am ahead of myself...

On Friday afternoon I boarded a plane in Birmingham and flew to Phoenix. I landed early that afternoon and was greeted by Lori. She was in a Dodge Caliber - though at the time we weren't real sure what kind of car she was driving. (Lori's flight from BHM had arrived about 4 hours before mine). She is an explorer by nature so Phoenix was quickly becoming a familiar city. Though it is convenient that the layout is basically a giant square. We drove out to the Desert Bontanical Gardens, we explored the mountain range and then headed to Old Scottsdale for Dinner and some browsing. Dinner lended some great chipotle infused salsa, a rockin chimichanga and the best carne asada I have ever tasted! The locals were kind the weather was bizarre. Hot desert sun in midday with sweet cool breezes in the evening = wonderful!
After dinner we trespassed a little bit - all for the sake of some spectacular photographs! We purchased some essentials for the hotel room and then headed back to the room to laugh and prepare for the next day...
With the time change we were up early for Arizona time but fairly normal for Alabama time. We headed down past the hotel pool and wandered into Chef Charlie's wonderful breakfast world. Note to everyone - Embassy Suites does cook to order complimentary breakfast for its guests. SO YUMMY!!!! Seriously some of the BEST hashbrowns ever! The sweetest Chefs too :) SO after filling ourselves up with some yummy food we headed to the Desert Botanical Gardens. Okay if you get the chance to go out to Phoenix before May 31st of this year - make sure you visit the Gardens newest exhibit Chihuly. The artist works with blown glass and intersperses it throughout the natural setting of the desert landscape. It is eye catching, colorful, breathtakingly beautiful. I was speechless during many of the stops. In most of the below pictures you really cannot tell how huge these works are - the first one (the colorful yellow ball is more like 18 feet tall and almost triple that in width) most average 6 -8 feet in height when nature calls for it, some are low to the ground mimicking the fantastical shapes that cacti form as they grow.... well see for yourself
Don't forget that this is GLASS - Hand Blown GLASS!!!!

After the Botanical Gardens we wandered towards Sky Harbor International again to pick up Lucy, Lori's sister. I have got to shout out to you two I need to develop nicknames for both of you the Lucy - Lori is so close I had to catch myself more than twice! :)

Lucy was ready and excited - she had a relaxing first class flight to Phoenix... Ah how nice.

We headed to grab her a quick bite then to the hotel to prepare for the big event. Lori promised to remind me to breathe for the rest of the day.

After deciding on outfits, getting our tickets together & making sure all cameras were ready we hopped in the car and headed to Marcos De Niza High School.
Once at the high school my heart began to beat and my breathing was definitely a questionable action...The line snaked around towards the courtyard, then they announced that Platinum tickets could move to the front of the line. Platinum - that was us.
As we rounded the corner we saw the black and red tables, the volunteers with Save the Book Babe t-shirts and I started realizing that I really was going to see & meet Stephenie Meyer. This woman who has catapulted friendships, inner confidence and sparked a new reading frenzy. Along with her were some of my favorite other authors... I was beginning to hyperventilate again.
After purchasing raffle tickets, getting the platinum wristbands, and receiving the card for entry to the reception you slipped through the doors.
When you entered the auditorium there were artist that would sketch your favorite characters from any of the books of the authors or even some comic characters, really you could just ask if they would do anyone. They were sketching for 700 people. There were 7 of them. Difficult task - but I came home with a sketch :) Alice, Edward, & Bella in the stylings of Tony Parker.

Then you made your way into the theater. 800 seats lead up to a classic stage. On the stage was a band set, a few mics, and some stools. People were milling around in their sections, people were chattering, the excitement was building and we all were anxious. But then when Shannon Hale stepped up to the mic it was an eerie and beautiful reverence that overcame the audience. This woman should seriously be in stand up! She is a riot. Her books are wonderful, but even her talented written word cannot stand a chance against her natural ease & personality. Some opening remarks were made and she brought out the reason we had all really joined forces: Faith Hochalter. This woman is battling breast cancer, these authors, publishing companies and strangers all came together because she has touched so many lives. She was really overwhelmed. I was lucky enough to meet her backstage. She is a delightful woman and so sweet in demeanor. Truly the Book Babe.Faith spoke about this journey and how all of this came to be. She is a beautiful person inside and out. My prayers are with her as she continues her battle.Brandon Mull came out to read a quick poem:
Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
Cancer Sucks
After Faith & Brandon, the comedic antics continued with J.S. Lewis & Shannon Hale as they announced that there was "some dress" up for auction... (Modeled here by Dean Lorey - he was escorted by the handsome PJ Haarsma)Then the pair introduced the first musical performance. The acoustic talents of Adam Kump. Adam played with his best friend. These two young gentlemen have a beautiful career ahead that is already growing. Then the authors took to the stage again, only this time it was more of them and they felt that we needed even more musical entertainment.... This was one of the funniest moments of the evening. I spoke to Shannon Hale about this at the reception and mentioned that I was expecting the talents of Adam Kump & Adam Watts Band (I had looked them up online before the trip), but I told her I was NOT expecting the musical stylings and dancing talents of the group of authors. She laughed and then confessed neither had they - it was totally impromptu. Well it was improv at its best :)

Then came the second Adam. The Adam Watts Band played. These guys are amazing. I mean truly awesome music. The lead singer, Adam, had a special story to share. His mother is a two time cancer survivor. He wrote the song Blink for her. I was so touched by their music. I am often overcome by music; especially honest music. Their sound is one of those sounds that just sweeps you up into the melodies and takes you on a trip. Truly talented & so up my alley in style. :o) When you get a chance go look them up online... .....I um happen to have a signed CD by all the guys... I'm just saying :) Also a few great pictures.....
Then Shannon took the stage to introduce all the authors...and we all clapped then held our breaths as Shannon mentioned everyone but "her"..... Then as the laughter subsided: STEPHENIE MEYER!!! *and the crowd goes wild- HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA*

The panel answered questions about their writing processes, their inspirations, their styles, their characters, their lives - a plethera of answers bounced across that stage for all of us to hear. They answered honestly, seriously, jokingly and encouragingly. As someone who hopes to see her name in print, their answers were a special gift in itself.

The panel then concluded the question answer section of the day and on to the craziness! RAFFLE & AUCTION!!!

The raffle items were extraordinary! Signed full sets of Twilight, Original Artwork by James Owen, a complete & edited manuscript by Dean Lorey, a collection of books by Janett Rallison, books by Laini Taylor, art by Chris Gall... the list is just wonderful. Though I purchased 50 tickets I did not win anything, Lucy purchased 50 tickets and won the set of Janette Rallison books (OME!! WOOHOO!!!), Lori purchased 250 tickets and well she got 250 tickets... :) (Lori don't kill me I had to put that in here - just remember I did not win anything from the raffle either:( ).

Then the bidding began. I was bidder #28 - my age by the way. It was my lucky day. :) The raffle began with Forever Dawn. This item climbed so quickly to $5000 dollars. They also auctioned off Lunch with Stephenie for two, the Eclipse prom dress, the Host manuscript, the Eclipse manuscript, an ARC of Twilight, and a HOBO created HOST skateboard. Lets just say that they were able to raise a substantial amount that will help Faith in the times to come. I am so excited that I was able to participate and donate towards this cause. I may never climb down from this cloud.
There was a mention of some werewolves, 6 packs, Taylor Lautner, so John (J.S. Lewis quickly proved he is Taylor's body double :) )I have to say that I did walk away with something from the auction. While I was backstage the auction continued and once it was done everyone but those withPlatinum status had to vacate the theater. That means that 60 of us were going to attend the invitation only reception with the authors!

(yes we are actually discussing the necklace I wore to the event :) !!!)

They took a few moments to set up for the reception (PF Changs catered) and then we actually got to mingle with all the authors. We also got a bag of goodies. Not just any bag but a Twilight Saga bag from Little Brown Publishers - donated for the event. Inside that bag was twelve books -ready to be signed by the authors that were mingling around. We actually were able to have the books signed and talk with them... actual conversations! It was awesome. They all were the nicest, most down to earth people!
After the event we headed to Barney's Boathouse, a bar on Mill Ave right across from ASU stadium & campus. The atmosphere: awesome, the onion rings:wow, the entire day: priceless.

Surreal is a word that I have used to describe art. It encompasses this entire weekend... my feet barely touch the ground right now and to be honest they may never again... anyway this was my weekend. This was the Project Book Babe event. This was the weekend I met Stephenie Meyer. This was a weekend spent with friends. This was a weekend making a memory, snapping pictures, eating food, climbing fences :) and learning to utilitze the yoga breathing technique so that I did not pass out.
FYI - I read Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days on the flight back from Phoenix. IT IS AWESOME!! Loved it!