On Saturday night, I had the great privilege of listening to Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, speak at the Provo Library. It was amazing. (And not just because of his lovely Australian accent. 😉 )
I think it was the first time I’ve attended an event with an author whose book struck me so deeply. The Book Thief was such a touching book for me, and to get to connect with the author was a great experience. I think I felt a sense of wonder, thinking, “This guy wrote that beautiful book that touched my heart in so many ways. Wow.”
And the amazing thing is that he is such a humble, normal person. When he walked in the room and we all broke out in huge applause, he blushed. Throughout his entire speech, he was so humble. And he’s hilarious. (After reading the beginning of I Am Messenger, I’m not surprised, because that cracked me up, but I read that after his speech…)
He said a few things that really stuck with me. First, he thought that The Book Thief would be the most unsuccessful of all his books. He wasn’t writing it for fame. He wrote it because he really felt it. It was something that was close to him. His father grew up in Germany. One of the most touching scenes in the book is when the emaciated Jews are being marched through Liesl’s town, and he said that that scene came from a story his father told him. His father witnessed that very same thing–and a man gave one of the Jews food and was beaten for it.
I think that knowing all that made his comment about writers even more powerful. He said that when you’re a real writer, you know that you would write even if you knew it would never get published. How many times do we hear that as writers? But I think that knowing that The Book Thief was something he just had to write, regardless of popularity, it made that statement all the more powerful coming from him.
Another thing he said to writers: Writing has to be a priority, like number one or two on your list. And it’s true. It has to be up there. I know for me, I can’t really make it number one or two, but I’m pretty sure it’s three. And it’s when I make sure to make it number three that I get the most done.
He also read an excerpt from the end of The Book Thief, which I made sure to record. He said that he never reads parts of his books anymore, after some lady told him he wasn’t very good at it. But he was so impressed by us (all 500 of us) that he wanted to read. (PS. If you haven’t read the book yet, you may not want to listen to this quite yet. Spoilers!)
After the wonderful speech, my friends (Chersti Nieveen, Cherylynne W. Bago, & Jenilyn M. Tolley) and I waited four hours to get our books signed. To top off his amazingness, he wanted to personalize everyone’s books. When we left at 11pm, there was still a line of probably an hour more of people.
In our wait, we planned how we would survive a zombie apocalypse. And we wrote him this lovely note:
Hopefully when he reads it, he laughs and doesn’t think we’re crazy. 🙂 What can we say? We’re writers.
In the end, we had fun, we got to talk to Markus Zusak, and we have nice signed books. It was a great experience, and I’m glad that he came all the way from Australia to speak in little ol’ Provo.