Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mitch Albom at Kepler's - What A GREAT Author Event

I have been to hundreds of author events.  I might even be closing in on a thousand. Last night's event at Kepler's with Mitch Albom is among my top 2 all-time (with the other being Ken Follett, a literary god).  In fact, it is the only time I have ever been tempted to give an author a standing ovation.  I'm sorry I didn't do it.  I felt it but chickened out.  Even though I would have been the only one standing, I still regret not doing it.  Having said all of that (in my usual long-winded way), it was truly inspirational.  He was funny and poignant in equal outstanding measures.  Sometimes I laughed until I cried - and other times I just cried.  Let me give you some details.

First of all, his latest book, the first phone call from heaven, came out last Tuesday, November 12.  Several hours before Mitch appeared at Kepler's, he found out that it hit #1 in the NY Times in its 1st week!  How cool is that?

Then he told a story about coming to Facebook in the afternoon.  He said that he was in the bathroom, and there was writing above each urinal.  He thought that was fun.  He figured it would be some kind of cute or meaningful saying.  Uh, no.  It was actually a quiz about code.  Mitch said that it was the 1st time he had ever felt like a failure at a urinal. Now, I know that sometimes you just have to be there.  But, c'mon, that is funny.

Then he told a number of stories about a band he's in with Stephen King, Ridley Pearson, Dave Barry, and Amy Tan, among others.  Each one was funnier than the last, but the best was about playing with Bruce Springsteen for 5 minutes.  He said that the band thought they were being especially appreciated for their playing only to discover that Bruce had snuck up on stage, and the couple of hundred people quietly watching Mitch's band, the Rock Bottom Remainders, quickly became a rabid 1000.  Good stuff.

Then he got down to business.  He told us about his history with Morrie Schwartz, the namesake for Tuesdays with Morrie, and that he only wrote the book to help pay for Morrie's medical expenses (Morrie's son, Jonathan, was in the audience last night).  He said that he sent the manuscript to his good friend, Amy Tan, to see if it was any good, since this was his 1st book (he is a many-times-over award-winning sports journalist). She loved it.  So he pushed it and got rejected a bunch of times before Doubleday agreed to publish it.

He told many stories about Morrie, but the best one was right near the end of Morrie's life.  Morrie said he had one request of Mitch - that Mitch come to the cemetery, bring a blanket and sandwiches, and stay awhile.  And he wanted Mitch to talk to him.  When Mitch questioned that, Morrie said:  "You'll talk. I'll listen," which was a reversal from their normal routine.

His second book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, took 6 years to write and was inspired by his Uncle Eddie, the main character in the book.  This time, he had trouble getting it published because it wasn't non-fiction.  Mitch felt that he couldn't follow up Tuesdays with Morrie with another non-fiction.  Finally, a publisher agreed.  But Mitch had one condition for the publisher.  The one employee in the presentation who had burst out crying had to be his editor.  She ended up editing 4 of his books.

I can go on and on.  But I'll end this with one more anecdote.  In his latest book, he tells quite a bit of the history about Alexander Graham Bell and his rival, Elisha Gray. Somebody in the audience asked him how that all happened.  He said he just wanted to give a little bit of history, and that part of the story grew.  He said:  "It's like getting shot in the ass with an arrow.  You don't care where it came from."

I think that quote says it all.  Bravo, Mitch.  You gave this blogger one memorable night.


  1. Wow ... what an outstanding event. I wish you'd have gone with your gut re: the standing ovation!

  2. You're right. A minor regret (in the grand scheme of things!), but a regret nonetheless.

    P.S. Some events produce closer, more long-lasting ties for me, if you catch my drift.

  3. Mitch is from Michigan and when I was working at the Barnes & Noble in Lansing we had him for a Tuesdays with Morrie signing. Even as a manger I ended up with a #50 ticket. There was a line wrapped around the outside of the store to meet him. So, I have a signed Tuesdays (which I love) but we never got to hear him speak because it was so chaotic. Bad for us but good for his sales :)

  4. Sounds like a great guy! I love the way he chose his editor.

  5. I just couldn't get all of his stories into the blog. We were alternately laughing and crying.