Howling Like The Wolf
This post is being run by Laura E. James and The Romaniacs.
The Jodi Picoult Blog
American author, Jodi Picoult, is rated within my top three favourite authors. She is unafraid to tackle subjects others might consider taboo, she writes from multi-viewpoint perspectives and she is an intelligent and entertaining lady.
When the day comes and I’m asked ‘Upon which shelf in the book shop would you place your novel?’ my reply will be, ‘Not next to, but somewhere in the region of Jodi Picoult.’
I do not purport to be an expert writer and I certainly do not possess the same flair or delve the same depths as Ms Picoult, but I recently realised to what extent my writing has been influenced by books such as My Sister’s Keeper and Second Glance.
In March, a friend and I drove to Axminster, an hour from Weymouth, for an evening with Jodi Picoult (pronounced Pico). I was beside myself with excitement. I could not believe an internationally acclaimed author would visit the beautiful, but small Devon town. The reason became clear as Ms Picoult explained the research for her current book, Lone Wolf, took place in Combe Martin, North Devon, at The Wolf Centre.
Having listened to a fascinating extract from the book, we were educated with great enthusiasm and knowledge about the workings of a wolf pack. Ms Picoult had clearly spent time with Shaun Ellis at The Wolf Centre and absorbed all his expert information. Her delivery was exciting, humorous and informative. Her grasp of the subject and her ability to impart it to the audience showed the extent to which she is prepared to go in order to write a gripping and accurate story.
This is why her books sell. I believe there are no half measures when it comes to Ms Picoult, an impression that will stay with me and one to which I will adhere when it comes to research and writing my novels.
At an hour in, three volunteers were requested. I am no stranger to being centre stage through my singing exploits, but I hesitated, much to my friend’s surprise.
‘This is your time,’ she whispered. I was unsure. Then Ms Picoult added, ‘Perhaps someone who sings?’
‘Put your hand up,’ my friend instructed, and as if conditioned to stimuli like a Pavlovian puppy, I raised my hand.
The next time I looked at my friend, it was from the stage. I was a Numbers wolf, the young lady to my immediate left, Alex, was a Beta wolf and next to Ms Picoult was Sarah, the Alpha wolf.
The Alpha wolf, we were told, howls, waits for a response, then howls again. Ms Picoult demonstrated. The Beta wolf waits for the Alpha wolf to howl, then joins in, but maintains a howl four times as long as the Alpha wolf. Again, this was ably and tunefully demonstrated by our guest speaker.
The Numbers wolf yelps.
Yes. My job was to sound like a puppy whose tail had been trodden on.
The Numbers wolves make as much noise as possible to create the impression the pack is larger than it actually is. Give Ms Picoult credit; she led the way and yelped.
Turns out, I’d make an excellent Numbers wolf.
If I don’t cut it as a writer, I have a back-up.
Here is the video evidence. Since this was spur of the moment and we didn’t have access to high tech cameras, my friend recorded the following on her mobile phone. The visual clarity isn’t the best, but you can hear me yelp. And it is a great personal reminder of a brilliant evening. Please right click on the following link and open in another window. Jodi Picoult and guests, howling like wolves.
We were each presented with a beautiful, soft toy wolf, which now sits on my desk. My son calls him Suma, (the wolf, not my desk), which is the name on the label in his ear. (The wolf’s, not my son’s. His label says something completely different.) Suma is the name of the toy collection, but I like that my son named our wolf.
Soon after this excitement, the evening drew to a close, an orderly line was formed and we waited to have our books signed.
That was when the carnage began.
At my request, my friend and I waited until the queue had depleted and popped ourselves at the end. I had bought two books for signing – one for me and one to give away as a prize. My friend, Debbie G, was looking after that copy.
As we approached the desk, Debbie leading, Ms Picoult’s colleague, standing beside her, suddenly exclaimed ‘Oh! I didn’t catch your name!’
My friend appeared a little surprised, but handed over the book for signing and before I could say anything, she replied ‘Debbie.’
I swear, the next part happened in slow motion.
I could see Ms Picoult forming the D and the E in the book – the book I wanted to give away as a prize; the book that couldn’t have anyone else’s name in except Jodi Picoult’s. I stepped from behind my friend and said, ‘I was hoping I could just have your autograph on that copy.’
A bewildered international best selling author looked at me. ‘But I’ve already written D,E.’ Her eyebrows furrowed, ploughed and knitted.
‘Perhaps you could write DEAR.’ I said.
Debbie moved in, realising Ms Picoult had no idea what was going on or why I was hijacking the signing of the book of the woman in front of me. ‘This is Laura. My friend,’ she said, easing the situation.
Compliant, charming and with extreme patience, Ms Picoult signed the book and returned it to Debbie. It read: Dear Laura. All best, Jodi Picoult.
I handed over my copy.
This is the copy that has Jodi Picoult’s signature in it and nobody else’s name. Mission accomplished. Most parties unscathed.
Since we had come this far, and we hadn’t been forcibly ejected from the building, I decided to pass over a letter, which I had prepared earlier, with some questions in it, hoping Ms Picoult would answer them at some point in the future.
It was probably a naïve and foolish thing to do.
It was a naïve and foolish thing to do, but Ms Picoult and her associate were lovely and said they would see what they could do.
Ms Picoult then thanked me for being her Numbers wolf.
I thanked her for a fun evening.
I suppose I stand a fair chance of being remembered – for all the wrong reasons, I grant you, but remembered all the same.
There is so much more I could write about that event, but the howling is enough for now. If you ever get the chance to attend an evening with Jodi Picoult, I urge you to take it. She is charming, friendly, confident and articulate. We were party to a master class in public speaking and positive self-promotion.
Lovely lady, brilliant story-teller, fierce mother. Much respect, Ms Picoult.
I would be honoured if my books one day occupied the same store as yours.
Competition: For the chance to win a signed, hardback copy of Lone Wolf, please click here and scroll to the end of the Romaniac’s Jodi Picoult post. Due to the size and weight of the book, we are able to open the competition to UK entries only.