There I’ve said it. We’ve said it. Rainbow Rowell is the Queen of Contemporary Fiction. I use the generic Contemporary Fiction because she writes both young adult and adult contemporary fiction better than anyone else. Sure, I’ve read a wheelbarrow load of contemporary fiction that one could argue rivals any of one of Rainbow Rowell’s single titles, but taken as an entire collection? There is no one. NO ONE who beats her.
Rainbow writes about love. She writes about kissing. She writes about relationships. What I love about Rainbow is that her books don’t teach lessons. She reaches out her hand and asks the reader to follow her on a journey, and we do. We always follow.
I’ve read several interviews and blogposts featuring Rainbow. Heck, I wrote a post about her #NY16SCBWI Breakout Session: Creating a Teen Voice. You wrote about her in The Value of Rainbow and Scones. But it wasn’t until the Lackawanna Country Library System Lecture Series at the Scranton Cultural Center (which was FREE by the way) that we really got to know Rainbow, the real Rainbow or as real as we would ever get to know her (unless of course she falls in love with all our posts including this one and decides you and I are online friend-worthy—Rainbow, really we are.)
Rainbow sat on that stage with a woman from the Lackawanna Country Library System (I can't find her name--though I'd love to give her credit because she did an amazing job) and really spoke to the room. She shared secrets with us. Secrets about her books she’s never shared before. Secrets I won’t dare share even in this post because she shared them (confessed them, really) to the 200+ fans in the room.
She made us laugh. I always knew she was pretty funny based on her books, but she’s really funny. I mean pee-in-your-pants funny. She laughed at her own jokes. She wasn't some stuffy, intellectual turtleneck wearing cliché. She was smart and funny and real.
The best part of the evening (I know it’s yours too) was when they opened the floor to questions. The first one or two questions came from mid-30 fans, then the lines teemed with teenage fangirls and fanboys. They asked the thought provoking questions that led Rainbow to confess secrets to us. They thanked her for writing stories about real people and real relationships. (There's nothing Hollywood about Rainbow's characters--hers sit next to you on the bus or snicker with you at the checkout line when you joke about the stake of chocolate bars and books you bought for yourself.)
There was a fifteen year old girl in front of us. As the question line grew, her view, (our view), was obscured. We could hear Rainbow, but we couldn’t see Rainbow, and this girl, this fan, kept rocking back and forth, peeking through the line of people, trying to catch a glimpse of her favorite author. She’d glance at her mom--her mom would give her a tight-lipped sympathetic smile shrug, and then she’d return to the up, down, back, forth motion. I needed to do something for this girl because Alison, if it wasn’t for New York and our years of practiced nonchalance at the sight of our Book Stars, I would be that girl. I scanned the room for an open seat, found it directly across the aisle (Destiny? I think so), tapped on her shoulder, and pointed to the seat. She glanced at her mom again (I must confess I don’t think I would have asked for permission in such an instance), her mom nodded, and she scurried over to the open seat.
Alison, we felt her joy didn’t we? The joy Rainbow provided that girl, that fan, is the joy Rainbow provides in her books. That’s why Rainbow Rowell is the Queen of Contemporary Fiction.
Sharing the writer love one letter at a time,
P.S. Here's my practiced nonchalance;)