Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Congratulations, Charlotte. Enjoy

A few minutes ago, Michelle Obama sent an email announcing the Democrats would hold their 2012 convention in Charlotte, NC.

That gave me a big smile, and a reminder to send a big thank you your way for supporting of my book, Columbine. (More on that below.)

I still lived in Denver when it came to our city in 2008, and what a week. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, you are in for a treat, and I hope you enjoy it. (Same to residents of Tampa, where the Rs are convening.)

I never managed to get into the convention center, but thousands of fascinating people descended on the city, and milled about at parties and other gatherings all week. I was surprised to discover how many friend-of-friend connections I had that got me into a few of those, which led to others.

And then I got really lucky.
Mid-afternoon on Thursday, a friend called and said he had an extra ticket to the nomination speech at Mile High Stadium (aka Invesco Field). Did I want to come? Wow.

Traffic in that section of the city had been shut down, and the last shuttle buses had left. (They were asking people to get there 5 hours early, I believe.) So I hopped on my bike. I lived near downtown, so it was about a 20 minute ride.

We snaked through the line for four hours, which was a bit of an adventure in itself, and the ceremony was already in progress when we got in. (Al Gore was halfway through his speech.)

We had pretty good seats, and nearly everyone was already in place, so we spotted some better seats below and took them—figuring we'd just give them up if the people came late, but they didn't.

Somebody was smiling on us, because that turned out to be the press area, and some Dem staffers came around with printed copies of the text of the speech a few minutes before Obama took the stage. So I got to read along, and ahead, and view it as an essay—as a piece of writing, with a narrative arc—and marked it up as he went, the way I write all over the books I read.

(Plus, I have a copy of that historic speech: first African American in our history accepting a nomination for president, and then becoming our first minority president. Whatever you think of his politics, what a glorious moment for our country it was to break that barrier.)

I also got a few mementos to send along to my friend and volunteer assistant, who deserves more than I could ever give her. (She lives just one state over from North Carolina. Maybe she'll travel to Charlotte next year.)

It was one of the highlights of my life. I hope you lucky people in Charlotte plan ahead better than I did, and find a way to be part of it.

(They always need volunteers, who then get access to all sorts of fascinating behind the scenes stuff. You never know where you'll land.)

The Charlotte Observer knew their city was a finalist, and prepped for it. They are up with a big package about what to expect, a guide to the convention, etc.

Here's a bit from Michelle Obama's email, titled "Thrilled":
Charlotte is a city marked by its southern charm, warm hospitality, and an "up by the bootstraps" mentality that has propelled the city forward as one of the fastest-growing in the South. Vibrant, diverse, and full of opportunity, the Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds. And of course, great barbecue.

Barack and I spent a lot of time in North Carolina during the campaign -- from the Atlantic Coast to the Research Triangle to the Smoky Mountains and everywhere in between. Barack enjoyed Asheville so much when he spent several days preparing for the second Presidential debate that our family vacationed there in 2009.

And my very first trip outside of Washington as First Lady was to Fort Bragg, where I started my effort to do all we can to help our heroic military families.

This also gives me a moment to say thank you people of Charlotte and North Carolina. In December, Amazon struck a deal with BookScan to start sharing sales data with the author of each book. (Not just Amazon sales, most of the industry.)

I was stunned to see Charlotte as my seventh-highest city for sales in the first month tracked. It is the 33rd biggest Metropolitan Statistical Area, according to the U.S. census. Raleigh-Durham was alsor remarkably high, and for their size, so were Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem and your SC neighbors Greenville-Mauldin-Easley-Ashville-Spartanburg.

I'm not sure what's going on in Charlotte and the Carolinas that got you all interested in my book. Sometimes I think one book club can get it rolling, or one school adopting it for class.

(Teachers, check out the free online Columbine Teacher's Guide, or the Student Guide. Book clubs, we did reader questions with Oprah.com. And click for Skype opportunities for schools or book clubs.)

Whoever, however the word spread down there,  I'm grateful. Thanks for reading, and spreading the word.

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