800 People? 450 Books? Yup. Madison <3 Gabby!

Downtown Madison was all about gymnastics Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas Thursday afternoon and evening. Just weeks away from her 17th birthday, the teenager visited R. J. Julia and spent some time with her friends and fans.


It wasn't even 3:30 p.m. when the booksellers at R. J. Julia looked outside to see two young women standing outside the front door, holding their copies of Gabrielle Douglas' autobiography, "Grace, Gold and Glory: My Leap of Faith.''

Falyn McQuarrie and Aryn McQuarrie from Clinton were the first in line to meet Douglas, an Olympic Gold medalist, who was not scheduled to arrive until hours later at 7 p.m. at R. J. Julia.

By the time the clock hit 4 p.m., there were seven people in line from Madison, Norwich, and Wethersfield. Some were young gymnasts like the McQuarrie sisters, and the young women second in line, Hannah Lewis and Meghan Lewis from Madison. The young women introduced themselves and quickly established their common ground, offering to hold the prime spots in line while others in the group ran inside to warm up.

Also on line was the mother of a young gymnast from Wethersfield, who was sitting inside the car staying warm. This mother confessed that her daughter skipped school Thursday to make it to R. J. Julia on time. Another mother laughed about how her daughters were waiting impatiently for her to arrive home from work and then rushed her into the car. Then she confessed she was excited too. "I couldn't sleep last night," she said.

There were also adults on line, who had purchased books for themselves. Clearly, Douglas' biography resonates not only with pre-teens and teens gymnasts, but also with anyone who might have suffered from a harsh childhood, or who has faced significant adversity in their lives, or really anyone who appreciates the dedication required to excel. In her biography, Douglas writes not only about her success, but also her difficult childhood--at one point her family was homeless and living out of a van--and the father who was absent from her life.

R. J. Julia sold out of all of the 480 books it had available, and the estimate for how many people eventually turned out to stand on line during the chilly evening was 800.

Upon seeing the young children, and a few adults, standing on line so early, some of them shivering and jumping up and down to stay warm, Grace Driscoll of Madison, who works as a waitress at R. J. Cafe, hurried back to the cafe and started making complimentary hot drinks "samples" for them.

The bookstore's reputation for being a magnet that benefits other businesses in town was proven true when people in line, after asking others to hold their place, ventured out and checked out some of the other places to shop and dine.

The McQuarrie sisters went over to Willoughby's, got themselves some hot drinks (hot chocolate for Falyn and Earl Grey tea with agave nectar for Aryn), then went back to the front of the line to chat with their new friends, while together they waited for Douglas. 

Read more about Douglas' visit in the New Haven Register. Madison reporter Ebony Walmsley interviews Douglas about achieving her dreams at a young age and her future plans.

Pem McNerney December 08, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Here's what disgraceful .... that there are so many homeless families. We can help them, you know. That seems a better thing to worry about than long lines to meet teenagers ... ... here is a local organization that does a great job helping our neighbors in need, include those who are homeless and threatened with homelessness ... read about 'em and give if you are so moved ... http://themadisonfoundation.org/ .... here is an article about how to help the homeless on a national basis ... https://www.justgive.org/donations/help-homeless.jsp You know what, I don't like standing in line either. For anything. But sometimes ya just gotta offer it up ... or suck it up, for you secular types out there. =)
Talkinggut December 08, 2012 at 03:09 PM
MC Thanks for the clarification and I understand the frustration but It is my feeling that given these economically tough times if my local book store can find resourceful ways to compete with the ever growing online and discount stores to remain open for me a little while longer. Have at it, if I want the photo I'd buy the book. Having said all that, I still have to consider RJ's motivation behind the 3 books might have been more about time than money. Let's see 450 pictures at say 2 min a picture, that would be about 15 hours right? I suspect if 100 people showed up a photo would have been a non issue.
Sarah Page Kyrcz December 09, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Pem. You are absolutely correct. No one was forced to wait in line, but that said, I personally feel theose that did deserved a personal note. To .... Gabby Douglas. No a lot o ask to make the purchase personal and special. I have been to many signings and never experienced one that doesn't offer personal salutations. It is considered a perk of buying th book and waiting in line. As for the photos I can't figure that one out, either.
Christopher Jennings Penders December 09, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Sarah Page Kyrcz said: ...when she signed the book no salutation, no personalization. Just her signature. Not that this will comfort anyone, but being in the book field myself, being a writer as well and having many friends who are established in the field, I will offer two conclusions here: --Sometimes the author's handlers apply the rules. Only a signature, etc. The bookstore may have nothing to do with that rule. So don't place the onus on the store. --The other advantage to getting just a signature is that it makes the book more valuable. A couple of things to keep in mind. -- Chris
Sarah Page Kyrcz December 11, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Since my comment I have spoken with RJ Julia and I have been educated on the author signing events. I have newfound respect for the constraints publishers place on RJ Julia for the honor of having their writers come to Madison. We are fortunate that so many famous authors come to our little CT town, constraints and all! Thank you, Madison Patch, for encouraging this discourse, I am now better educated!


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