I don’t even know where to start when it comes to summarizing my book launch event that occurred in the city on Tuesday night. I would love to tell you about everything, but I don’t want this post to be a novel and so I have to skip the fine points on:
~ all of the ideas I tossed around in my head starting about two months ago as this event was conceptualized
~ the great conversations (and epiphanies) I had with the ladies of my “Event Advisory Board” (I made up that name but it’s perfect), made up of friends who have experience with the ins and outs of planning events
~ the massive amount of work it was to get sponsors, and all of the great lessons I learned in doing so
~ the stress involved with planning an event in the city–on a boat–for more than 60 bloggers and tweeters, and being in charge of every single detail
~ the new friends I made throughout the process, as well as at the event itself
~ the massive support given by my old friends throughout the process, as well as at the event itself
This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and though I *might* have been overheard saying “I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN, EVER!” in my darkest, most anxiety-ridden moments, I might consider it because the evening was so lovely, even though I felt that it went by way too quickly, which was a by-product of my being the hostess.
The lowdown on the event itself: It was a two-hour cruise (renamed “Cruze” for the evening, in honor of General Motors/Chevy being my major sponsor) down the Chicago River to celebrate the launch of my book. The theme of the evening was “The Best of Chicago” and we used the hashtag #gmchiCARgo on Twitter (should you want to check out that stream…). The event also spotlighted the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwestern Indiana.
My awesome sponsors, who literally made this event possible, were:
Bristol Renaissance Faire
The John Hancock Observatory
KeyLime Cove Water Park Resort
Garrett Popcorn Shops
Blue Man Group
Windy City Rollers
As the date of the event approached, I was horrified to discover that the weather was likely to be very uncooperative: it was supposed to storm all evening, and the temperatures, which were in the 80’s last week, were to plunge to the upper 50’s. I had extreme anxiety about this, one of the few things I couldn’t control. The boat did have an enclosed lower deck but I knew that the views would be best from outside, especially on the upper deck. As time marched on, though I still checked the weather obsessively, I knew that rain wouldn’t really ruin the evening and tried to relax about it. On Tuesday, the rain was gone from the forecast. I was thrilled. Of course, the temperature would still be in the upper 50’s (and it was cooler by the lake), but I was happy to deal with that.
One of the things I considered to be a major accomplishment in the planning stages was the acquisition of a permit from the city of Chicago (after getting permission from building management) for Chevy to park a 2011 Cruze in front of the Wrigley Building, one of Chicago’s most iconic structures that happens to be adjacent to the steps leading to the dock where we would board the boat.
I asked attendees to bring donations for the RMHC-CNI in the hopes that we could fill the Cruze up. (We did VERY, VERY well.)
The food? YUM. Deep dish pizza and salad from Pizzeria Uno, Eli’s Cheesecake, Garrett’s Popcorn, cookie dough from Cookie Dough Creations kept everybody happy from the time we left the dock until the end of the cruise. The best part for me and my family? Leftovers, of course!
We had nearly sixty people on board, and though many were people I have known for a long time, there were a bunch of attendees who I was meeting for the first time that evening. That was one of the best parts for me! Sadly, there were many people who, due to their geographic location–my dad included, who was stuck working in Tennessee–couldn’t make it for the celebration as much as they wanted to. I came up with a creative way to keep a few of them close to my heart during my special evening:
I was a little concerned about my plan for a TOTALLY casual evening, meaning there was no agenda for my guests, no structured activities, just socializing. I was hoping that people wouldn’t be bored. My worst nightmare (or one of them) was that people would be “stuck on a boat for two hours” (to borrow from something Napwarden said), bored to death. Luckily, I have had great feedback and I’m glad I had no party structure. Many blogger events bring people together to learn about a product or a company (nothing wrong with that!) and have no built-in time for socializing. The Chicago-area bloggers in particular, I think, are a very close bunch, and I wanted to make the evening about just having fun on the river with friends. Everyone knew they were there for my book but I didn’t need to make any formal presentations about it. I had representatives there from GM’s grassroots team to mingle and share information about Chevy, my city half Margaret from Chicago Elevated was on board, and Garrett’s Popcorn was represented on the cruise as well, but they were really all “just guests”. It was fun, and as much as I tried to get around to talk to EVERYBODY, I couldn’t do it in two hours (even though I really, really tried!)
I had asked my sister, the Queen of Music (Seriously: she knows about and owns more music than anyone I’ve ever known, and she has an amazing talent for putting together the perfect playlist for any occasion), to do the playlist for my event. I told her I wanted it a little bit jazzy, but that’s the only guideline I gave her. Naturally she came up with a stupendous mix, some jazzy and many not, but all meshing together very nicely. Only a few of my favorites were “Everyday I Write the Book” (Elvis Costello), “Tell Me Something Good” (Chaka Khan), “How You Like Me Now” (The Heavy), “Lovely Day” (Bill Withers), “Who Do You Love” (Dion), “You Make My Dreams” (Hall & Oates), and “A Little Bit More” (Jamie Lidell), which I still can’t get out of my head because I love it so much.
What was hilarious to me was that, even though it wasn’t raining, the vast majority of my guests stayed inside the enclosed lower level for much of the cruise. The temperatures were in the fifties and the wind was gusty, but it wasn’t frostbite weather by any means. The best views were from the upper level, and I went up there several times to enjoy it. Due to the fact that most everyone stayed inside, especially during the first thirty minutes of the cruise when we headed out to the Lake for a bit, I got an unexpected, 100% private moment which I will never forget:
I was headed upstairs during the part of the cruise when we were waiting to leave the Lake and go back through the Chicago River lock, and at the very moment my foot touched the upper deck, one of the two special songs I added to the playlist myself came on:
I stood there, all by myself, taking in the skyline that I love so much. My hair was blowing all over the place as I took a deep breath and just felt the moment. I smiled and closed my eyes for a few seconds as if to cement it into my brain (it worked), and then opened them again and stood there, completely still, until Frank was finished singing. It was glorious.
All in all, it was a stupendous night. Of course it was wonderful for the obvious reason of celebrating my new book, but being together with my family and so many friends in a mass celebration that included so many of my favorite Chicago elements (a river cruise, Lake Michigan, the skyline, and the foods) was the icing on the (Eli’s) cheesecake.
Here are some recaps written by my guests! (If you came and yours isn’t listed, shoot me an email with the link and I’ll include it!)