Ty Roth’s debut YA novel, So Shelly, hit the shelves on Tuesday. I haven’t gotten a chance to read more than the first pages of my (pre-ordered) copy from Amazon, but if the buzz online is any indication, it will be worth the wait.
Last Easter, I had the good fortune to notice a local newspaper article about Ty’s then-recent publishing deal, and invited him to do an interview for my blog. He graciously accepted, and the result was my most-popular-to-date post, Great Guy, Great Book, Great Advice (parts 1 and 2). Recently, Ty sent me an invitation to Friday night’s launch party for So Shelly, which I graciously accepted. (Well, graciously might be an overstatement, as it was “regrets only,” but I was really excited to be invited.)
Anyway, about the party:
First of all, never ask your eighty-year-old father for directions. The event began at seven, but I didn’t get there until about 8:10 because I got caught in a maze of darkened and somewhat bluesy side streets that Dad had forgotten to mention during the litany of underpasses and McDonalds he’d said would mark my way. After a less than informative call to him on my dying cell phone, I finally stopped at a restaurant where a kindly waitress pointed me in the right direction.
I arrived not long after Ty finished up a great speech that had lasted for about forty minutes. (This according to my husband, who had come straight from work and was waiting for me in the yacht club’s foyer the whole time.)
As I deposited my coat in the coat room, I noticed that the place was packed, the main room darkened, with dramatic music washing over the crowd in waves. In response to my raised eyebrows, my husband (let’s call him Tim) helpfully informed me that there was some form of entertainment going on.
Ty was standing just inside the doorway, but was engrossed in whatever the attraction was, so we squeezed as unobtrusively as we could into the room behind him to find a good spot to check out the action.
“Would you like some wine or something?” Tim had apparently also had time to scope out the place during his wait, knowing the exact location of both bar and buffet. I nodded and peered between the heads of the people in front of me to see what was going on.
A spotlight shone on an artist who was furiously rendering a large colored-chalk interpretation of So Shelly’s cover. Gypsum dust swirled like lake mist in the beam of light as the artist added depth and shadow to rocks and created a lighthouse out of thin air. The guests oohed and aahed as the scene morphed into a view of Shelly’s silhouette on the pier, and then special effect lighting flashed a beacon of impending doom. It really was impressive. Different gels changed the palette from light to dark, and the mood went from intense to lighthearted as images of Ty in earlier years were superimposed over it. The performance ended to hearty applause a few moments later.
Once the lights were up, people swarmed the bar and Tim pointed out a table with nearly depleted stacks of So Shelly. My copy from Amazon was safely in my purse, but I snagged two of the complimentary bookmarks before the man in charge put everything away.
After cruising the buffet, our plates loaded with assorted appetizers including teriyaki chicken kabobs, Swedish meatballs, raw veggies and dip, we found a side room with a few open tables and sat down to stuff our faces. At each of our places was a CD tied with a black ribbon, a So Shelly mix tape.
I’m not sure if the songs are significant in the book, or if the music was inspirational while Ty wrote, but the list is a good one, including classics by REM and Journey as well as more contemporary tunes by Better Than Ezra and 30 Seconds to Mars. At the event itself, there was a two piece band (that somehow sounded at times like a four piece band), and I wondered if some of their playlist might be the same. I added the disks to my purse — one for posterity, the other to listen to in the car.
As Tim enjoyed a second helping of chicken, I scouted the dessert tables and saw two cakes being served, one chocolate and one vanilla, both with white frosting. Charmed to see that each had a sugar image of the So Shelly cover on top, which had been moved away from the area being cut, I had an errant desire to roll one up and stick it into my purse along with the CDs, but maturely chose to take a photo of it, instead.
Nearby was a table overflowing with fresh fruit that surrounded a large bowl of creamy white dip, which was delicious. Two trips were sufficient to ease my sweet tooth, and then, camera in hand, I took a few more snaps of the festivities, including a long view of Ty signing books and a shot of the chalk drawing and it’s artist, which became part of a silent auction benefitting Sandusky Artisans.
It occurred to me that my husband might be getting pretty bored sitting alone at our table, but when I returned to it, I found him engrossed in So Shelly (which is quite an endorsement, because Tim NEVER reads fiction).
A crowd of well-wishers surrounded Ty all evening, but I eventually decided to brave the line and ended up having a very pleasant conversation with a man who informed me he that he had been Ty’s principal. When I inquired if he meant when Ty was a student, or as a teacher, he replied that in a way, it was both. He’d been the principal of the school Ty attended as a youth, and then had gone on to become superintendent of the system that hired Ty out of college.
Finally, it was my turn, and Ty was just as friendly and genuine as I remembered. Signing my book, he confided that he’s not wild about that part of the job, but it can’t be because he doesn’t know what to say – mine was perfect.