I was delighted to renew my acquaintance with Jamie Ford last night at Friends of the MSU Libraries annual dinner. I first met Jamie a couple of years ago when his book, The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was starting its ascension onto the New York Times best seller list where it has roosted ever since.
I had just read Hotel and recommended it for the Montana Book Award. (Part of the fun of being a reader for MBA is getting to read brand new books.) When I heard that Jamie would be at Bozeman’s premier independent bookstore, The Country Bookshelf, I decided I had to meet him.
I arrived at the bookstore early and found Jamie chatting with the owner. I introduced myself and told him how much I admire Hotel. Then I coyly told him I too am a writer. He politely asked about that and I found a copy of Adventures in Yellowstone on the store shelves. He politely admired my book and we chatted amiably about writing and life in Montana.
A few months later, I met Jamie again at the presentation ceremonies for the Montana Book Award at the Bozeman Public Library. That when my wife, who is Dean of MSU Libraries, recruited him to speak at the Friends dinner.
I was pleased last night when Jamie greeted me with a smile and recalled that we had met before. After all, his book has enjoyed a bit more success than mine has. Hotel has been translated into a couple dozen languages and is on sale in thirty countries. (I wonder what dialogue between Henry Lee, a 12-year-old Chinese boy, and Keiko Okabe, a 12-year-old Japanese girl, sounds like in Norwegian?)
Adventures is available only in English, but you can buy it on the web anywhere in the world. (I wonder what Emma Cowan’s story of being captured by the Nez Perce in 1877 would sound like in Norwegian.)
In his speech last night, Jamie talked about the importance of libraries in his life. He described himself as “a library rat” and said, “I write in the library.”
He recalled attending a pre-marital counseling session where couples were asked how they met. He said several other people reported stories like: “I woke up one morning with a woman in my bed wearing my t-shirt. I thought I should introduce myself.”
“I met my wife in the library,” Jamie said. “And a year later I proposed to her—in the library.”
Throughout the evening, Jamie was friendly and gracious. He found ways to personalize the dedications he put on the books he signed. He answered audience questions candidly and completely. He offered advice to aspiring writers with a smile.
As I once told my friend Craig Lancaster, the Billings-based author of the novels 600 Hours and Edward and The Summer Son, there’s only one thing I dislike about Jamie Ford. He’s so damn nice I can’t think of reason to dislike him and that makes me feel guilty about envying his success.
You also might enjoy:
- My comments about meeting Ivan Doig at the MSU Library Friends dinner in 2010.
- Craig Lancaster’s guest post, “Reading Hemingway in Yellowstone.”