January 09


Why I Love Author Selfies by Sandy Otto

selfiesYes, I take selfies with authors.

Lots of selfies.

Every chance I get.

As an English teacher and avid reader, I love getting books signed by favorite authors to share with my students and add to my classroom library. Their signatures make these books even more special.

But there’s something magical about taking a picture with the author when they sign my copy of their book.

And not just a photograph…it must be a selfie.

What makes a selfie different? It’s more personal and it better captures the joy of the moment. Plus, I can see the picture while it’s being taken to make sure we both look our best. These selfies don’t just remain in my photos, stored on my phone. No…they get tweeted via social media, shared on Facebook, texted or Voxed to fellow book lovers, and/or printed in full color to be proudly displayed on my ”F2F With Authors” wall. This wall has evolved over time from a place to display all pictures taken of /with authors, to a place only for coveted author selfies.

The author selfie is a visual memento of that thrilling moment when I first meet the person responsible for giving me reading joy. The person whose book(s) my students and I (or sometimes just me) have read.  These selfies are tokens of those fortunate times when the words and the story we lifted off the page (or listened to on audio) became a little more real (Jennifer Niven: All the Bright Places). When we might have learned about the personal connection an author has with their story or its characters (Laurie Halse Anderson: Impossible Knife of Memory, Donna Gephart: Lily and Dunkin or Lynda Mullaly Hunt: Fish in a Tree). When we got to tell an author just how much their book has meant to us (Gae Polisner: The Memory of Things and Nora Raleigh Baskin: Nine/Ten: A September 11 Story).  When we had the opportunity to meet this person who used their gifts of creativity and imagination to craft something magical (Kwame Alexander: Crossover, Booked). For these reasons, and countless others, moments like this are definitely worthy of the lasting documentation that only a selfie can provide.

Personally, I like the intimacy of the selfie to capture what I’m feeling in the moment. I get to see the two of us reflected back in living color. I get to move the camera in such a way that highlights the emotion of the event, as well as our shared joy of reading. I get to share a real moment with the author as we try to fit ourselves into the frame of the photo, tilting our heads just so and smiling our happy smiles. It’s those few more seconds of shared book love conversation that I squeeze out of every selfie opportunity. Whether it’s at a book signing, an author reading, a teacher conference, Nerdcamp or a chance meeting out in the real world…those precious few words with the author mean the world to me. They are what I remember later as I read that signed book and others they have written.

f2f-with-author-wallWhether it’s a hard-working author with their debut novel (Elly Swartz: Finding Perfect) or a distinguished award-winning author I’ve wanted to meet for so long (Andrew Smith: Grasshopper Jungle and Winger). A simply adorable newbie author (Abby Cooper: Sticks & Stones) or the refreshingly established author icons who often don’t realize how much their books and words have changed so many lives (Neal Shusterman: Unwind and Challenger Deep). Some of my favorites are the authors of educational books that have shaped and transformed my teaching (too many to name, but my new favorite is Vicki Meigs-Kahlenberg: The Author’s Apprentice). All of these author selfies represent the intersection of fantasy (or fangirling) and reality.

I can only imagine how much the young voracious reader in me would have loved to meet her favorite authors and capture those moments for eternity. Oh, to have met Beverly Cleary or Judy Blume…that would have made my whole childhood.

If you’re too nervous to ask authors for selfies, keep in mind that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. As long as the author is there on official business (like a book signing or reading conference), they are happy to take a selfie with you. I’ve never bothered an author during their family or personal time. However, at the last NCTE conference in Atlanta, I did meet Brandon Kiely (The Last True Love Story) in the hotel elevator and Jason Reynolds (Ghost) later in the hotel lobby. I also found Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not) milling around the exhibit hall. They were there to attend the conference, and none seemed to mind. In fact, they chatted for a bit and were very gracious when asked to take a selfie with me.

I know they are just regular people (to others). But they are so much more to Nerdy Book Club folks like me.

Taking selfies with authors brings me pure joy.

You should try it.  Go ahead…take out that camera.

Capture your own moments.


Sandy Otto is an instructional coach in Minnesota. This is her first year in this role, after a 20+ year teaching career in upper elementary and, most recently, middle school English. She is a voracious reader, with a classroom library that includes over 2,000 books (many of them signed by authors). Sandy loves connecting with other educators and authors, and meeting them face to face whenever possible.  She loves to book talk and share her passion for reading on social media. You can follow her on Twitter @sandyrotto and read her blog http://ottogoingagainstthegrain.blogspot.com/