When my agent suggested that I have a party to celebrate the release of Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives, I was skeptical. Who does that? Not unknowns like me, that’s for sure. Who would come? Would I just be standing in a Barnes & Noble tossing confetti up in the air in an empty room? But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to celebrate this book that was two years in the making. This book is not mine – it belongs to all 25 contributors who wrote from the heart and poured their genuine emotions into their chapters, both fans and Supernatural cast. For most of them, it wasn’t an easy task. They are students and business women and moms and IT consultants. They are talented actors. But they are not, for the most part, writers. Or at least they weren’t before they said yes to contributing to this book!
I know the process was heartwrenching and intimidating for many of them. They are all people who care a great deal about this show and this fandom, and they didn’t want to let anyone down. Although they didn’t have much confidence about their writing ability, they felt it was important to share their stories – and so they persevered. Through self doubt and starting over and edits and a lot of hard work, they kept going. The result is no less than amazing to me. Every single contributor wrote something that speaks to others – that inspires others. The courage they showed in telling their real truth, in print, for the rest of the world to read, blew me away.
So I decided the wise and wonderful Amy Tipton was right; we would have a book release party. Now to figure out when and where and how. Which turned out to be a story in itself, so I thought I’d share the before, during and after of our rather unique celebration of #SPNFamily.
One of the things that makes FDEWB unusual is that so many of the Supernatural actors were willing to write chapters in it — Jared, Jensen, Misha, Mark, Jim, Rob, Briana, Osric, Matt, Ruth, Gil, Rachel, and Kim. Usually at a book release party, you’d want the contributors to be there, but I didn’t think that was very likely. They’re all either busy filming or traveling all over the world for conventions most of the time. Twelve Supernatural fans also wrote chapters, so I set my hopes on trying to convince a few of them to come join me to fill up that too-empty Barnes & Noble store.
I happened to be on the phone with Rob Benedict shortly after I made the fateful decision to have a book release party, and on impulse asked him if he might be willing to not only come to the party (since his chapter in FDEWB is amazing) but maybe to play a few tunes on his guitar and sing too. I’m not sure what made me even think of it out of nowhere, and I certainly didn’t expect him to say yes, but he didn’t hesitate for a second.
Rob: Sure! Absolutely, I’d be honored. Maybe we can do a little acoustic set with Louden Swain.
I was over the moon. That right there is what makes this family and the relationship that Supernatural fans and cast have so unique and so special. I saw Billy and Mike and Stephen a few weeks later, and they were already excited about it (well, except Stephen, who had a prior commitment unfortunately). So this was really happening! Once we knew we had some great music to look forward to, the challenge was finding a venue that was the right size and where the guys could play. Clearly the party would have to be in LA, since that’s where Rob and Billy and Mike (and many of the other actors who wrote chapters for the book) are, and probably not at a Barnes & Noble. Unfortunately, I’m on the other coast. How to find a suitable place when you’re 3000 miles away?
SPN Family to the rescue. Sabrina, who wrote a chapter for the book, suggested a place called The Study – because while it is a club, it is also made to look like a library, with floor to ceiling shelves of books and lots of vintage easy chairs and dark wood paneling. It sounded perfect! Another SPNFamily member, Lua, who’s local, was kind enough to go over and check it out, sending me back photos and the contact info for Taylor the manager. I contacted him and just like that, we had the perfect venue!
Next there was the question of food and drink. Would Taylor be willing to offer some Supernatural themed drink specials? With a little help from contributor Krista, we had four – Dean’s Baby, the Family Don’t End With Blood, the Squeeing Fangasm, and of course the Purple Nurple.
We also, obviously, needed some pie. Dean wouldn’t be happy if we didn’t have pie. The locals suggested that the very best pie was from The Pie Hole LA, so I emailed them and asked if they could provide 150 mini pies.
ThePieHole: 150?! What sort of event are you having??
Me: A book release party for a new book written by the actors and fans of the tv show Supernatural.
ThePieHole: OMG we are all big fans, we’re in!
Supernatural is everywhere, folks.
We wanted everyone to be able to celebrate, so we were able to make special arrangements for under 21 fans to join in the fun, and I sent out emails and texts to all the contributors to see who could come. Rob and I picked the date, which proved daunting because May is the month when the SPN actors are roving all over Europe doing cons. We found a tiny window of time the day after the book’s release, so May 10 it was. I thought that would work for the actors coming back from All Hell Breaks Loose con in Australia, and also for the actors about to leave for Asylum in the UK that weekend. I mean, this was on a Wednesday, surely they wouldn’t leave that early?
Many of you are probably saying “you forgot about the time difference, silly” right about now because yeah, I did. So that meant some of the contributors who really wanted to come couldn’t – Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Mark Sheppard, and a lot of other actors who wanted to come celebrate too. I was pretty crushed – and felt not a little bit stupid. Matt Cohen and Osric Chau and a few other people were working, but anyone who was in town said they’d try to come by. You never know, so I didn’t count on it, but at least I’d put the invitation out there – and every single person had replied right away saying how much they wanted to come. This cast, I swear. Nicest people ever.
I also didn’t know if any of the fan contributors would be able to come – the only one who was in LA was Sabrina, and she was actually going to be on the East coast that day! Argh. But to my surprise, a bunch of them said they were coming too – they flew across the country just to come celebrate FDEWB! I was so touched and so thrilled, because this book is a celebration of each and every one of them. They all poured their heart and souls into their chapters, and I really wanted them to be able to celebrate that.
Of course, life doesn’t make it easy to just drop everything and fly to LA. Now that the party was set, I realized to my dismay that I had a stack of grading to do before I left that was about three feet tall. Sleep? Who needs sleep? I hit the submit button on my grades at 3 am. Two hours later, I was headed to the airport. Nine hours after that, I was finally in sunny LA!
My friend Liz (who is one of the heroes of this story) picked me up at the tiny little Burbank airport, we had lunch, and then headed to my hotel. Only to find out that they hadn’t put my name on the reservation! Contributor Laurena, who was also staying with me and two of our other contributor-friends, had arrived too, but her name wasn’t on it either. Kim and Krista, whose names were on the reservation, were currently in an airplane flying across the country and unreachable.
Lady at desk: Sorry, I can’t let you in.
Me: That’s ridiculous! Where are we going to go for four hours???!
Lady at desk: Well ma’am, if you have Kim’s credit card information and address and phone number, we could let you in.
Alas, I don’t usually memorize my friends’ credit card numbers, so that didn’t work.
Liz (who is much more unflappable than me): No problem, we’ll just go have lunch.
We gathered up Laurena and piled into Liz’s now very crowded car (the back seat was taken up with amps and other musical equipment, but that’s another story…) and braved the traffic all the way to Denny’s, where we sat for hours talking about…what else? Supernatural.
Finally Kim and Krista arrived and we could get into our room. I started to calm down. We met up with another contributor, Karla, and our talented cover artist, Cris. Time for food and drink!
The next day was party day. I have no clue how I thought I would accomplish all I had to do without a car, but luckily it was Liz to the rescue. Again. We hit the local Walmart and bought up bag after bag of snacks for the bar and for the green room (which Liz has a lot of experience stocking from her job making conventions run smoothly), then we made our laborious way through LA traffic to the bakery where the cake I’d ordered was waiting. I had been talked into having a birthday cake at the party, and without much thought (this is a theme with me, have you noticed?) I told them it was a cake for 100 people. AND IT REALLY WAS! Like it was about 3 feet wide, seriously. And weighed about 100 pounds. Okay not really, but it was HEAVY!
The poor woman at the bakery counter brought it out just about collapsing under its weight, and then informed us that no, we couldn’t put it in a cart and in fact we had to carry it with the middle supported or it would break in half and be ruined.
Liz: (once again about a million times more unflappable than me) No problem.
Somehow we wrangled the giant cake out of the Vons supermarket, only to find it wouldn’t fit in Liz’s car anywhere but on my lap. BARELY. I piled in, the very very heavy cake was piled on top of me, and we once again made our way through horrendous traffic towards the Study. Liz spied a handy dandy parking lot about two blocks away, and we pulled in. The parking attendant took one look at me buried under a mountain of cake and offered to store it in his little parking lot shed while we went in search of The Study and to see if we could get in early. How nice was that?
Luckily they did let us in early, but the two block walk carrying a cake that weighed approximately a ton was not at all fun. At least we didn’t drop it!
Meanwhile, I was getting phone call updates from my daughter, who had contracted a bad ear infection. She went to the doctor to see if she could fly safely. The answer was no.
Me: (starting to despair) OMG nothing is going right, everything is going wrong, OMG this is gonna be a disaster, why did I decide to do this???
Liz: (calmly) So what’s next on our to do list?
Next stop, The Pie Hole. Which was conveniently located just a block from the venue. Yay! We stopped in to check on the order and see what time we could pick up the 150 pies.
Clerk: Umm no, we don’t have 150 pies for you.
Me: (wide eyed) WHAT???!
Liz: (you know the drill) Okay, let’s figure this out, who took the order?
Me: (frantically going through my phone)
It turns out the pies had been delivered not to this Pie Hole, but to the one in downtown LA!!! And it was almost rush hour! We literally did not have enough time to drive there and get back in time for the party to start.
Meanwhile, the publisher had shipped copies of the book to Kathy, an LA local who was coming to the party to take some photos. She was going to pull up outside the club and we would help her bring the books in. Except I thought she was going to text me but she thought she was going to message me, so I never got it (my data wasn’t working well).
We had also arranged for a local independent bookstore, Chevalier’s, to come to the party with lots of copies of the book for people to buy, but that person was currently having a very hard time actually finding the venue.
At this point, I was despairing, certain that there was no way this party could possibly come together. But I had underestimated the niceness of the SPN Family. Someone at the downtown Pie Hole store offered to drive all 150 pies over to the local one! SPNFamily to the rescue! Kathy, intrepid fangirl that she is, managed to schlep all the books in with the generous help of a friend, which had to be no mean feat at all. Thank you Kathy! (check out all her photos at WickedGoddessPhotography.com). And the bookstore guy finally found the venue! We had pie, we had books, and we had….about fifteen minutes to finish getting ready.
We rushed back to the hotel, got changed in record time, and sprinted back to The Study to get everything set up before the guests started arriving. By this time, I was calling the contributors who were there to help me (and keep me from having a heart attack) “my crew”, because they are simply an amazing bunch of women. Contributors Kim, Laurena, Krista, Karla and Cris, along with lifesaver Liz and local friend Lua helped me set everything up. Liz’s sister Kristen came to help out and so did local fan Cyndi. I’m so grateful to all of you! It takes a village, people!
The day before, it had seemed like just about everything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong, so I was a nervous wreck leading up to the big night. But once we got to the club and everything got set up and people started to line up outside, buzzing with excitement, everything suddenly felt different. As weird as this sounds, it was like the SPN Family vibe just took over. My ‘crew’ swung into action, everyone helping with something.
Lua suggested it would be good to have an emcee, which I hadn’t even thought about.
Everyone: (looks at Krista)
Krista: (throwing up her hands) Fine, fine!
Cyndi worked the line, checking everyone in and even taking some photos of the guests arriving – it was like a mini red carpet!
Lua and Krista set up the cameras to record the event (look for videos soon – they are AMAZING!)
Once Rob and Billy and Mike arrived, Liz and Kristen helped them set up and made sure everything ran smoothly for the musical portion of the evening.
Kathy took some photos, and so did many other fans, who were starting to pour in and fill the club up. Everyone was taking selfies and chatting and the room was buzzing with anticipation.
The Pie Hole set up a table with 150 pies that would have made Dean Winchester’s mouth water (and isn’t that a nice image?). Chevalier’s Books made it inside just in time with plenty of copies of Family Don’t End With Blood. Representatives of Attitudes in Reverse and Random Acts, the beneficiaries of a portion of all proceeds from the book, arrived to share in the celebration.
Two more fan contributors, Lucy and Claudine, arrived, along with FDEWB editor Alicia and my agent, Amy. For actor contributors, we had Rob of course, and Gil McKinney, Ruth Connell and Jim Beaver too. Gil brought his lovely wife, Jim brought his lovely girlfriend and his daughter Maddie. Ruth brought a whole bunch of awesome people – Elly Lachman and Tina Densmore of Kings of Con, Yael Groblas (Jane the Virgin), Alan Smyth (The Outfield), Adam Croasdell (Supernatural as well as Once Upon a Time and Reign), and Georgia Dolenz (actress and daughter of Micky Dolenz – her sister Ami is married to Jerry Trimble, who memorably played Ramiel on Supernatural – it’s a small SPN world!).
We also had SPN writer Meredith Glynn (who I fangirled over for writing ‘Regarding Dean’….sorry, couldn’t help it, Meredith!) and talented post producer and awesome all around person Mary Manchin.
I was so thrilled that some Supernatural actors also came by to celebrate with us – and to talk about how Supernatural has changed their lives too. Carrie Genzel, who memorably played the realtor in ‘Bugs’ and the hapless mom in ‘Just My Imagination’ came by to join the party and to thank the SPNFamily for her experience on the show and with the fandom.
Julie McNiven (Anna) came by, who I got to know a little better when she was in the pilot of Internity, an innovative tv show that I’m still hoping will be continued. She also took the stage to thank the fans and talk about how being on the show had an impact on her life.
Rick Worthy (Alpha Vamp) also came to party, chatting with fans at the bar and taking the stage to say thank you to the fans. Another awesome character who met his demise this season, unfortunately — but really, you never know. Rick insisted on buying his own copy of FDEWB to support the charities it benefits.
Curtis Armstrong (Metatron), who I make no secret of adoring, also came by. He too thanked the fandom, who thanked him right back. Curtis was kind enough to read an early galley of the book and then wrote a cover review. I was incredibly touched by his review, and love that it’s included as part of the messages of the book. Curtis has a book of his own coming out later this year, which I can’t wait to read.
Richard Speight Jr. was unable to be there, but he sent his love. He too reviewed the book and wrote a heartfelt cover review, which makes him a part of the book as well. We couldn’t have a book without Rich!
I also had a lovely message from Eric Kripke, Supernatural’s creator himself, who couldn’t come to the party but sent a message of gratitude to the SPN Family. This show has certainly changed his life!
And I finally got to meet the awesome Joey Adams from InfinityTVShow (also starring SPN alums Jim Beaver and Julie McNiven)!
The contributors (both fans and actors) read a passage from their chapter or talked about writing it, and the other SPN alums all got up and talked about how the Show and the fandom had changed their lives as well. There was so much emotion in the room, it was palpable – the gathered fans cheering and applauding and everyone in the intimate setting feeling like we really were one big family. And that’s pretty much what every single person said.
Ruth: I’m not a very good sight reader, and my chapter is a bit about that. I’m not great with my own voice and my own words. So one of the things I want to thank Lynn for in this book is giving me the opportunity to find my words. In writing the chapter, I wrote about singing at conventions, which I can do because you guys clap for me no matter what. This has been such a gift, but I hope that if you read my chapter you’ll know that it’s something much bigger. Supernatural has been the biggest thing that’s happened to me in my life. When I was first asked, I was nervous to write the chapter, wasn’t I?
Me: Yes you were.
Ruth: So I asked Lynn to send me some sample chapters. So she sent me Rob Benedict’s.
Ruth: Talk about intimidation tactics! Rob’s chapter is one of the best things I’ve ever read. So I would like to introduce Rob Benedict to read some of his beautiful work.
Everyone: Cheers for both of them
Rob: Here’s a little glimpse into my chapter, which is about the stroke that I had in 2013 in Toronto.
You could have heard a pin drop as Rob read from his chapter, all the emotion of that time coming through in his voice.
The neural pathway to my voice was unable to decode the word. I could only make noises that weren’t even close to being correct. I was a caveman. A newborn.
After this initial test I felt painfully alone. I needed to be with someone who knew me. I wanted to see Rich. But I wasn’t sure if he’d left. I tried to tell the nurse but I didn’t know how. I moaned until she handed me a piece of paper. “Wa-wa-wa.”
“Can you write it down?”
I sat holding the pencil to paper, but I could only make scribbles. I tried miming it to her. But how do you mime, “I need to see my friend, the guy who brought me in?” I just made faces until, miraculously, she said, “You want me to get your friend?” I nodded. Yes, yes, oh, thank god. It was such a victory.
The room broke into thunderous applause. A few people reached for their tissues.
Rob: Next up in the reading procession – it’s so great, I can say ‘progression’ now all on my own! Is Mr. Gil McKinney.
Gil: Rob is a tough act to follow, but I’m gonna do my best. Wow, my heart is really racing right now!
Everyone: You’re doing great!
Gil: Thank you. This has been one of the most amazing, unexpected gifts in my life.
Here’s a little bit of what Gil read from the chapter he wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood:
Alone on stage with a microphone in my hand, I finished my song and was instantly reminded that I was not alone. I was once again met with a wave of cheers. I’m not sure if I surprised the audience, but I know I surprised myself. I was met backstage with an overwhelmingly kind response from my fellow cast and crew, and I felt an excitement that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. There is nothing quite like singing in front of a live audience. And I have found no better audience than the fans of Supernatural.
A spark had been reignited. Something forgotten had been rediscovered. You see, I have been singing for as long as I can remember, but somewhere along the way my confidence had been injured, my hope all but shattered by rejection and deep frustration. I had auditioned for many musicals early in my career and had once even come close to landing a Broadway national tour. But these jobs just never came my way. And then, at some point, the auditions just stopped coming in. I continued to study with a voice coach and sing at home, but opportunities to perform were nonexistent. The stage was dark until the Supernatural fandom came along.
Fear of failure is something I think many of us battle. How do we not only face that fear but also work to get over it? I’m not sure I have the answer to that question, but I know it is almost impossible to do alone. I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams that working on Supernatural would be the impetus for me to face my fears. The support and encouragement I have received from the fandom is without a doubt one of the greatest gifts of my life and something I will always be grateful for.
As I listened, I was nearly overcome with gratitude for being a part of this special family, and for being able to bring their stories to the world. The whole night was like the embodiment of SPNFamily, in the best of ways.
Gil: And now for some music from some people you may know – not me!
Krista: Did everyone have some pie? And now for some music, I think the band is called Minus Norton…
Clearly we made the right choice of emcee.
Rob and Billy and Mike were only going to play a few songs, but they ended up playing six or seven – and OMG, what an amazing set it was! They kicked ass! Rob was shocked that most of the crowd knew the words to their songs and was singing along, which was all kinds of adorable.
Rob: I don’t know what I expected, this is a book launch, I guess I thought it would be a bunch of book critics. And then I saw Krista and was like OMG Krista!
Krista (from the audience): That’s what most people say…
Rob: It’s like old home week tonight! And then I turned around and my idol, Curtis Armstrong, is here! I’m glad I got a haircut…
I’ve often said that Rob is the heart of the SPN Family, and he was at the #Fdewbparty, as we tagged it for twitter. He kept thanking me for having him, and I kept thanking him and Billy and Mike for coming and being so kickass. Their set was incredible, which even these gorgeous photos don’t quite do justice.
After the band played, Jim Beaver took the stage to read a passage from his chapter. As he climbed the stairs to the stage, the room broke into applause and whistles.
Jim: That’s the most applause I’ve ever gotten for going up two steps!
Everyone: We’re easy.
Jim: Thanks for inviting me to this shindig. You know, Lynn has done a pretty amazing thing – among other things, getting a bunch of Supernatural actors to actually sit down and write!
Krista: And we thought they were illiterate…
Jim: No, that was my point! Getting them to sit down and read is hard enough. So she’s asked me to read a segment of this incredibly long thing I wrote and I have no idea what I’m about to read because it was sort of off the cuff when I wrote it, and it’s not like I sat down and memorized it after I wrote it, so this could be really embarrassing…
Here’s a little excerpt from what Jim read from his chapter:
The final real and lasting effect of Supernatural on my life, beyond the friendships and insights, has been the realization that through the vast community and fans of this show, I can have an enormous effect for good…It is difficult for me to overstate the effect being Bobby Singer has had on me. It has given me more visibility than I ever dreamed likely. It has given me a raft of friends (and even a romance or two) among my colleagues and fans of the show. It has allowed me to travel around the world (literally!) meeting people I’d never otherwise have learned about. It has made a rather shy and private person into someone who revels in the company of people he has never before met. It has made me feel appreciated and loved, not only for my work but also for myself, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment for even a few million people to pull off.
And it has shown me that the vast weight of love and kindness and humanity in the world can and does overwhelm the forces of spite, hate, and ingratitude. The Supernatural effect on me has been the greatest gift of my public life. And anyone who doesn’t think so is an idjit.
I think Jim was rather surprised that it wasn’t embarrassing at all, but it was very moving. In fact, the whole night was incredibly emotional. I met so many people who told me what the show and the fandom and the books have meant to them, and let’s just say it was a good thing that I had some tissues with me at all times.
Thanks to everyone who came out for the FDEWBParty, and for everyone who helped so much both in putting together this book and in throwing it a launch celebration!
The next day was spent partly sunning at the pool, which was glorious, and partly anticipating watching the brand new Supernatural episode with a room full of fellow fangirls.
We all gathered in the room and ordered from Grub Hub and turned on the television.
Ummm….where is the CW?
Maybe we were just missing it. Maybe it’s called something else?
The panic level in the room was rising as we scrolled through the channels again and again, as though if we just stared hard enough at the screen, surely it would be there.
But no. We had picked a hotel that does not get the CW. A room full of Supernatural fangirls here to celebrate a book about Supernatural, and we can’t watch the new episode.
There was a lot of colorful language, and a lot of compensatory nacho eating. Krista, who’s almost as unflappable as Liz, got on twitter and started problem solving, the way engineers do. Laurena did the same. I mostly stomped around the room using colorful language and wringing my hands.
Finally, with very little time to spare, one of Krista’s friends came through – we could watch the show from her DVR in some other part of the world on someone’s iPad or laptop. Hooray!!! The miracles of modern technology! And Krista even had portable speakers! As 8 pm rolled around, four fangirls huddled at the end of the beds staring at the screen to watch Show.
It was a good thing I had supportive friends to watch with, because that episode (12.21) was pretty damn upsetting. Laurena, who writes for Winchester Family Business, and I live tweeted our consternation about Eileen’s horrific death, while Kim tweeted about US tweeting. It was all very meta. We then spent hours after the episode unpacking what was problematic about it and conjecturing about where we might be going from there. (See my episode review here for more hand wringing)
All in all, it was a pretty magical few days. I’ll be bringing FDEWB to lots of Creation cons this summer and fall, so stop by the vendor room and pick one up if you haven’t gotten one yet, or bring yours by and I’ll be happy to sign it. The actors who contributed are proud of their chapters and love to sign it too, so it’s turning out to be a handy dandy autograph line item.
We all hope that it will be a little bit of help getting us through this long long long hiatus. And stay tuned for more from the FDEWB party with video of all the fun!
ETA – I’ve tried to credit photos if there’s not a watermark whenever I can figure it out. If I’ve missed one of yours, please let me know!
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