I can’t believe I haven’t done this yet, but my friend Lauren just posted about her own book launch party from last April (she wrote Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go? which is available now; her companion book about grandpas will be available soon!) and it reminded me I need to write about my own launch party in August. It was eight months ago but still feels like just moments ago, really. So… without further ado, let’s walk through that day. This is pretty long, but I want to remember it down the road!
I was a nervous wreck the whole week leading up to the party. Not so much because of the content of the party (a celebration of a book about sexual assault), but because I wanted everything to be perfect. I had worked so hard for so long on the book, and even though the number of stupid typos in the book drove me crazy, I wanted the party itself to be this beautiful, amazing celebration of what God had done.
I had all kinds of lists and lists and lists and finally I sat down at my “second office” (aka Starbucks) and wrote all of those lists in one notebook that I carried everywhere with me all week. As soon as I thought of something that needed to be done or bought, into the notebook it went. That helped me tremendously. Plus it was super-satisfying to cross things off as they were completed!
I (smartly) took off the day before the party. It was a last-minute decision, and I don’t know how I thought I could do everything I needed to do if I’d worked a full 8-hour day! I went to Costco and Smart and Final and got fruits, veggies, stuff for finger foods, water, and lemonade, then headed home to put together the trays of veggies and stuff I had with me.
My friend Shannon, who edited the book (typos are all on me, not her!), very graciously offered to host the party and her beautiful house, so after I had my stuff ready, I took all of the food and drinks to her house to store until the party the next day. Shannon was cooking some of the stuff I’d bought, plus making cookies. I’d like to emphasize how gracious and generous she was (and is!)
I was dog sitting that weekend (I know, I know — I couldn’t just do my party; I had to add an extra element to the weekend!) so I went back to the house for a few hours of work because there was a scheduled power outage that night and I had to get work done before the lights went out. I loaded my car, made sure I had double- and triple-checked my lists, and finally called it a night. Except I slept horribly. The party wasn’t until the afternoon, but I was afraid I’d sleep too late so I woke up every.single.hour.
Morning came, I got some Starbucks, and I drove to Shannon’s house. I had these beautiful flowers that one of my high school friends, Becca, donated (and actually she didn’t just buy them; she invited me over to her house and let me hold her amazing baby Caleb while she create the flower bouquets!). I love the yellow with pops of other colosr. I also love that I spilled half the Sprite/water combo in the mason jars on my drive to Shannon’s house.
Once I got to Shannon’s house, I began setting up. She was cooking and I was decorating. This was honestly one of the hardest parts for me. How did I decorate for this party? I wanted to keep it simple but special and very reflective of me. The flowers helped; yellow is my favorite color and Becca nailed it. We had them all over the house and yard and they were just the most perfect touch. My friend Karen was the event photographer and I am SO glad she was there to documents these pictures (and so many more!). I’ve looked at them so many times over the last eight months and they make me feel like I was there. She also got a few that are super-candid that are so special to me because she caught some moments of real, special emotion.
Eventually, I decided that since Four Letter Words is a memoir, I wanted to share pictures of Krista at all ages and stages — the Krista people read about in the book. I don’t have a ton of baby pictures of myself, so I was able to visit my grandma with my friend Megan and get copies of pictures. I printed these at Target and used them to decorate.
I also wanted to incorporate color into the party because I am a bright color fiend. One of the things that I love looking back at all of these pictures is how colorful I was in so many of them. I don’t think anyone intentionally dressed me in bright colors as a toddler, but I love that somehow, the pictures reflect that. They reflect the brightness and joy of God in me as I grew up. I even wrote about this in the chapter “Blue” in the book:
For a little while, I had blue to walk beside me, but He has given me something much greater than a single color; He gave me blue and as I grew He gave me eyes that could see and love so many more colors than I could as a child: yellow, and red, and purple, and a million colors too beautiful and complicated to name. He gave me the whole of the rainbow.
To add pops of color, I took a ton of picture frames from my bedroom and used them to display some of the pictures (you can see silver, yellow, green, aqua, and pink frames above). Because I love books, and books were such a saving grace for me (I wrote a chapter about this, too, called “Read”), I wanted to display some of my favorites through the years, so I brought boxes with me full of the books that shaped me. I wanted people to see the books themselves, not just a list. There’s something about holding books in your hands that is so special! You can kind of see some of the books above and below as well.
I used some of my favorite quotes from the book to make prints and those were displayed as decorations, too.
The last thing I did was create an area with my writing through the years — creative writing including poems, short stories, and non-fiction that I’d written. I have copies of all the lit mags I’ve been in since high school, plus I copied short stories and poems from my journals and from my creative writing classes in college. It was fun to see people out there reading throughout the course of the party!
The party was very unstructured — people came and went as they wanted. The only structured thing was that I spoke for about 20 minutes in the middle of the party. Everyone gathered together in the formal living room of the house and I got to share about grief and how that is really what this book did for me — it allowed me to begin to fully grieve.
I just need to insert a moment of levity here. It was August, and we were in Somis, and it was HOT. Standing in front of that window was my second-biggest party regret. I was sweating like crazy and kept forgetting to drink the cold water I’d brought in the room with me. “But what,” you’re asking, “was your biggest party regret?” Oh, let me tell you. It was WEARING THAT DRESS WITHOUT LEGGINGS. Oh my gosh. Oh my word. It is so short! I was so hot getting ready I could not think straight.
I loved looking out into the room of about 30 people — representing every season of my life, from high school to college to family to church and work and everything in between — and knowing that they were (and still are!) all gifts God gave me. That was the best part. I could have looked at them with gratitude for hours.
After I spoke there was lots of talking, eating, and laughing together. It brought me so much joy to celebrate God’s faithfulness!
It was really cool and exciting to see my different sets of friends sit down and talk together. I’d see high school friends talking with college friends, and college friends hanging out at the same table as my church friends. What a blessing to remember that God gifted me with these people through the years and they gave me the earthy means to make it this far!
I had a “guest book” — my copy of Four Letter Words — that people could sign. I encouraged them to find a part they loved, or to just write me a message in the book. I saw people signing it throughout the party. When I got home that night, I was so grateful to take my shoes off, open a bottle of wine someone had given me as a gift, and read through the words people had written throughout the book. It is something I will treasure forever.
My friend Jaimie also printed out the cover of the book and put it in a frame with a mat people could sign. This is such a precious and special gift to me! I kept in my office at work and just packed it up this week as we begin work remodels. I reread the words people had written and it made my heart so full.
And then there was lots of this: hanging out with people and enjoying their company!
I was able to sign books in person, which was really surreal! (And definitely much easier than signing 150 books within three days when I first received copies and mailed them out a few months before the party! Man, that sure gave me hand cramps!)
I went home that night exhausted but amazed and feeling so full of love. Many people at the party I expected to be there (they RSVPed), but some guests surprised me by showing up. I was surrounded by the people God has given me over the years, and that was exactly what I wanted to celebrate — not a book, really, when it came down to it, but the story God has written and is still writing in my life. And that story very much includes every person who blessed me with their time that day!
And even cooler still, the party wasn’t just for me. Because books were so important to me growing up (and still are), I asked my guests to bring a book to donate to an elementary school or middle school. I was able to donate 29 books, which was beyond incredible.