Like many, I first saw Wil Wheaton in Stand By Me (1986), then watched him mature on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94). He dropped off my radar for many years after that. I gradually became aware that Wheaton was writing and blogging. When I started working at Borders Books, I spent a lot of time browsing the entertainment section. I knew of Wheaton’s Dancing Barefoot and Just a Geek. One day, Wheaton visited the store as a regular customer. Whenever we had a famous person came into the store, the news spread quickly. From a distance, I watched him talking animatedly to a co-worker. He looked friendly and approachable, but I didn’t go over to meet him. Later, I started reading his blog and leaving the occasional comment. I also read his books and enjoyed them. When he posted on his blog that he was appearing at the January 2005 MacWorld convention here in San Francisco, I left a comment encouraging him to visit my Borders again. He messaged me about doing a book reading. When I asked the area event coordinator, she told me I would have to organize it myself. I’d been assisting with lots of events, so I felt ready to take it on.
I had to make sure we had enough copies of Wheaton’s books in the store, although I had no idea how many fans would turn up. I posted flyers at nearby computer stores to get the word out. The hardest part? Getting the event added to the Borders website and automated phone information line. I don’t think those ever got fixed. Of course, the most effective promotion was Wheaton’s own blog post about the event:
“Good news, everyone!
When the press release went out about MacWorld, a lot of WWdN readers asked if there would be a reading or signing for people who were unable to afford admission to the conference.
Well, it turns out that we have a mole at Borders in Union Square. She made an introduction for me, and I am super excited to announce that I’ve been invited to their store for a reading and signing when I’m in town!
It looks like the Borders website hasn’t been updated yet, but I’m scheduled for Friday January 14th at 7pm.
Oh! I just got a Really Big Idea™, that could be a whole bunch of Supercool: I have a short list of stories from Just A Geek that I choose from when I perform at bookstores. Based on comments and e-mail, I know there are a lot of WWdN readers in NorCal. How about, instead of me choosing what to read, I let you guys pick what you’d like to hear? If you’re planning to come out on the 14th, say so in the comments, and leave a brief description, or chapter number, or page number, or whatever, and the majority will rule.”
I was excited and nervous when the day arrived. Once the chairs were in place, the book displays set up, and the posters hung around the store, I just had to wait. Some enthusiastic fans showed up really early to get good seats, and one of them came up to me to complain. He’d heard a skeptical employee making snide comments about Wheaton. It was just the kind of attitude that Wheaton was writing about, coming from people who thought of him as “that guy who played Wesley Crusher.” I let my supervisor deal with the situation and went off on my dinner break.
When I got back to the store, a co-worker told me that Wheaton had arrived and was waiting in the employee area. I rushed down and found him alone, sitting on a desk. I felt bad, because the people who came to do store events were often given the manager’s office and some VIP treatment. I presented Wheaton with some gifts and introduced him around, and he signed my copy of Just a Geek. Then we took the elevator upstairs to find a big crowd waiting. In fact, it was standing room only. I got to do the introduction, and somebody took a photo and posted it on the internet the next day. I can’t believe I wore that sweater! Oh well, nobody was there to see me.
Wheaton had the crowd right from the start. He’s a great reader. Somebody posted a brief video of his reading on YouTube:
After the reading, the folks waiting to get their books signed were in good spirits, and it was obvious that Wheaton was enjoying himself. I should have ordered more copies of Dancing Barefoot, because we ran out. Wheaton was also a great salesman for his favorite poker books. I kept myself busy taking lots of photos of everything. The event coordinator dropped by to check things out, and it seemed to me she was basking in the glow of a successful event that wasn’t her own. Several of my co-workers told me that it was one of our best, including the skeptic. After it was all over and I was saying goodbye, I finally got awkward talking to Wheaton. It’s always easier when you’re kept busy! I was excited to see how he would describe the evening on his blog. As far as I know, he never got around to it. It only took me seven years to get around to it, but I’ve got an excuse. I haven’t been blogging that long!
Later, I received a delightful email from Wheaton:
Hey Stacey, I have this horrible habit of getting so overwhelmed by everything, I do nothing. . . . like remember to thank you for sending me the amazing photos you took when I was up in San Francisco. Oh, I've looked at them and I've showed them off to my kids and my friends . . . and I've said, out loud, "Stacey was so cool, and look at all this great stuff she helped me get done . . ." But I kept forgetting to just sit my stupid ass down here and type it out to you. Thank you, so very, very much, for making it possible for me to read in your store. I owe you, big time, and I won't ever forget it. So thank you for sending me such great photos, and thank you for all your support. I hope this finds you well, Wil
I saw Wil Wheaton again in fall 2009, at his first wOOtstock performance in San Francisco. He remembered me, but I made two big bOO-bOOs. I went up to say hello while he was tweeting (bad twitter etiquette?) right before his performance. I couldn’t stick around after the show, but it’s not cool to bother a performer before they go on. Anyway, wOOtstock was great, and I’d love to go to another one. I very much enjoy Wheaton’s guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory. Did he influence me to start blogging? Maybe just a bit!