Harry, Carrie, Garp, and...action!

I'm still blissed out and amazed by a night with three of my all-time favorite writers, a rare reading by Stephen King, John Irving, J.K. Rowling that I attended last week in sweltering New York City.

It was a remarkable night, from the packed house to the kids cheering for Rowling like they were teeny-boppers who'd just seen the Beatles, to the celebrity surprises (my crowd got Tim Robbins, Whoopi Goldberg, Stanley Tucci and the divine Kathy Bates, but not Jon Stewart, who showed up the previous evening. His absence was actually a good thing, because I think if you'd thrown Jon Stewart into that mix my head might have actually exploded, which would have been bad news for the twelve-year-olds sitting behind us).

Stephen King, looking fit and limber, paced the stage as he read the Great Gretna Pie-Eat section from "The Body," which became the movie "Stand by Me," a gross-out crowd-pleaser if ever there was one.

John Irving, with a great silvery shock of hair, sat in a cozy set that looked like a library and read the scenes where Owen Meany re-directs the Christmas pageant from A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY.

And Rowling, in killer heels accented with golden snakes on the ankle straps, entered to delirious screams and shouts of "Don't kill Harry!" When the noise died down, she sat in an appropriately throne-like chair and read the scene where Dumbledore first meets a young wizard named Tom Riddle from HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE.

What struck me most is what wonderful, engaging readers the three of them are. They can do voices. Irving can sound like Owen; King can sound like any number of small-town Mainers, and Rowling can do a respectable cockney. It was impressive, and a little depressing. I can hear my characters perfectly in my head, but when I'm reading, everyone comes out sounding like everyone else. Like me, in other words. It's not ideal.

But more than that, I was impressed by how generous the authors were -- with their time, to the audience, to each other.

There was no one-upmanship, no snobbery, no "I write literary fiction and you write genre fiction," or "I write for grown-ups, and you write for kids." Just three great writers equally in love with the craft of story-telling, all of them fans of each other's work and talent. Tres refreshing.

One of my favorite moments of the night -- someone asking King what scared him, and King confessing that he'd been scared by Rowlings' description of the death eaters, which Rowling looked absolutely delighted to hear. "I scared Stephen King!" she beamed.

But my absolute favorite comment was from King himself, who read a particularly riveting and grotesque section of his story, then cocked an eyebrow at the audience and said, in a can-you-believe-it? voice, "I get paid to do this." His voice dropped to a confiding whisper. "I have the best job in the world."

Then it was back home to Philadelphia, where the heat wave broke and where the commercial shoot for THE GUY NOT TAKEN went so well I'm almost afraid to talk about it.

We had an amazing cast, including Susan Bott, better known as...the Swiffer Lady!

Those of you who've read GOODNIGHT NOBODY know the role the Swiffer Lady plays in the story -- basically, she's the woman the heroine, Kate Klein, imagines when she's daydreaming about who her children, and her life in picture-perfect Connecticut, might really belong to.

Susan emailed me to tell me how pleased she was to find her work dusting to Devo immortalized in print. I wrote back to tell her how thrilled I was to hear from her. So when it came time to cast the female principal for the commercial, it was an easy call.

I emailed Susan, who is a very fine comedian in her own right, and asked whether she'd consider
coming to Philadelphia to shoot a low-tech, low-budget, fifteen-second spot for a book in my favorite neighborhood bookstore. Astonishingly, she said 'yes.'

Then all we had to do was find a director and a producer and a studio to handle the film; hire caterers and an RV, line up a stylist and a makeup artist, scroll through dozens of head shots of hotties to cast our guy (actually, that part wasn't so hard), and get the police to block off the parking spots and get SAG to sign off on the whole thing, and....well, let me just say that my agent, who could now double as a film producer, is frighteningly persistent, and extremely hard-working, and I would never, ever want to piss her off, because she would hunt me down like a dog and HAVE HER REVENGE, which would consist of many, many emails and voicemail messages.

Once the final product's edited, hopefully we'll post it online and you can see the results for yourself.

Finally, that's going to be it from here, as the blog, in the fine tradition of school children and therapists everywhere, spends the rest of August on vacation.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. Come back in September for all the latest, including news of a Most Unlikely Joint Reading I'll be doing in Philadelphia.

And keep an eye out for THE GUY NOT TAKEN, coming to a bookstore near you on September 5.

Publishers Weekly says, "as in the novels (GOODNIGHT NOBODY, GOOD IN BED), smart, acerbic, 30-something women battle dating damage and broken childhoods (absent fathers in particular) in order to build their own families -- or to convince themselves, they still want to...One roots for Weiner's characters as they come to terms -- and in some cases, heal -- from disappointment and neglect."

I say, it's not really as depressing as all that. There are boys! And shoes!

Jen