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My Official Book Launch: An Epic Celebration of All Things Chicago

I don’t even know where to start when it comes to summarizing my book launch event that occurred in the city on Tuesday night. I would love to tell you about everything, but I don’t want this post to be a novel and so I have to skip the fine points on:

~ all of the ideas I tossed around in my head starting about two months ago as this event was conceptualized
~ the great conversations (and epiphanies) I had with the ladies of my “Event Advisory Board” (I made up that name but it’s perfect), made up of friends who have experience with the ins and outs of planning events
~ the massive amount of work it was to get sponsors, and all of the great lessons I learned in doing so
~ the stress involved with planning an event in the city–on a boat–for more than 60 bloggers and tweeters, and being in charge of every single detail
~ the new friends I made throughout the process, as well as at the event itself
~ the massive support given by my old friends throughout the process, as well as at the event itself

This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and though I *might* have been overheard saying “I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN, EVER!” in my darkest, most anxiety-ridden moments, I might consider it because the evening was so lovely, even though I felt that it went by way too quickly, which was a by-product of my being the hostess.

The lowdown on the event itself: It was a two-hour cruise (renamed “Cruze” for the evening, in honor of General Motors/Chevy being my major sponsor) down the Chicago River to celebrate the launch of my book. The theme of the evening was “The Best of Chicago” and we used the hashtag #gmchiCARgo on Twitter (should you want to check out that stream…). The event also spotlighted the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwestern Indiana.

My awesome sponsors, who literally made this event possible, were:
General Motors/Chevy
Bristol Renaissance Faire
The John Hancock Observatory
KeyLime Cove Water Park Resort
Eli’s Cheesecake
Pizzeria Uno
Garrett Popcorn Shops
Blue Man Group
Chicago Elevated
Windy City Rollers
Comedysportz Chicago
Skydeck Chicago

As the date of the event approached, I was horrified to discover that the weather was likely to be very uncooperative: it was supposed to storm all evening, and the temperatures, which were in the 80’s last week, were to plunge to the upper 50’s. I had extreme anxiety about this, one of the few things I couldn’t control. The boat did have an enclosed lower deck but I knew that the views would be best from outside, especially on the upper deck. As time marched on, though I still checked the weather obsessively, I knew that rain wouldn’t really ruin the evening and tried to relax about it. On Tuesday, the rain was gone from the forecast. I was thrilled. Of course, the temperature would still be in the upper 50’s (and it was cooler by the lake), but I was happy to deal with that.

One of the things I considered to be a major accomplishment in the planning stages was the acquisition of a permit from the city of Chicago (after getting permission from building management) for Chevy to park a 2011 Cruze in front of the Wrigley Building, one of Chicago’s most iconic structures that happens to be adjacent to the steps leading to the dock where we would board the boat.

Getting permission (and the proper permit) to park a 2011 Chevy Cruze in front of one of Chicago's most famous buildings was, for me, a highlight! (Photo credit: chiILmama.com)

I asked attendees to bring donations for the RMHC-CNI in the hopes that we could fill the Cruze up. (We did VERY, VERY well.)

Filled up the trunk AND the back seat of this 2011 Chevy Cruze with donations for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwestern Indiana! (Photo credit: chiILmama.com)

The food? YUM. Deep dish pizza and salad from Pizzeria Uno, Eli’s Cheesecake, Garrett’s Popcorn, cookie dough from Cookie Dough Creations kept everybody happy from the time we left the dock until the end of the cruise. The best part for me and my family? Leftovers, of course!

Someday when I live in Marina City, I'll park my boat here.

We had nearly sixty people on board, and though many were people I have known for a long time, there were a bunch of attendees who I was meeting for the first time that evening. That was one of the best parts for me! Sadly, there were many people who, due to their geographic location–my dad included, who was stuck working in Tennessee–couldn’t make it for the celebration as much as they wanted to. I came up with a creative way to keep a few of them close to my heart during my special evening:

From left to right: my dad, Liz (This Full House), Tara (Thin Spiral Notebook), Momo (Momo Fali's), Sue (As Cape Cod Turns), Carol (NYCity Mama), and Heather (Pretty Blue Skies).

I was a little concerned about my plan for a TOTALLY casual evening, meaning there was no agenda for my guests, no structured activities, just socializing. I was hoping that people wouldn’t be bored. My worst nightmare (or one of them) was that people would be “stuck on a boat for two hours” (to borrow from something Napwarden said), bored to death. Luckily, I have had great feedback and I’m glad I had no party structure. Many blogger events bring people together to learn about a product or a company (nothing wrong with that!) and have no built-in time for socializing. The Chicago-area bloggers in particular, I think, are a very close bunch, and I wanted to make the evening about just having fun on the river with friends. Everyone knew they were there for my book but I didn’t need to make any formal presentations about it. I had representatives there from GM’s grassroots team to mingle and share information about Chevy, my city half Margaret from Chicago Elevated was on board, and Garrett’s Popcorn was represented on the cruise as well, but they were really all “just guests”. It was fun, and as much as I tried to get around to talk to EVERYBODY, I couldn’t do it in two hours (even though I really, really tried!)

I love this shot! (Photo credit: chiILmama.com) Relaxing at the event after all of the hours of hard work was incredibly joyful!

I had asked my sister, the Queen of Music (Seriously: she knows about and owns more music than anyone I’ve ever known, and she has an amazing talent for putting together the perfect playlist for any occasion), to do the playlist for my event. I told her I wanted it a little bit jazzy, but that’s the only guideline I gave her. Naturally she came up with a stupendous mix, some jazzy and many not, but all meshing together very nicely. Only a few of my favorites were “Everyday I Write the Book” (Elvis Costello), “Tell Me Something Good” (Chaka Khan), “How You Like Me Now” (The Heavy), “Lovely Day” (Bill Withers), “Who Do You Love” (Dion), “You Make My Dreams” (Hall & Oates), and “A Little Bit More” (Jamie Lidell), which I still can’t get out of my head because I love it so much.

The Wrigley Building, in all its glory!

What was hilarious to me was that, even though it wasn’t raining, the vast majority of my guests stayed inside the enclosed lower level for much of the cruise. The temperatures were in the fifties and the wind was gusty, but it wasn’t frostbite weather by any means. The best views were from the upper level, and I went up there several times to enjoy it. Due to the fact that most everyone stayed inside, especially during the first thirty minutes of the cruise when we headed out to the Lake for a bit, I got an unexpected, 100% private moment which I will never forget:

I was headed upstairs during the part of the cruise when we were waiting to leave the Lake and go back through the Chicago River lock, and at the very moment my foot touched the upper deck, one of the two special songs I added to the playlist myself came on:

I stood there, all by myself, taking in the skyline that I love so much. My hair was blowing all over the place as I took a deep breath and just felt the moment. I smiled and closed my eyes for a few seconds as if to cement it into my brain (it worked), and then opened them again and stood there, completely still, until Frank was finished singing. It was glorious.

Our tour guide referred to this building as "formerly the Sears Tower". It will always be the Sears Tower to me but I like the effort she made to try and please everybody.

All in all, it was a stupendous night. Of course it was wonderful for the obvious reason of celebrating my new book, but being together with my family and so many friends in a mass celebration that included so many of my favorite Chicago elements (a river cruise, Lake Michigan, the skyline, and the foods) was the icing on the (Eli’s) cheesecake.

Here are some recaps written by my guests! (If you came and yours isn’t listed, shoot me an email with the link and I’ll include it!)

ChiIL Mama
World of Weasels
Garrett Popcorn Shops
Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy
Miss Lori.TV
Look It’s Megryansmom!
Same Old Shannon

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Margaret May 26, 2011, 7:43 pm

    Melisa, you are awesome. What a great recap of a great night. And indeed, that photo is glorious! I love it.

    You did a great job, we all had a really good time and I made a ton of new friends!


    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:05 pm

      Yay is right, Margaret! We’re doing it! 🙂

  • Heather May 26, 2011, 8:16 pm

    I can’t even tell you how proud of you I am. I remember when you called me and told me the idea, and I thought “Oh that is so awesome, but man, what stress!” In typical Melisa fashion, you not only pulled it off, but you did a WONDERFUL job at it, and you were able to enjoy yourself. I am so so so so excited for you and thank you so much for including me in your “special people” to tag along. That touched me more than you know. Love you and thanks for sharing this with us all– It almost made it seem like I *was* there!


    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:05 pm

      You are such a sweetheart! 🙂 Thanks for the nice words: they mean a lot! xoxoxo

  • Carol May 26, 2011, 8:18 pm

    Melisa – Thank you for bringing me to your party!! I LOVE that picture of you! LOVE IT. I am so proud of you, but even more proud to call you friend. What an accomplishment darling!!! BRAVO!

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:04 pm

      Thanks Honey! Love you long time! xoxoxoxo

  • TheNextMartha May 26, 2011, 8:32 pm

    It was amazing and could not have been organized any better! You did an awesome job. Honored that I was able to be part of it.

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:04 pm

      I was thrilled you could come, Jen! Yaaaay!

  • SurprisedMom May 26, 2011, 8:48 pm

    Congrats on your book launch! It sounds like you had a fantastic time. When you launch a book, boy do you do it right! Love the photos! I”m sure your book is amazing and I’ll have to pick it up!

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:04 pm

      Thanks so much! 🙂

  • Cher May 26, 2011, 8:50 pm

    I had a great time and really appreciated the night out (especially since I am 8 months pregnant and don’t get out much!) The book is great and will be perfect for my tween sister and ideas in general for my family!

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:03 pm

      Yay! I’m glad you (and your sister) will be able to use the book! 🙂

  • Laila @OnlyLaila May 26, 2011, 8:57 pm

    I had a GREAT time! Congrats on your book! It’s definitely given me some ideas of some fun things to do this summer!

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:03 pm

      I’m glad you had fun! Thanks for coming!

  • Miss Lori May 26, 2011, 9:30 pm

    It was a great night. A first for me on the cruise. Thank you for including me.



    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:03 pm

      I still can’t believe it was your first river cruise! 🙂 I’m extra glad you could make it!

  • Simone May 26, 2011, 9:52 pm

    It was a perfect evening and I’m just glad I snuck in under the wire and got to attend. Couldn’t be happier for you and your book or at the fact that we FINALLY got to meet! I’ll take a boat ride with ya anytime.

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:02 pm

      I’m TOTALLY ready for another boat ride! I’ll have my people call your people! 🙂

  • MJ Tam May 27, 2011, 3:11 am

    What a wonderful event and congratulations again, Melisa! Someday we can share a boat parking spot at the Marina City. 😉 Hey, was that my beautiful pic? hehe

  • Tara R. May 27, 2011, 7:54 am

    What an amazing night! I am so incredibly proud of you. Thank you for letting me be part of the celebration, I was there for you in spirit.

    Good luck with the book, it truly is filled to overflowing with wonderful tips and ideas for visiting Chicago.

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:02 pm

      I know you were! Thanks! xoxo

  • Kristabella May 27, 2011, 10:00 am

    Thanks for hosting such an amazing evening! I’m glad that we finally got to meet in person!

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:01 pm

      I’m so glad you could come!! We’ll have to do a GNO sometime this summer.

  • As Cape Cod Turns May 27, 2011, 10:56 am

    Fantastic Melisa!!! So glad that it was such a success and that I was able to enjoy a quiet Frank Sinatra moment with you. Well kind of with you. I certainly was thinking of you the whole “cruze”!
    Just remember the little people when you are running Blogher next year!

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:01 pm

      Oh stop it! There are no little people. (well there are but not in the sense you’re talking about!)
      And I will NEVER run BlogHer. Mark my words. haha

  • Mom24@4evermom May 27, 2011, 12:39 pm

    Congrats Melisa. We’re loving the book. I’ll get a review up soon.

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:00 pm

      Thanks! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! (time for a Chicago visit! 🙂 )

  • Momo Fali May 27, 2011, 1:19 pm

    This made me cry! I love your “moment” and that you took time to enjoy it. You deserve all good things.

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 10:00 pm

      Stop crying! 🙂
      I was so glad I took time to enjoy that moment, too! It’s hard to remember much of the rest of the party!

  • Lisa @ Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy May 27, 2011, 1:32 pm

    I never had a doubt it would be anything less than perfect. And you are sooo right about the view from the top, it was amazing!!! I would have stayed there the whole time if there weren’t soooo many great ladies to talk to inside!

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 9:59 pm

      My thoughts exactly!

  • Liz May 27, 2011, 1:33 pm

    What a fabulous recap. Thanks SO MUCH for sharing it with us, some of your biggest fans, who love you so much, but weren’t able to attend. Like Momo said, you deserve ALL good things, my friend!

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 9:59 pm

      You are sweet. And you deserve ALL good things, too!

  • LaTosha Johnson May 27, 2011, 2:52 pm

    Great recap! I had an awesome time and I am currently reading your book and LOVE it! 🙂

    • Melisa May 27, 2011, 9:58 pm

      I’m so glad, LaTosha! 🙂 Great to meet you in person: I hope we cross paths again soon!

  • Mrs4444 May 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

    Melisa, this is one of my favorite of your posts; your joy just shines through it all. So happy for you 🙂 You’re amazing.

  • Emily May 28, 2011, 8:25 pm

    Now I’m even sorrier that I missed it!

  • Michelle May 29, 2011, 6:20 am

    So excited for all the great things that go along with your book launch. Thanks so much for inviting me, I made so many new friends and got to connect with some twitter friends IRL. The food was fabulous, the company was unbelievable and it also helped a great charity. Does it get better than that? I am so looking forward to using your book this summer for some exciting excursions into the city with my kids!! Thanks again, Melisa, U ROCK!

  • Renee May 29, 2011, 8:26 am

    Sounds like a great night, I’m so sorry I had to miss it! I wish you tons of success with your book (I’m loving it, by the way!) and if you need anything just let me know!

  • Patty May 29, 2011, 9:15 pm

    Congratulations on a FABULOUS book launch event! How I wish I could have been there! I’m so happy all your hard work paid off in such a lovely evening! {Hugs}

  • weaselmomma June 2, 2011, 9:54 am

    I personally LOVED this event, for more reason than one. The non-structure of the event was awesome sauce and led me to having a fantabulous time. Thank you, for the book and the event.