On May 10, 2017, at The Study in Los Angeles, California, 150 fans and actors from the TV show Supernatural assembled to launch a new book named after one of the fundamental tenets of the show.  Family Don’t End With Blood is a tribute to the emotional and deeply personal changes that have taken place in so many lives because of the uncommon love and support surrounding Supernatural. Since only a tiny fraction of the Supernatural Family could attend the party in person, a fan made a video of the entire evening so everyone could share its joy. The book belongs to the worldwide fandom; so should its party, as the sentiments expressed by the book’s contributors are repeated a thousand times across the globe.  I was privileged to be a part of both the book and the launch party. In the spirit of the openness that made the book possible, I share this account of what went on behind the scenes of the party, to bring you all one step closer to being there yourself.

 

Funny how some things sneak up on you. They start out small, a task or situation that is familiar, understandable, predictable, tucked neatly in the middle of your well defined comfort zone. Slowly but surely though, they steal past your carefully established boundaries, slinking their way to the edge of any pre-conceived notions you may have of them, until they have pulled you so beyond your wildest expectations you have to stop and ask yourself if you were ever truly in control.

Date: May 10, 2017.

Scene: A small nightclub in Los Angeles, California.

Event: Launch party for the book Family Don’t End with Blood

Opening: Singular figure on stage, staring into bright spotlights.

Inner Dialog:  “How did I get here, on this stage, introducing myself, my real self, to 150 fellow fans, reading to them words that convey my deepest, most personal beliefs about life, faith and Supernatural?” 

In truth, that evening was the thrill of a lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, it was terrifying, but I’m beginning to learn that all of life’s most significant, path altering moments are, by definition, terrifying. To have any kind of meaningful or lasting impact on your life, they have to force you to do something entirely beyond anything you’ve ever done before, perhaps beyond anything you’ve ever even dreamed of doing before. They require venturing into unexplored territory, learning, stretching, taking risks, maybe failing. You don’t know how, or if, you can do what you’re attempting to do, but the adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained” only became a truism because so many people have found it to be true.

Date: October 23, 2014

Scene: Snack Shop at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art

Opening: Two friends eating lunch at a small, metal table that is just a bit too small to fit their sandwiches and drinks

Dialog:

Lady1: “Would you like to write a chapter in a book I’m thinking of pulling together? It should be fairly easy for you. Just tell your story about becoming an author. It wouldn’t have to be any longer than the articles you write every week for The Winchester Family Business. I’m going to ask members of Supernatural’s cast to write chapters too.

Lady2: “What??”

The Family Don’t End With Blood launch party was by itself serendipity in motion. It went far beyond anyone’s expectations. Lynn Zubernis, the book’s editor, hadn’t even considered having a launch party (who even has launch parties??) until someone suggested it to her, then she mentioned it to Rob Benedict.

Rob: You should do it - you should have a launch party!

Lynn: What?? I’ve never thrown a launch party before. I’d be afraid no one would come!

Rob: I’d come.

Lynn: (joking) Would you bring your band?

Rob: Sure! We’d all come! We’ll even play a few songs! This sounds like fun. Let’s make this into a real party!

So the planning began. The launch date had to fit between the band’s very crowded schedule, the publisher’s release schedule and the contributing cast members’ filming schedule. Plus, where would it be held? Lynn lives on the East Coast, the book was published in the Midwest, the show’s stars spend most of their time in Vancouver, and the majority of the actors live on the West Coast. Then there was the constant question of who would be interested in a book’s launch? What does one even do at a launch party?

Date Unknown. Maybe 3 months before the party?

Lynn: Would you be willing to read a section of your chapter at the launch party?

Me: Read… out loud? To a room full of Supernatural fans? You want me to recite words that I’ve only ever heard in my mind as I struggled to recognize and describe feelings I barely acknowledged in a whisper to my own family? I’ve never even been to an author’s reading. How does this work? Do we all sit around in a circle or something?    

I don’t know how long I wrestled with the concept of publically narrating my story to a room full of strangers before I agreed to be part of the night’s festivities. You wouldn’t think reading words to a live crowd is all that different from writing them in a book that is going to be distributed worldwide but believe me, it is. The book isn’t a reality when you’re writing the story. You type words onto a blank screen on your computer, send the file to a friend who makes some suggestions, then wait, essentially forgetting about it as the editor and the publisher pull it all together (well there’s a bit more to it than that but the steps are essentially correct). You might obsess over every word because you know they can’t be changed once they are printed, but if readers don’t like your story, if they’re bored, or laugh, or roll their eyes, you won’t see their reaction. The humiliation you worry about constantly is intangible, remote, because the delivery is mercifully separated from the reception. In person, the risk of embarrassment or rejection becomes real and immediate, making it even more intense than the anxiety of waiting to read reviews. Reading the words also gives them life. You have to let go of your guarded, public persona and own the revelations you had previously shared only with your computer.

Date: May 9, 2017

Scene: Lynn and five contributors crammed into one hotel room, sitting on window sills, dressers, the edges of beds and the one chair in the room.

Lynn: If you are all willing to do this, I’ve picked the sections in each of your chapters for you to read.

Me: I already picked and practiced a few paragraphs. They are light and fun and easy to get through.

Lynn: But they don’t capture the power of your message. I’d like you to try a passage I’ve chosen. It’s beautiful.

Me: (glancing at the section marked off in pencil) I can’t get through that section without crying! Every single time I’ve read it, even after months of writing, rereading, editing and proofing, I lose it when I get to those paragraphs.

Lynn: It’s totally up to you… but at least consider them. I think they would give people a truer idea of your experience.

Me: I’ll think about it …but can we at least make sure that no one Periscopes me on stage? Can we make an announcement begging fans to not publish videos of us? Please??

The venue for the launch was perfect.

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Surrounded by books, the room had just enough space for a bar (a Supernatural party has to have Purple Nurples), a modest step-up stage that edge to edge could hold 3 out of 4 members of Louden Swain, an open floor that brought fans within inches of their favorite band, 

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and a few seats, all accented by a wall of antique typewriters. The anteroom was a narrow entry way that offered the excited Supernatural patrons two tables of single-serving pies,

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and a small table and folding chair where a vendor sold the books that everyone was clamoring to see for the first time. There was even a “Green Room” (in that alcove where Lynn is standing, above) for the generous actors and staff of our beloved show, some of whom flew across country with no sleep after a full day of filming, to support their friends or to share their story of love for the Supernatural family.

Date: May 9, 2017

Scene: Same crowded hotel room, same group of ladies assembled

Mama Prior: Here are your contributor badges.

Me [Squeeing a bit] Oh, they look so official!

Mama Prior: You’ll need them to get into the Green Room.

Me: There’s going to be a Green Room? That’s usually reserved for actors! You mean we’re going to go “backstage” with the actors??

As a contributor to the book and, for one night a person who had to take the stage, I was given a pass to the Green Room… the very same room where Supernatural cast members would be preparing for their stage appearances. My imagination leapt at the possibility of sitting at private cocktail tables having drinks with Gil McKinney, Rob Benedict, Ruth Connell, Jim Beaver, Curtis Armstrong and whoever else might wander into a Los Angeles party.

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Actually, the reality was quite different than the fantasy. As I had seen at conventions, as each actor arrived they were quickly escorted “behind the curtain” (there literally was a black curtain behind stage that separated the Green Room from the open bar area). I had braced, and promised, myself that I would go up to each person and introduce myself. Being probably my one and only time to meet them for more than the five seconds in a convention autograph line, I was determined to be brave… and cordial, witty, charming and memorable ….so that maybe I could be a part of their lives for just a few hours.

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In fact the opportunity to break into their conversations never really arose.

All of these actors did attend the party, plus Julie McNiven, Rick Worthy, Carrie Genzel, and many, many people I didn’t recognize. It was weeks later, when I read a list of attendees on Lynn’s blog, that I realized I had also been amidst show writers, actors’ families, Supernatural staff members and famous blog/media reporters. UGH! How did I miss all those people?? Maybe because my mind was exploding being in the same space with the people I knew from my TV screen? They all knew Lynn of course, from their months of working with her as they each went through their own personal journey of baring their souls (and their stories) for their chapters. They were also excited to see each other again. Some hadn’t been together for months, maybe even years. There were hugs and catch-up exchanges as the old friends found the comfortable embrace of familiar faces.

Breaking into their reunions would have been rude and awkward. They were husbands and friends and girlfriends in that moment – not actors. So instead of trying to insert myself into their conversations, I hung back and observed as Lynn explained the evening’s events to them. I watched as each person absorbed the suggestion that they give voice to their experiences. 

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What I saw, that I didn’t expect to see, was that they were each just as unnerved and anxious about going on stage and reading their stories aloud as I was.

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I guess I expected that as actors, they would be used to taking the stage, extemporaneously entertaining fans with a microphone and unscripted conversation. I’m not sure if I understood that night (because I was horrifically nervous about my own turn at public exposé) or not until I could reflect on it days later, that publically revealing extremely personal moments, feelings and vulnerabilities is impossibly difficult for everyone, no matter their level of comfort with being in the public eye.

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The actors also recognized that they would only have minutes to prepare their “parts”. They were going on stage first, before the band. The ones who had arrived first took Lynn’s book and scanned the section she had marked for them. I have no idea what they were thinking, but I imagined this had to be similar to reading for a role during an audition, i.e. being handed a page of words that you have no time to absorb (recognizing it was nearly two years between writing and publication. Remember that “forget about it” stage?) and being asked to read them in a high pressure situation, in front of people, with sincerity and raw emotion. Some, such as Jim Beaver, didn’t arrive early enough to see the book beforehand at all. It was handed to him on stage.

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“It’s show time!”

The “fan contributors” in the book live mostly private lives so of course it would be jolting for us to reveal the role a TV show had in shaping our decisions. I had assumed that sharing thoughts on a public stage would be easier, more familiar, to the actors on the show. Instead, I now wonder if it wasn’t more difficult for them.


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I have less than 1000 followers on social media. These actors have tens of thousands (in Jared’s case, millions) of fans who want to know every detail of their existence.

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I knew that most of the people who heard my story that night wouldn’t recognize me after I stepped off that stage. Once I took off that contributor badge, I could blend back into a crowd with relative anonymity. The actors don’t have that safety net, yet they each read their stories aloud, with more sincerity and openness than any of us had a right to imagine.

Once the first round of authors finished their readings, the Louden Swain concert began… and it was incredible!

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The room gave the concert a “coffee house jam” feeling

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– like hearing The Rolling Stones pick up their guitars and play an impromptu set in some dark dive simply because they love music.

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Rob’s promise to “play a few songs” turned into a 40 minute gig.

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The intimacy of fans singing along with “Eskimo” (so close to the stage the mics may have picked up our voices) was just so much fun.

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Too soon, though, it was over. The second stream of actors successively took their turns on stage, some reading, others just saying hello to the SPN Family. Then it was time for the fan contributors to take the stage.

Date: May 10, 2017

Scene: A small nightclub in Los Angeles, California.

Event: Launch party for the book Family Don’t End with Blood

Opening: Singular figure on stage, staring into bright spotlights.

Dialog: I’m Laurena Aker. For the last five years, some of you may have known me as Nightsky on The Winchester Family Business. Until this book I was happily anonymous.

Then it happened. The crowd cheered. As if on cue, I felt the precious support that the actors have talked about so many times; the support of the Supernatural family that played such an important role in so many chapters’ stories. The audience had just purchased their books so I didn’t think anyone yet knew my story.  I can’t really judge if they applauded because they recognized The Winchester Family Business name but I was fairly certain that most of them had never heard of Nightsky. Yet they cheered, and I felt the support that gives you courage to extend beyond yourself and believe that you are safe and accepted no matter how well you do. And yes, I read the paragraphs that Lynn had chosen. She was right – they were better.

So my secret identity was blown. It’s a reality I had to reconcile when I agreed to write about how my love of Supernatural and Twilight combined to create my book, Fan Phenomena: The Twilight Saga. I’m still writing under “Nightsky” because that is how I think of myself as a Supernatural/ WFB writer but I’m still just me. Reporters won’t want to interview me about my experiences. Meet and Greet fans won’t ask me about breaking down into tears in a public park in a faraway country, or not being able to talk in a hospital emergency room.

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I’ve heard actors say (and some talked about this in their chapters) that they love giving life to fictional characters specifically because they have never found their own voice. That night, on that stage, they were talking about themselves, just as Kim, or Lynn, or Karla or I shared ourselves. From what I saw, it was intensely scary for all of us but as I said at the beginning of this account, life changing experiences usually are.

Date: May 27, 2017

Scene: a solitary figure sitting at her desk reading an email from Lynn:

“Hi all, Lua is putting together a video of the entire evening for me to share, so let me know if you are okay with having clips of your readings in [it]…

Inner Dialog: What? No video, remember??   

Several hours and many email exchanges later, I type the words “Yeah, go ahead.”

Closing: Solitary figure drops her head onto her desk.

This book is the latest amazing thing that Supernatural seems to be able to do to, for and with its fans. I don’t think any of us ever expected our stories would touch people. I also never expected to make new friends from hotel roommates I hadn’t met before we shared the trauma and the exhilaration of trusting strangers with our emotions.

Date: May 10, 2017

Scene: A small nightclub in Los Angeles, California.

Event: Launch party for the book Family Don’t End with Blood

Opening: Singular figure on stage, staring into bright spotlights. A voice from off stage can be heard answering the author’s admission that anonymity was now forever lost. I recognize the voice as Lynn's.

“Sorry. Not Sorry!”

You know, neither am I. Here’s to “The Road So Far” and the new experiences that lie ahead.  Thank you SPNFamily for having each other’s backs and making miracles possible. 

 
If you haven't yet seen it (or wish to watch it again), here's the full video of the Family Don't End With Blood Launch Party!
 
If you haven't yet read Family Don't End With Blood (or my book, Fan Phenomena: The Twilight Saga, that I talk about in FDEWB), use the buttons on the Feature Articles or News Pages (top of the pages) or Home Page (middle, right) of The WFB! (Thank you! The small referral fee helps support our site!)
 
If you were at the party, please add your impressions of the evening! I'd also be happy to answer any questions you have about the night, Lynn's book, my book, or the experience itself. As always, I'd also love to hear reactions to the article so comment away!
 
Sincere thanks to @mamaprior for the exclusive launch party photos, @poptivist for the video, and @fangasmspn for the entire experience!