[Ed. note: I found out this morning that Daniel Wallace will be in town on September 6 to sign copies of Big Fish (I KNOW!!!!) so I'm going to leave this giveaway open for a few extra days; the winner will now receive a signed copy!]
A few months ago I was listening to a This American Life podcast about coincidence stories; it was an especially good episode, because it featured a number of stories that make you say "NO WAY!" and shake your head at the sheer unbelievability of how such a coincidence could actually occur. As I was listening, I was thinking about the coincidences I've experienced in my life; up until that point, the only one with true staying power was the one about my locks: the Masterlock lock I began using in 7th grade for gym at Kimpton (and still have!) was exactly one digit off the combination for each turn as my high school locker for four years (34-0-14 and 35-1-13). That seems like a really super one to me, but maybe not noteworthy enough to submit to This American Life or anything.
Since I listened to that episode, I now have two more stories to add to my list of coincidence stories. The first the one is about how Maddie's first friend at her new middle school just so happens to be the daughter of a friend of fellow photographer and scrapbooker Christa Paustenbaugh; the girls found each other independently of knowing this connection. It was only until her mama and I struck up a conversation about being new in town and where'd we come from at a school orientation (as you do when you're a military family) that I learned they had just recently come from Japan. Ever the seeker of needles in haystacks, I said "hey, my friend Christa just moved from Japan too!" and she said "hey, she's my friend too!" which I find to be a pretty coincidental kind of discovery. Especially since they weren't assigned to the same place in Japan, but rather met at a previous assignment. Christa had been hoping we'd meet, but hadn't yet given us the heads up to go looking for each other.
The other one is quite possibly the most unbelievable coincidence I've ever experienced. Here goes:
So right after we got back from Disney World last month we took Maddie over to her new school to check things out and get her signed up for the already-in-progress symphonic band camp going on (which, coincidentally, is where Maddie met her new friend). It was scheduled early in the morning a few times a week, and one of the days I took her over Matt didn't have to be at school until a little later in the morning so I opted to explore downtown Montgomery instead of driving all the way home and back. One of the places I went was a bookstore I had scouted out last November when we were online house hunting, Capitol Book & News. We didn't end up renting the house down the street from the bookstore, alas. When I walked in, I could tell that it was a hundred times cooler than my Google Map walking tour let on.
I gleefully explored for about an hour, picking up a few birthday gifts and Other Things I Couldn't Pass By. I took a bunch of photos of books I wanted to remember for later (does anyone else do this in bookstores? I must have 100 photos of me holding books in my hand). My last selection was a copy of Big Fish, which I have written about here before; it's a book/movie that I absolutely, positively loved but is also very significant to me because it was the book that got me to finally work up the nerve to query Simple Scrapbooks back in 2004. I'm pretty sure my copy is missing—I think I must have lent it out at some point so I decided on a whim that it was time to both reread and replace it.
As it was nearing time for me to head back and get Maddie, I wandered back up front to pay. I plunked my books down with Big Fish on top; the lady working smiled and said "ah, Big Fish. That's a great story." I am always happy to strike up a conversation with a friendly bookseller, so I offered that I loved it—both the book and the movie—and was replacing my strangely lost copy. She then went on to ask me if I knew that part of the movie was filmed in Cloverdale, the neighborhood in which this book store is located right here in Montgomery?
I must have looked totally shocked but then launched into an abbreviated and blather-y explanation of why this book was so important to me; she went on to tell the whole story, how Ewan McGregor, Danny DeVito, and the rest of the cast (to include Helena Bonham Carter!) stayed in Montgomery for the months they filmed the movie, occasionally hanging out in the bookstore on their breaks and off-hours as a quiet and safe place to go. She explained that the staff tried very, very hard to maintain nonchalance about the whole thing, earning the trust and goodwill of the actors; the entire bookstore staff was invited to the final post-production dinner as a thank you for their hospitality.
Seriously. I have unwittingly bought a replacement copy of the book that I credit with launching my freelance writing career in the bookstore WHERE THE ACTORS FILMING THE MOVIE VERSION HUNG OUT?!?
I had no idea this movie was filmed in Alabama. There is no amount of head-shaking that will help me to process the unlikeliness of this coincidence, ever. Especially since I've been kind of mulling over taking some big, brave action to do more with my writing since we've moved here. Maybe my coincidence is really just the universe giving me a Big Push. Whatever the case, it truly is a coincidence of mythic proportions.
Do you have a coincidence story? Leave me a comment about it and I'll do a little random drawing in the next day or so to select one person to receive a copy of Big Fish. Because sometimes, you have to share the gifts of the universe : ) As usual with giveaways here, comments remain open until they're closed.