Amy Guffey loves Nicholas Sparks.
"I have all his books and all his movies and I've always wanted to meet him and I'm just glad to be here," she said without taking a breath as she waited in line Saturday morning to meet Sparks at She: An Expo for Women.
"I have 'The Notebook' because it's his first book, and 'Safe Haven' because the movie is coming out," she said, waving the books around. "I'm just going to tell him it's great to finally meet him and I love all his work."
Guffey drove in from Alabama to join about 6,000 other people at the Chattanooga Convention Center Saturday. The event featured three celebrity guests yesterday: author Nicholas Sparks and reality TV stars Bill and Giuliana Rancic. The Expo continues today with appearances by "Dancing with the Stars" contestants Mark Ballas and Cheryl Burke.
Sparks signed books for two hours Saturday, then went onstage for "An Afternoon with Nicholas Sparks." The highly successful author has written 17 best-sellers and generated $80 million in worldwide sales. He said the most difficult part of being so successful is trying to always create better work.
"After you've written, 17, 16 novels and eight or nine or 10 are made into films, how do you write something that's better than all that?" he asked. "It's very tough. It's a high hurdle to manage. Because exceeding expectations not only means it has to feel original and interesting and universal, but it's got to surprise you. And surprise is very challenging to pull off after so many novels."
Sparks said every novel he writes is unique.
"There is no formula to what I do," he said. "It's probably the most challenging part of the genre. Every novel is structured differently with different voice, different pacing, different lengths, different ages of the characters, different dilemmas."
When expo guests weren't listening to Sparks speak, attending a kitchen show or collecting door prizes, they browsed through over 160 booths that featured products ranging from lotion to garage doors.
Kathie Proffitt, a designer at Yessick's Design Center, said she thinks the Expo is a great opportunity for local businesses to strut their stuff.
"I think the exposure is why everyone is here," she said. "To let people know not just about our own business, but everybody's business -- and what there is to offer in Chattanooga for women."
Reality TV stars Giuliana and Bill Rancic spoke to audience members for about 45 minutes Saturday afternoon. Lori Kyle attended the talk because she said she's been inspired by the couple, who have shared many personal struggles -- including Giuliana's battle with breast cancer -- on their show.
"My mom had cancer," she said. "I guess just from seeing my mom and what she went through, I could recognize what Giuliana was going through and how daunting and scary it was."
Bill said people like Kyle are the reason he and Giuliana produce the show.
"We're the executive producers of the show, so we try to use it as a platform for good things and not evil things," he said. "It's been great because it's been very rewarding, and so worth doing when just one person says we made a positive impact on their life."
The Expo continues today from noon to 6 p.m. Tickets cost $12 at the door and $10 online. The Expo is co-sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press and Memorial Health Care System.
Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...