This week’s topic is Fan Fare – about meeting an idolized author at a signing. Well, not a lot of authors come to these parts, so my experiences at signings are kind of few and far between. That said, a few years back, I went to a conference in New York hosted by Backspace. For anyone who doesn’t know, Backspace is a great resource for writers and I think the greatest part of being a member is the message board, which is filled with great information and is frequented by writers at all stages of their careers. I’d been an active member on the board for a while, so I ‘knew’ some of the writers who would also be going to the conference, but I’d never met any of them in person.
But I was determined to go and network and pack as much learning and schmoozing as I could into the three days that I was there.
So before I went, I heard about a group signing that was going on at the legendary Books of Wonder store and since members of Backspace would be there, of course I went to support fellow authors and see them in action. Being the shy person that I am, I sat in the back and watched as the five authors in turn read and/or spoke about their books. After that, the authors started signing books, so I ran off to collect and buy their books and get in line. I was SO nervous. I really was. I don’t know why—wait—yes, I do. Because I’m shy and even though I’d interacted with two of these authors online, they were still AUTHORS! PUBLISHED authors who got up in front of people and spoke about their books (something I’m still as in awe of as much as that they wrote the books in the first place). You should know by now that I’m not great in public and I don’t relish meeting strangers, and I really am not the kind of person who thrives in ‘small talk’ situations, so yeah, I was nervous. Which I’m sure meant I had to pee, which would have made me even more nervous. Yikes.
But I was determined, and if anything has gotten me anywhere in this life, it’s that I’m determined and refuse to let my fears stop me from doing anything (except skydiving, but I think that’s prudent, don’t you?) so I stood in line to see Lisa McMann, NYT Bestseller, and have her sign my book and tell her who I was and remind her how we’d joked around on the message board.
And you know what? She actually seemed happy to see me! She thanked me for coming to the event and signed my book and smiled and was genuine. Wow, she was SO nice! I didn’t want to take up her time, so then I moved over to Linda Gerber’s line. And you know what? She was so nice, too! Don’t get me wrong, I never expected these authors to be anything less than nice, but maybe I expected them to be less…human? Genuine? I don’t know. Any sort of pedestal that I put them on was completely my doing, but when I met the humans sitting there, graciously signing books, I saw them as what they really are—normal people just like me.
I also met Melissa Walker that night and then the three authors (the other two authors, who I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t remember, went their separate ways after the signing, I believe) came to the pre-conference party at the famous Algonquin Hotel where a huge assembly of like-minded people* met and talked (and drank). I still count it among one of the best nights of my life. Because when you meet kindred spirits that may just be further along in their careers than you are, it’s a reminder that we’re all alike and everyone started somewhere and we all have the same passion. I’m also convinced that writers (my fellow Debs, included!) are among the most supportive groups of people out there and that night, I learned it first-hand7. I am so glad I went to that signing and conference, because although I was nervous and it took me out of my comfort zone, I met great people there, and now I don’t just call them published authors anymore, I also call them friends**.
*also including Jenny Gardiner (past Deb), Danielle Younge-Ullman (also past Deb, who I already knew from our little crit group back home), Deb Friend A.S. King, Catherine DiCairano, Carolyn Burns Bass and tons of other amazing people.
**Except for the guy who decided to help himself to my very expensive cheese plate while I was otherwise occupied, talking to awesome writer people. Dude, that was my cheese—not cool.