Hooray! I got to attend the Landry Park Book Launch at my public library last night. It's my co-worker Bethany's debut novel. I'm excited to know someone who has published a book.
I'm such a dork around authors. Even people I know. I work with Bethany. I'm Facebook friends with her. We share the same Myers/Briggs type, as do our mates: Bethany and I are INFPs. Our husbands are ISTJs. I should feel comfortable around her, right?
So I'm standing in line during the event, waiting to have her sign my book. I have a long history of standing in lines awaiting my favorite authors' signatures, and it usually makes a pretty good story. See, David Sedaris. See, Sarah Vowell. See, Laura Moriarty.
So this time I'm standing in line to have my friend who just so happens to be a big time published author sign my book, and all of the sudden I get awkward. I forget to tell her how excited I am for her and how I admire her determination and hard work and how I can't wait to read it.
Instead when I approached Bethany, I said some garbled thing I don't even remember, and I walked away feeling like a dork. It's a sign of big things for her, I think, if Bethany can make me feel as dorky around her as I do other big-time authors.
But don't take my dorky word for it. The book's getting great reviews!
What amazes me about the authors I have met is just how human they are. And then I start thinking, I could do that. I could write stories and go around and read from them and sign people's books and laugh at their jokes and smile for their cameras. That's not so bad.
And then I snap to and realize I'm standing in the real world, in front of a real author, and I have not even found an agent to publish either of my completed manuscripts, nor have I found the time to start writing the third novel idea rattling around inside my head, and so I had best quit planning my own fantasy author tour and focus on the real one going on before me.
That's what great authors do. They provide stories that strengthen our empathy, our imagination, our hope. That's a big fucking deal. No wonder I panic when I'm standing in front of an author.
I shouldn't be so hard on myself for being graceless under pressure. I tend to panic if people are looking at me while I'm trying to convey a thought. I'm better in writing than in person. I need time to compose my thoughts. So, here you go, Bethany. Here's what I tried to say to you last night:
Congratulations! I'm so excited for the publication of your debut novel! I admire your determination and hard work. I can't wait to read it!
I didn't feel like a dork for long after I walked away from Bethany's book signing table last night. I opened my book and saw what she wrote to me:
Just like how the best friends are the ones who turn the conversation back to you, so are the best writers the ones who readily encourage others to write too. Thank you, Bethany. You're an inspiration.