Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Blog hiatus, Day Four, Question Four

Jeff Somers at Little City Books

Today's question is courtesy of Karen McCoy
Have you met any authors in real life and what was the take-away from that experience?


Where There's A Quill said...

The only author I've met is Markus Zusak. Just after 'Underdog' - his debut novel - had been published, he was invited to present at my school in Brisbane. He told his story of receiving rejection after rejection, of how he started writing as a teenager, and I was enthralled. I already knew I wanted to be a writer, but that certainly fanned the flames.

Also, I suppose that makes Markus Zusak the first person to give me The Talk about query rejection...

CynthiaMc said...

I had never heard of Jonathan Maberry or read him, but we became Twitter friends through research nerdiness. When he tweeted that he was going to be speaking at an event at the Orlando library, I went to hear him out of courtesy to my Twitter friend (no one likes to speak to an empty room). Little did I know, he was the keynote speaker. His talk was fabulous, we had a nice chat, and I bought what was then his newest book (Kill Switch), which he autographed for me. That darned book kept me up several nights in a row. I highly recommend it.

If you have the opportunity to meet him, take it. He is a wonderful writer and also a nice guy.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

After the death of my parents I discovered 125 letters they had written to each other during WWII. I was interviewed about the letters on TV. At the time everyone (including the TV producers) wanted me to write a book about the letters. It became my WIP.
In 2011 my daughter arranged for me to meet with Professor, writer, (author of many books), and TV personally Ellen Fitzpatrick. Her book, LETTERS TO JACKIE, Condolences from a grieving nation, had just come out. She was speaking at a huge author event in Vermont and agreed to meet with me before her talk and reading.

Graciously she gave me time and focused on MY project while all around her people gathered to see her. She was wonderful. Her encouragement, advice and attentiveness had me floating. I never did finish that WIP but I did continue as an op-ed writer and went on to be a columnist. Over the years many people have come to me for advice like I went to her.
The gist of what Ellen told me:
Never published or well-known each new project becomes a mission to finish and a battle to get published. Do not get discouraged.

Happy 4th boys and girls.

Kitty said...

Back when I worked at the shoe store, I was always looking for ideas to make life interesting at an otherwise utterly boring job. My boss had found a little stuffed Tigger in the store and kept it in the office. One night, I took a Polaroid picture of Tigger holding a hobo’s bindle on a little twig over his shoulder and sitting on the emergency exit arm. I knew Boss would notice Tigger was missing when he came in the next day, and he did. I know nothing, I said, but Boss knew something was brewing.

The next day, Boss got an envelope in the mail at the store from “Tigger’s Excellent Polaroid Adventures.” In the envelope was the Polaroid with the message from Tigger saying he was off to see the world. Every day, for about 3 weeks, Boss got an envelope with a Polaroid showing Tigger in different situations: bunging jumping off a bridge and trying to get in the local strip joint and inside the tattoo parlor (my daughter took him in there because I was too 'timid'). I asked stranger’s if they would allow me to take their picture with them holding Tigger, and everyone agreed, including a paramedic and a mohel. My husband’s first wife, who loved the idea, even offered to take Tigger back to Florida with her, photograph him, and return him with pictures. And she did.

Boss’ birthday was during Tigger’s Excellent Polaroid Adventures. And it just so happened, at the same time, the “Close to Home” cartoonist John McPherson, who was born and raised here, was at the bookstore down the street at a book signing. So I stood in line with his new book, and when it was my turn, I asked him if he’d pose with Tigger. He stopped by the store later, and he didn’t just pose with Tigger; he drew a cartoon specifically for Boss.

Boss looked forward to a new envelope every day and was sorry when I ran out of ideas.

Approaching strangers, especially John McPherson, was a HUGE hurdle for me.
And yet I was able to explain why I was asking and talk them into what could have been an embarrassing situation for them. My take-away: It never hurts to ask.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Years ago I met David McPhail, the children’s author and illustrator. He is a lovely man. I have two handwritten and illustrated letters from him offering to illustrate one of my early poetic works if it was getting published.

I’ve also met the poet Robert Bly, I had a handwritten and encouraging letter from him about the same work. I seem to have lost both the work and his letter but I will never forget his kindness. He did a reading at the Frost Place years ago.

I’ve also met Lisa Gardner. We did a video interview in her home because she is a supporter of our local animal shelter. She is quite a character, very funny and likable. She gave us some of her books in Swedish. Her new book parties are held in our local pub every year.

What David told me was to hold onto everything you’ve written because once you’re published they will want it all. Robert Bly told me to take what I already have in my work and add more detail to it. Lisa told me, she starts a story and then “bad things ensue!” Said with a wicked grin.

MA Hudson said...

I've met quite a few authors through SCWBI and they've all been incredibly friendly and encouraging. They're also 100% comfortable with public speaking and seem to derive the majority of their income from school visits.

S.P. Bowers said...

Diana Gabaldon. I was too star struck to say anything and just stood there with a (probably creepy) smile on my face. My take away: I'm a dork and I should never meet people I admire.

Rakie said...

A few years ago I managed to blag my way onto the committee of the local literature festival and it was the best thing I've ever done. The festival is now in its sixth year and it's given me the chance to meet a bunch of amazing authors, plus introduced me to books I probably would never have discovered on my own. All the authors who've attended our festival have been delightful, super-friendly, really eager to go out of their way for people (even the ones who are a bit standoffish online) and generally lovely. I've discovered the best way to make friends is to offer to buy them drinks and talk enthusiastically about books (either their own or someone else's).

Claire Bobrow said...

I've met a number of authors at SCBWI events and conferences, and they've all impressed me with their knowledge, enthusiasm, warmth, and incredible work ethic. Maybe the one that stands out most is the first children's author I ever met: Salina Yoon. She's also an illustrator, btw. Salina is not only super-talented, but she works likes nobody's business. Every year she submits dozens of projects, many of which never see the light of day. But she keeps on trucking.

Oh, and then there's my mom. She's a historian and has 3 books published by the University of Tennessee Press :-)

Sam Mills said...

I was going to say I'd only ever been to book signings and big convention panels (and therefore just a blip in an audience and 5 seconds of "hi I love your work thank you goodbye"). But CynthiaMC's comment reminded me: duh! I've been attending the monthly Writer's Cofeehouse in San Diego, which is run by Jonathan Maberry. He really is that nice! He makes himself available for free advice and pep talks and industry questions just because.

I've also tentatively been making friends with short SFF writers online and a couple were sweet and generous enough to reach out to me when my first story came out. So the takeaway was feeling very flustered and happy and determined to go to the Nebula Convention (it's in L.A. the next two years) so I can meet everyone in person.

Timothy Lowe said...

I once jammed onstage with Stephen King and then...oh wait, you did say dream sequences counted, right?

One Of Us Has To Go said...

I met Kelley Armstrong (author of 31 novels; BITTEN was her first one) as I went to her one-day workshop, which was AMAZING.

I learned so much from her during just that one day! (I have been to two others that taught me next to nothing.)

It was motivating how she briefly spoke about her struggle to get published with BITTEN, which then went on to being so successful (TV even in the US).

And, of course, I loved it when SHE loved my opening pages of my current WIP, as I read them out loud!
*Big smile*

Colin Smith said...

Most of the fiction writers I've met were at Bouchercon a few years ago. I actually shared some conversation with these writers, so it wasn't just a "sign my book and smile" experience. And I actually got to spend time with some of them:

Donna Everhart
Patrick Lee
Loretta Ross
Karin Slaughter
Andrew Grant
Donna Andrews
Alafair Burke
Terri Lynn Coop
Sophie Littlefield
Megan Miranda
Terry Shames

My experience of meeting these folks? They were all nice people, generous with their time, and genuinely pleased to hear appreciation for their work. My take-away from the experience? Don't be afraid to talk to people. There may be a few jerks out there, but most people are not like that. Even ones who have sold a book or two. :)

Steve Stubbs said...

I was walking through a bookstore and saw a fellow sitting at a table dressed in a suit. The man was dressed in a suit, that is, not the table. He looked at me as if I were an old friend from high school and he was glad to see me. When he realized I had no idea in hell who he was, he looked embarrassed and sat back down. As I walked by, I noticed he was sitting next to a stack of books about some forest somewhere named Tiger Woods. I assumed Tiger Woods was a nature preserve in Bangladesh but did not stop to ask.

This is a guess, but unless he likes to dress up and sit alone in bookstores at tables covered with books, he was probably an author. I was too preoccupied at the time to find out and did not think about it until later.

I don't shoot animals for sport, so game preserves do not interest me. I was just walking through the bookstore to get to the restroom.

I decided when my forthcoming book, THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO COLLECTING BELLY BUTTON LINT AS A HOBBY comes out, I am NOT NOT NOT going to dress up and sit alone at any tables. Authors are not celebs. Not not not.

The takeaway is, if the shopping mall is configured so you have to walk through a bookstore to get inside the mall, sometimes you cross paths with some really weird people trying to find the restroom.

Colin Smith said...

... and I know I'm forgetting a few people. Of course, the highlight of my Bouchercon was meeting Janet for the first time. As much as she may deny it, I think we would all embrace her (tentatively--we like our arms) as a writer too. ;)

Janet Reid said...


Theresa said...

Several! And they each confirmed why they are good writers: they have good stories to tell.

Heather Marsten said...

Yes, many. I attend writing workshops, live near Woodstock New York, and also take classes through Writers in the Mountains (classes taught by published authors). My take away is there is no easy road to publishing success. Every author struggles to find the right words. One published book does not mean the future is smooth sailing for the second book. Each author must promote their books and take time to interact with their readers. The other takeaway is that I meet authors every day. Each person who puts pen to paper is an author, whether their book is published or not.

Sherry Howard said...

I know a lot of authors, mainly children’s authors, but not all. I have four contracts for children’s books, with four or five coming out within the next year and a half, so I think I even qualify soon, albeit with small and educational publishers. Honest observation: the more “successful” the person is, the less able they seem to be themselves in a relaxed way. It reminds me of when I lived and shopped in the neighborhood where I was a principal and ran into students and parents everywhere I went—I maintained a certain polite distance. Friendly, but not lingering. Otherwise I’d have talked shop around the clock. It was a little bit of armor to preserve my energy.

One author I knew through social media exchanged massive frank information via email after she signed a huge contract, one of those six figure ones. I often wonder if she’d still be as communicative. I think she would. Another best-selling author I know is so egotistically driven by her own success that it’s no longer fun to be around her. A third is an absolute delight.

So, in my experience, authors are people, with individual personalities and needs. Most of my social interaction is with authors at varying stages in their careers. I’m happy to be in their company!

Dellcartoons said...

Ferrett Steinmetz did a couple of book signings in my area. He had a Q&A, then went for drinks w/ as many of us as wanted to

My takeaway? He's just as cool IRL and he is on his blog

BrendaLynn said...

I shared an elevator with Diana Gabaldon. It was just the two of us and I was too star struck to say anything, which is totally out of character for me and an indication of how important writing is in my life. Take-away: speak up!
I’ve been riding elevators continuously since then in hopes of a second chance but she hasn’t shown up.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

I also learned from Lisa Gardner that writing is a job. It’s a good job but still a job. She has a yearly schedule. She writes a book, it gets published, she tours and promotes the book, she comes home, gets a break, and writes a book. And the book had better be what her audience wants.

When we started out doing video we had plenty of young people who wanted to intern. We could wear them out in a day. They wanted to do creative, meaningful movies right away and we’d say, “carry this camera, move those lights, we’re shooting a tourism spot here.” I did get to do some good long form video work but much of it is making a living.

The most rewarding writing experiences I have had are from writing plays. I’ll never forget sitting in a school theater with 350 kids, turning around and seeing every pair of eyes focused on the stage. If your goal in writing is to affect people, I’d say do some live theater. I was shocked to see a grown man leaving one of my shows with tears in his eyes. And one about teen age suicide caused plenty of rewarding controversy.

I think I’ve learned the most about the writing business right here and through Query Shark.

Kim Wyant said...

I've met a lot of authors, many when I lived in Denver near The Tattered Cover bookstore such as Diana Gabaldon, Clive Cussler, and Diane Mott Davidson. I've met Nora Roberts, Sylvia Day, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and a whole lot more since I started writing romances and attended several writing conferences. Most authors are very willing to talk about writing and offer advice and are supportive of those aspiring to be published like me.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Margaret Atwood 4 years ago in a university theater. She read an excerpt from her latest work and talked about writing. It was like being in the presence of a benevolent deity. She was very nice. All of us looked spellbound. Everyone was ready to give up their kidneys if she said she needed them to fertilize her hydrangeas.

Takeaway: It doesn't suck to be Margaret Atwood.

Kristin Owens said...

I met Chuck Wendig twice last year.

The first time, I had no idea who he was... he looked like some writer struggling like the rest of us. But when he got up to give the keynote at the local conference, I was blown away by his humor and personality.
Afterwards, we chatted while he signed my book. He's down to earth, a great guy with no pretenses.

A few months later I saw him again at a huge national conference and he recognized me (I have awfully big hair) and was kind enough to take photos with me. I started following his blog and buying more of his writing books (Damn Fine Story is an excellent book on craft).

I feel like I *know* someone in the business. But more importantly, he showed me how a successful author should act and engage with his readers. A class act.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I've known Sara Gruen before she was Sara Gruen (if ya know what I mean). She originally contacted me about writing a blurb for her first book. And then she became a champion of our work here at the sanctuary.

Rick Bragg, I've met him several times. He used to frequent the bar were I worked in my early 20's. Years later, he and I were both featured authors at a book festival in Nashville, TN. (His session drew a bigger crowd than mine). We chatted for about a half hour about the good ol' days on Anna Maria Island.

I attend a lot of author events/signings, so I have met numerous writers. Some of these meetings were simply them signing their book to me and me thanking them. Many have become real life friends.

Donna Everhart
Susan Pogorzelski
Anna Blake
Janis Kearney
Dr. Nick Trout
Brenda McClain
Jessica Keener
Brian Panowich
Mike Lupica
Cara Achterberg
Daren Wang
Joshilyn Jackson

There's more, but I'll stop now. I'm looking at my shelf of signed books from writerly friends or authors I've simply met at an event. It's a long list. My take-away? They're human.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

I stumbled across a lovely satire and was an instant fan of the author's.

The next year, I got to meet him. He had just the wicked grin that you would expect.

JEN Garrett said...

I once met the wonderful Deborah Underwood, author of Here Comes Easter Cat and The Quiet Book. But when I met her, I was so worried that I'd mess up, so I failed to mention her own titles. Talk about awkward! Takeaway: if I'm worried I'll mess up on the titles preface it with something like conference frazzledness and go ahead and try to talk about the author's work!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Last summer I met Anne Serling at a con, and I got a copy of her book "As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling". She was very kind and gracious and I haven't read the book yet because apparently that's who I am as a person right now.

I've also met Libby Cudmore (she wrote the mystery novel The Big Rewind), Shannon Delaney (She wrote the Thirteen to Life YA series), Alice Lichtenstein (Genius of the World was her first book), Tori Curtis (her first book is Eelgrass), and me! I've met me! :D

My takeaways from those meetings (some of my list I know better than others) are that writers are people too. Which I'm not saying to be flip, but rather, to observe that the writers I've met aren't always talking about writing (even if sometimes you'd really like to actually).

Barbara Etlin said...

Apparently Margaret Atwood was my nature and canoeing instructor at camp when I was about nine, but I don't remember her from that. I've heard her speak. I sold her a writing journal when I worked at a pen and stationery store. (She used my surname for one of her characters in Life Before Man.) I learned that she's got a dry sense of humour and likes plain, lined notebooks.

I interviewed James Houston for a profile that became a cover story in enRoute magazine. I learned a lot from him, but I think the most important thing was that it's never to late to become a writer. He had no thought of writing until he was in his mid 40s. And it's good to take chances on new things and meet new people. One of those random meetings was the right editor at the right time who saw his potential and encouraged him to write. He wrote about 50 books, illustrating several of them, and won many awards.

Barbara Etlin said...

"too" not "to"

Lennon Faris said...

Only in my elementary schools. I've always *wished* I could meet C.S. Lewis, though.

Like S.P.Bowers, I am sadly afflicted with severe star-struckitis. I'm sure I'll face my affliction some day. Maybe at an SCBWI conference!

Janet, if we ever meet at a future conference (when you start repping YA), how about a crisp high five?

Kate Larkindale said...

I've met many authors over the years through running events at a venue I ran, and because I love going to book signings at my local bookstore when I can. But I think the one I remember the most, and the one that has always meant the most to me was when I was about five I met Tomi De Paula at a bookstore in Washington DC. I still have the two books he signed for me: The Clown of God and Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs....

CynthiaMc said...

Sam, that sounds fantastic! I envy you. Please tell Jonathan hello for me next time you see him.

charlogo said...

Luckiest thing that ever happened to me was being involved in a reading program that, for several years, brought authors to the community college where I worked. I love and adore Rick Bragg, Jonathan Safran Foer, Ruta Sepetys, Jamie Ford, and many others who gave of themselves to benefit students who needed to hear their words of encouragement. After a long day of meeting with groups and classes, every author sat late into the night autographing books and chatting, undaunted by the long line of people that wrapped around the auditorium. I guess my take-away is that I got to see who those authors really were by the way they treated the students. It was amazing and inspiring.

Beth Carpenter said...

I'm heading to my first writer conference in a couple of weeks, and am looking forward to finding out if the authors I "know" online are the same people in person.

Karen McCoy said...

I am loving everyone's stories! I've met Jonathan Maberry too, and he is simply delightful.

Every time I meet an author, I feel like I get a tip that helps me grow as a writer. Sandra Cisneros taught me how to write like no one is listening, and to get rid of my internal censor. Laini Taylor taught me that there are no wasted words.

But one of my most unforgettable experiences was meeting Neil Gaiman. I had a copy of GOOD OMENS, already signed by Terry Pratchett, and awaiting Mr. Gaiman's signature. A few years before, I hadn't been able to see Mr. Pratchett in person because my former library wouldn't let me take the time off (even though I'd had ample vacation built up), so I got my signed copy online. Missing the opportunity to see him, though, inserted a thorn in my craw that I couldn't quite dislodge.

As I approached the Mr. Gaiman's table, years later, I explained this story to him--and with a wry grin, he said, "Damn them." Thorn in craw officially removed.

What I learned from Mr. Gaiman is when life seems upside down, it will, inevitably right itself again--even if it's in a way you don't expect.

BrendaLynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen McCoy said...

Ooh, yes, BrendaLynn, I squeed at that episode for sure.

BrendaLynn said...

Drafted autocorrect.
How not to meet a famous author.
Neil Gaiman on Big Bang Theory.

BrendaLynn said...

Honestly, I’m cursed today! Dratted not drafted.

Craig F said...

For nigh onto twenty five years ( November will be that anniversary), the St. Pete Times has hosted the Times festival of Reading. It is a marvelous thing that I have visited a few times.

I have met a few authors there and bought drinks for some of them. Most notable among them are Mike Connelly and Dennis LeHane. My take is that they are people just like the rest of use. They usually try to help and are often very happy to be treated like people, not clay footed gods.

Do that and you will get more mileage from meeting them, if the situation allows. Play nicely.

Jeannette Leopold said...

I met George Saunders through my creative writing teacher in college. I remember thinking he was really down to earth and funny, and this one line from him: never judge someone who pronounces a word wrong. It means they learned it reading.

Heather Marsten said...

Janet Leopold - your comment made me smile. My mom had an eighth grade education and did not do much reading. I read voraciously and mispronounced lots of words. In Junior High we had to take a speech class. One assignment was to interview someone in a career. I chose a psychologist. One of my interview questions was, "Did you read Sigmund Freud." I pronounced it feud. In a way it was accurate for it fit Freud's theories, but I'm grateful the therapist didn't laugh at me.

Jen said...

Back when I was a freshman at Frankfurt American High School in Germany (and just beginning to fill my spiral notebooks with stories), one of my friends, Todd Peterson, had his father Michael come to speak to our English class. It was the fall of 1990. Michael Peterson wrote thrillers, but I'd never heard of the man (I wasn't much into thrillers at the tender age of fourteen), but I was so in awe of being able to hear a real author speak to our class. I wanted so desperately to be a writer, and sitting in that library, I hung on his every word. I remember him being kind and gracious. He told us a couple of touching stories (one in particular about Sylvester Stallone), and encouraged us to write and follow our dreams, to not be afraid of failure. I felt like he was speaking directly to me. I've never forgotten it.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. I'm dealing with a bad case of insomnia and decide to see what I can binge on Netflix. The first thing that pops up is a trailer for "The Staircase." I'm sitting there with my jaw on the floor, watching Michael Peterson on trial for the murder of his second wife. Images of Todd rolled by, and I had to double check my Facebook to make sure I wasn't confused. Was this the same Todd? Was his father really on trial for this? Turns out I wasn't confused. You could've bowled me over with a whisper I was so shocked.

It took time, but I finally made it through all the episodes. If you haven't seen them, I encourage you to do it. It's a very powerful look inside our broken criminal justice system. And it's a very sad story of how it can destroy a person's life.

AJ Blythe said...

Thanks to being in Oz and being an active volunteer for RWAust, I've been fortunate enough to meet and get to know hundreds (scarily that's literal) of authors. Quite a lot are now friends.

I've learnt that successful authors are like you and me, they just never gave up.

Danny Walter said...

Back in the nineties, I was writing in a cafe when a gentleman walked up and asked if I was a writer.

"I'm aspiring to be." I said.

"No man, you got to own it!" He said.

"All right, I'm a writer."

He asked what kind of writing I did, and I said most of what I wrote turned out to be plays.

"I write plays too." He said.

I could tell he wanted to talk so I invited him to sit down, and he did. I said, "My name is Danny." and put out my hand.

He shook with me and said, "My name's August."

Bells started going off in my head. Holy Cats! Did Pulitzer prize winning playwright August Wilson just sit down across from me? Yes he did.

He chatted with me for about an hour. He was sitting over in the smoking section working on his latest play, King Hedley II. I was a little embarrassed that I wasn't completely familiar with all his plays, but he didn't seem to mind.

He told me when he first started out how he kept submitting his first play to the Eugene O'Neil play competition but kept getting rejected. Then he had a conversation with himself. He asked himself how he was ever going to get accepted? He was writing the best he could. He answered himself saying he would need to write better than his best.

"How do I write better than my best? He asked.

"You can write less than your best, right?"

"I guess."

"Then you can write better than your best."

Mr. Wilson said he did just that. The next year his first play, Jitney, was accepted and he won.

He also told me that when he writes, he tells himself that he is sitting down in Eugene O'Neil's chair. Or Chekov's chair, or even Shakespeare's chair. That inspires him to write better than his best.

We finished up our conversation and he went back to his booth in the smoking section. I wondered who's chair he was sitting in that day.

When I sit down to write, sometimes I tell myself I'm sitting in August's chair. I haven't quite caught the knack of writing better than my best, but I'll get there some day.

Who's chair do you sit in when you write?

Joseph Snoe said...

I've met a few - every single one of them as nice as can be.

Sherin Nicole said...

All the authors I've met have been committed to being who they are—no matter what kind of person they are. I think that honesty is what draws readers to their work.