And by people, I mean authors, lol. I will be in Atlanta tomorrow for RWA Nationals, and the place will be chockful of authors (and editors, and agents, and...well, you get the idea). I have to admit, the few authors I've met have typically been my local RWA chapter mates. But I have met a couple of my favorite, non-chapter mate authors (and pray I never act that way with readers who come to see me O_o). No, really, for the most part authors are great; like all groups of people, we have our cranky apples, but I have never felt as welcomed as I have at local meetings or book signings when that Deep South hospitality and southern charm get poured on and arms are opened wide. It's an awesome experience, one I can't wait to have with my own readers someday.
I was once privileged to visit the late Beverly Barton at a local signing. Beverly was a mentor of my sister's, and I stood in the shadow of my twin and listened in awe as they talked like the friends they were, like everyday people with everyday concerns. Beverly joked that she never did a book signing without her husband nearby, and yet somehow, whenever she managed to end up alone at a book signing table, she always attracted the strangest person in the store. Her husband stood behind her during the conversation, silent but smiling and nodding his head. This woman who had written books I had read dozens of times was right there, in front of me, talking away! It was a great moment. A few months later, not long before she died, I gave a short "workshop" on editing at our local meeting, and upon passing me in the hallway, Beverly told me I had done a good job. Wow! Just that one sentence made my day!
Authors have the ability to do that. They can make or break someone's day, their experience at an event, even a reader's experience with that author's next book. I have met a couple of authors whose books I have not picked up since; I have met many whose books I have snatched up at first opportunity afterward, like Annie Solomon. Standing in line with my sister as she waited to speak to Kerrelyn Sparks at the Literacy Signing in Orlando a few years ago, I looked at the seat "next door" and saw the most intriguing book cover I'd ever seen -- a Gothic gate, dark colors, a moody, edgy scene. "Ooh, I wanna read that!" I thought, not even really caring what it was about. I just loved the cover. And being my twin, Dani spoke up and said, "Look at that!" pointing out Annie's book. We snatched it up, reading the back cover, and got even more excited. Annie spoke with us so graciously that night, two readers who knew nothing about her or her writing, that I read her book first when I arrived home from that trip. It was One Deadly Sin, and it was phenomenal. And unbeknownst to me, Annie was a member of a nearby RWA group I later joined, and taught a workshop that helped me finish my problem child manuscript, Take Me. I have never forgotten that moment standing in line, though, speaking to her, and how gracious and kind she was.
I'm thankful I have been able to experience the author/reader meet from the reader's side of the equation, so that when I'm on the author side of that table, I can help make, not break, my readers' day. Meeting people is not easy for me -- being painfully self-conscious most of my life, I tremble and panic at new places, new experiences, and new faces. My editor and agent appointments this Friday at Nationals have me in a bit of a tailspin! But one thing my mama, and now these wonderful authors who have helped me grow into one of them, have taught me is that enthusiasm and genuineness go a long way. I want to be that author, the one that leaves you feeling awesome and inspired and excited.
So, after October, once Dirty Little Secret is out, I hope you get a chance to read it. And I hope I get a chance to meet you. And I hope, somehow, that meeting can make your day a bit brighter, a bit more fun, and your next journey through one of my books a bit more meaningful. :)