Every once in a while, a mid-list author gets a break and is treated, well, like royalty. That happened to me this week, and I wanted to share it.
About six months ago I got an email from the chair of the Brandeis Women’s Organization in Tucson, Arizona. Would I be interested in appearing at their Book and Author luncheon in early March? Hmm, let’s see: 20 degrees in Chicago vs. 80 degrees in Tucson; I give a 20 minute speech. They sell my books. Pick up all my expenses. It’s a no-brainer, right?
As it happens, my son graduated from Brandeis a year ago and loved the four years he spent there, so I am predisposed toward any organization associated with the university.
So I packed my bags, making sure my special Eileen Fisher “author event” clothes were clean and relatively wrinkle-free (sadly, I’ve decided people really don’t want to see my color-coordinated sweats and crew socks.) And while I did spill diet coke on my pants during the flight, and the flight itself was 90 minutes late, I did arrive safely.
At which point I was picked up by my “escort” -- thank you Sylvia -- whisked to my hotel, picked up two hours later, and driven to the country club for a gala dinner. OK, we’ve all been to author dinners and banquets, but how many have you been recently to where there was a Swing Band, and everyone danced? There was something sweet, even nostalgic, about it -- a reminder of a kinder, gentler time.
The next morning the “luncheon” started at 9:30. Again I was escorted back to the country club where I signed books, spoke for 20 minutes, ate another delicious meal, and signed more books. Then I was driven back to the airport --I wanted to stay longer, but couldn’t – and boarded the plane back home.
What made me feel like a queen, though, wasn’t just the royal treatment. Part of it was listening and talking to the other three authors who were there.
Gail Sheehy, whose first book Passages, was the template of my life in the 70s, has a new book out called “Sex and the Seasoned Woman” (I listened carefully to that). I also enjoyed humorist Bruce Cameron, who, btw, is a dead ringer for Tom Hanks, although he and I may be the only ones who think so. And children’s author, Marjorie Sharmat, who’s written something like 150 books. The woman deserves a crown for sheer output. Talking to them reminded me of why I do what I do.
But the part that really made the difference for me was the audience's appreciation. Sure, we know people don’t read as much these days, or buy as many books as we’d like, but you wouldn’t know it by this crowd. So many women went out of their way, not only to buy my books, but to say how much they enjoyed what I said about writing; how they love to stay up all night reading just to see how it turns out; how they truly care about the characters we create... the tales we spin... the magic we weave. Hearing people tell me that for 24 hours made me feel part of something important. Something necessary for the spirit.
Michael Dymmoch and I are in the same writing group, and I remember asking her -- just after my first book came out and I still was in that new author haze – “when did you know you were a real writer?” She said she’d known for a long time. That writing was as natural as breathing. That when people asked what she did, she’d automatically say, “I’m a writer.”
It isn’t that way for me. I sometimes still can’t quite believe that I’ve published 4 novels… with more on the way. Except for events like this. I feel like a writer. I feel like a queen.
What about you? When did you know you were a writer? Do you always think of yourself as one?