I am a complete and utter dork when I meet authors.
Musicians and performers don’t faze me at all. I’ve chatted about public radio backstage with Garrison Keillor. I’ve talked the blues with Keb’ Mo’. I introduced Joe Bonamassa to the concept of frost heaves. Loudon Wainwright III and I discussed the pros and cons of our local guitar store.
But I can’t seem to carry on an intelligent conversation with an author.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I don’t want to be a musician or performer, but I harbor a (not so) secret desire to write a novel.
That admiration for a talent I long to possess turns me into a blathering fool.
Last December, for instance, I bumped into one of my favorite authors, Jon Clinch, in the lobby of my performing arts center.
I knew he lived in the region, but had no idea that he might be attending our annual showing of the Warren Miller ski movie.
The show was sold out and the lobby was packed. I was trying to navigate through between the box office and the theater, when I came face to face with Jon Clinch.
I said, “You’re Jon Clinch.” Just in case he had forgotten.
He smiled and confirmed that he was indeed Jon Clinch and then looked at me questioningly. I don’t know if wanted to know my name or if he was waiting to hear why I knew he was Jon Clinch.
I babbled some nonsense about being at Booktopia and how much I loved “Kings of the Earth” and ran back to the box office. I didn’t even tell him to enjoy the film.
And yes, I was heading in the other direction before speaking to him.
My meeting with Matthew Dicks at April was as embarrassing, even though we had exchanged emails, tweets and he had even written his own blog post about my writing project.
Before returning to Booktopia, I had visions of impressing Matthew Dicks with my wit and conversation skills. I wanted to thank him for inspiring me to write and, damn it, I really wanted him to like me.
After all, who doesn’t want to befriend someone who is a source of inspiration. And a really good writer to boot.
I thought I would invite him and his wife to get a drink, or have lunch. Sure they probably would be hanging out with other authors, but it seemed like they’d be gracious enough to have a diet coke with me.
But when I saw him in the first session, I froze up.
I couldn’t bring myself to approach him, but he figured out who I was and was very nice. I contributed little to our brief conversation other than telling him how to pronounce my last name and, the next day, asking if my friend could take our picture.
And I barely spoke to him the rest of the weekend.
My most embarrassing author moment was with Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked.”
I loved “Wicked.” I read it twice, and that’s rare for me.
Gregory Maguire has a home in the area but I had never heard him speak so when he appeared at the local independent bookstores, I attended.
He read from his latest book, answered questions for a while and then we all queued up for autographs.
I had brought “Wicked” with me (I know that’s a no-no, but I bought his new book too) and as he signed it I said, “I saw Wicked on Broadway and your book is so much better.”
I had been practicing that line.
He leaned forward and stage whispered, “I think so too.”
Nice moment, right?
Then he went on to say that he thought that in the musical the character of Fiyero “wasn’t dark enough.”
I knew what he meant. That Fiyero’s character was shallow in the show and needed the depth he possessed in the book.
Because I hadn’t practiced anything but that opening line, so I blurted out, “Well, when I saw it he was played by Taye Diggs.”
The underlying meaning of my comment was, “Taye Diggs is so good looking and so talented, that you love him even when the characterization is a little thin.”
But Taye Diggs is black and I was mortified when I realized Gregory Maguire thought I was referring to the actor’s skin color.
He gave me strange look and just handed my book back to me without another word.
I guess I’m lucky he didn’t sign it “To Heather, the racist.”
I’m sure writers meet people all the time and my dorky moments don’t stand out in their memory, but they certainly do in mine.
Maybe someday I can talk to an author and not make a fool of myself. For now, I think I’ll just keep my mouth shut and hope they don’t realize what big dork I truly am.