Last week at BEA in New York city, I had the good fortune to attend the sparkly fancy rooftop Harlequin party. I had been looking forward to this for ages and I wasn't disappointed. Amazing food, splendid views of the Chrysler building, attentive bartenders, awesome company, everyone dressed to the nines and feeling festive.
I was chatting away with Rachel Vincent and Julie Kagawa, pinching myself and wondering how on earth I arrived at this moment. Rachel and Julie are as nice as could be, and down-to-earth as all get out, but they are both also New York Times bestsellers. Considering that a few years ago, being published seemed like the impossible dream, I am still stunned every time I find myself in the company of famous authors. These are the celebrities of my life, the people I'm tongue-tied around.
In the last four decades I've had a chance to meet a few luminaries here and there. My ex's company often had celebs entertaining at company parties, and for a while we lived in an area where lots of bay area sports stars lived as well. They were generally nicer than you'd expect, but they didn't ever give me a *thrill*.
Not so with authors. You know how, on the back page of Bon Appetit, they always interview some celeb and ask them who they'd invite to dinner? For me, the answer's easy - authors, start to finish. Old ones, young ones, dead ones, literary ones, trashy ones. My list might include Jayne Anne Phillips, Cormac McCarthy, and Daniel Woodrell. Or it might be Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Weiner, and Joe Hill. Depends on my mood.
Actually, speaking of Daniel Woodrell, he was the subject of my biggest fan-girl moment ever: a friend offered to introduce me to him at a party last fall. Suddenly, I turned to mush. I could barely nod, my knees knocked together, my hands shook, I nearly fell over, and I couldn't manage a single word for the great man other than "uh, hi."
I was an eleven-year-old school girl meeting Joe Jonas. He was kind, solicitous even, and all I could do was stammer until I was dragged away.
After I'd been chatting with Rachel and Julie a while, that same look suddenly took hold of their faces. I was seated across from them, with my back to the party, so I twisted around to see what they were looking at...just as one of them whispered in a voice full of awe:
"It's Margaret Atwood."
No lie, people. Atwood, for reasons unknown, had come to the party and was standing in the middle of a crush of smart, talented literati.
I knew the look on Rachel and Julie's faces - I'm older than them, old enough to have read A HANDMAID'S TALE at an age where my ideas about the world were being formed, to read CAT'S EYE in the confusing thunderous arrival of adulthood. Her words shaped me. She is, without a doubt, a more significant presence to me than any actor or reality TV celeb on the screen in the last decade.
I never did make it over to wait to shake her hand. For me, gazing from afar - spellbound and star-struck - was enough.