Published authors are magical people to me. I am so in awe of people who gather their thoughts, write them down, solicit a publisher, go through the process of drafts, edits, and then, finally, publishing. This year I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet three authors in person, of three books that I love.
In May I was visiting a friend from college who I hadn’t seen in more than a decade. I was on a business trip to Seattle; she lives not far from there so I spent the weekend with her. I glanced on her coffee table and saw a book called, “The Happiness Project.” I had heard of the book, and it was on my list of “to read.” I picked it up and asked her how it was. “I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. You should take it.” I did. And loved it. Loved the idea of making small, sustainable changes in your life to increase your overall happiness. Who knew that making my bed every day would bring me so much joy?
In September I attended the Mighty Summit, a weekend gathering organized by Maggie Mason and Laura Mayes, which was simply amazing. Maggie and Laura gave the gift of a relaxing weekend in Guerneville to 22 women. We ate delicious meals together, bonded over stories shared, and supported each other in our life list goals. The first evening, many women were relaxing in the hot tub and I decided to join them. As I eased down into the steaming water, I introduced myself to the woman next to me. She introduced herself. Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen Rubin? How many Gretchen Rubin’s could there be? The author of The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin? As has happened previously when around people I admire and respect, I became completely tongue tied. We made small talk for a few minutes before I blurted out, “I really liked your book.” My inner voice immediately spoke up. “Really? You meet an author you respect in a somewhat intimate setting, and that’s what you come up with? You sound like you’re in second grade.” Gretchen, however, was incredibly gracious. For the rest of the weekend, the conversation flowed smoothly. We talked about finding the perfect apartment in big cities, children’s antics, and the value of keeping a fully stocked costume box (replete with wigs). I left the weekend not only feeling like I knew the author, but had connected with an incredibly witty and charming woman.
In November, a dear friend gave me tickets to hear Joan Didion speak in San Francisco. I discovered Joan Didion’s work about 5 years ago, and have devoured it since. I love her straightforward, no-nonsense style. How she weaves together words in unusual ways. How she writes, describing a scene so vividly, that I’m transported there, forgetting where and when I’m really living.
We listened, rapt, throughout the discussion. Afterwards Emily suggested we wait in line to get our books signed. The line moved quickly and before we knew it, we were standing in front of Ms. Didion. Once again, I stammered, completely tongue-tied in front of a woman who I admire more than any other author.
The day before I left to return to North Carolina for the holidays, my dad sent me an email. “I met this woman. She’s been to 67 countries. She wants to meet you. Download her book and that can be part of your Christmas present.”
I downloaded the book, An Unreasonable Woman, In Search of Meaning Around the Globe. I started reading it before bed on my first night in North Carolina. And couldn’t put it down. My eyes were droopy, but I wanted to read just one more chapter. And then another one. And another. Until I looked at the clock and realized it was 3 am. Oh, goodness.
I was beyond enthralled. Here was a woman who had perfect pitch, was an accomplished accordion player, and had decided to travel the world on her own in the 1950s, earning money as she traveled. What chutzpah!
Dad arranged for her to come to lunch one afternoon. Oh, goodness. Another opportunity to meet an author that I admired. I envisioned sitting there in silence, tongue-tied, as I’ve been with other favorite authors. Should I list topics in advance that I wanted to talk about? Should I have some questions prepared? What if she was nothing like her writing?
I shouldn’t have worried. She arrived and greeted me with the most incredibly warm, sparkling blue eyes I’ve ever seen. Her peaceful manner invited conversation and soon we were both chatting animatedly about favorite places we’d been, where we still want to go, and the importance of writing everyday. After lunch, we continued chatting until we realized the sun was setting. As I hugged her good-bye, I had connected with a kindred soul. I have no doubt our paths will cross again. I’m looking forward to that day.