|J.K. Rowling at an Author Signing|
That’s right, you heard me: squee.
Now, I am actually not a person who uses this word, due to the fact that I was introduced to it by a large group of anime fans, in costume, at a sci fi con. And it was being shrieked. Every five minutes. (I’m not kidding: one of them was timing their squees to go off every five minutes. I thought she was in labor.)
But let’s face it, at some point, in some way, we’ve all gone “Squee!” at least once in our lives. But if you haven’t, if you’ve never had a Moment of Squee, well then, you’re probably just not as passionate about life as some of us. Sorry about that. Release your inner fangirl and live a little, why dontcha? But if you have gone squee, and if you’re like me, then those moments of squee involve a) getting new and exciting books, or b) meeting favorite authors.
So today let’s talk about Moment of Squee Option B.
First off, let me address the issue that I happen to be an author. I have had people squee at meeting me, and yes, it’s flattering. Very flattering. So don’t ever be nervous when you meet an author, we don’t think you’re being an idiot. We are more likely just as thrilled to meet someone so excited about us and our books. I’ve had a number of people apologize for being excited (Why? I don’t want bored fans!) or for bringing beat up books to be signed. (Double why: do you know how great it is to see that you’ve read one of my books over and over?!) So relax! Bring your favorite book to be signed! Ask to take a picture! Be happy! Don’t try to sit in my lap or cut some of my hair as a souvenir, but by all means, SQUEE!
And you’d think, being an author, spending a lot of time with other authors, I would myself be over the squeeing. Sadly, this is not the case. I am a Biblioholic. I love books with a passion that cannot be described in mere words. Which means that I also love the authors of these books, and no matter how many I meet, I don’t think this sense of wonder, this thrill, this anxiety, even, will ever leave me. I hope it doesn’t, because it makes life exciting.
For instance, last year I met Sherman Alexie. That’s right: ABSOLUTELY TRUE HISTORY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN Sherman Alexie. “Giving Blood” Sherman Alexie. RESERVATION BLUES Sherman Alexie. And let me tell you, if you ever get a chance to hear this man speak, TAKE IT. Within five minutes, I was sobbing with laughter. Sobbing. With. Laughter. When it came time to get our books signed, I knew there was no way I could say, “Hey, I’m an author, too!” to this man. He’s won a National Book Award. He’s done amazing things in his life, he’s also suffered terribly, and yet come out as a warm, funny, brilliant person. I write about dragons that collect shoes. I didn’t feel the need to cloud the air, as it were, by comparing myself to him. I’m sure that he would have been polite, even genuinely interested, had I said something, but I simply couldn’t. My sister nudged me, but all I said was my first name, and complimented him on his hilarity and his fine body of work. My sister nudged me again, and muttered, “Sara Zarr,” a friend of mine who had been nominated for the National Book Award the same year and knew him, but I shook my head. One of the staff of the King’s English came over to bring him more water, and did this thing with her eyebrows like, “Should I introduce you?” I shook my head. What I wanted, more than any sort of recognition, was just to bask, as a fan of a great writer.
This is not to say that I haven’t been bold. Oh, my, no! I have done things so brave that it still takes my breath away! Case in point: if you’ve ever spoken to me for longer than five minutes about books you know that I worship Guy Gavriel Kay. Worship him. (Guy, if you’re reading this: you are banned from commenting on that.) Guy and I correspond via email (as he insists on living in Canada, go figure), but our correspondence came about because I did the Bravest Thing Ever. In the fall of 2007 I went to the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, New York. Guy was the toastmaster that year, which made me break out in a cold sweat just thinking about it. Imagine if I ran into him in the elevator! The mind boggled. After the opening reception, I sidled up to Guy with my beloved copy of LORD OF EMPERORS and asked him to sign it. I was literally shaking. Since I had read A SONG FOR ARBONNE in high school I had been in love with this man’s books. I didn’t dare tell him I was also a writer, just told him how much I loved his books, but particularly loved the ending of EMPERORS, which made me cry in a good way, and sometimes when no one is looking I still like to reread the epilogue and have a little cathartic sniffle. Then I sidled off, clutching my freshly signed book.
That’s not the brave thing.
This is the brave thing: the next day I attended his reading with a very different book in my bag. One of my own. DRAGON SLIPPERS had come out six months before, and SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW would be out in a few months. At the end of his reading I took an ARC of SUN AND MOON out of my bag, went forward and said, “HiImetyoulastnightandbythewayI’manauthortooandthisisthearcofmynextbookIwouldlovetogiveyouthiscopyIdon’tcareifyoureadit.”
And being the most gracious person in the world (no comments, Guy!), Guy asked me to sign it for him, which I did, and then invited me and my sister to join him in the bar for a chat. Which we did. He gave me some fabulous advice, we talked about books in general, he introduced us to Garth Nix (and speaking of Moments of Squee, my sister almost followed that devilishly handsome Australian home!), and a correspondence—dare I say friendship?—was born! Guy and I exchanged jokes, we talk about publishing news, occasionally I get a blonde vs. redhead joke forwarded to me . . . and yet every time I see his name in my inbox I get a little jolt. GUY KAY?! Why is GUY KAY emailing me?! I feel like calling my parents, “I just got an email from the guy who wrote The Fionavar Tapestry books! Look at me, Mommy!”
Will it always be this way? Probably. I nearly fainted when I was on a panel with Charles de Lint, who remembered meeting me at a book signing two years before. Jane Yolen (JANE YOLEN!) was also on the panel, and kept calling me Janet, but I didn’t dare correct her because if Jane Yolen wants to call me Janet, by darn, she can call me Janet!
But sometimes, just sometimes, that Moment of Squee turns to a Moment of Eep. Sad, but true! I shan’t name any names, but last year I met an author whose books I have loved since junior high, let’s call them Eeyore. Influential in my own writing, still a favorite, and I with starry eyes approached Eeyore to get two of my favorite books signed. Eeyore was polite, seemed like a good sort, I went away happy. But then, as a special treat, a mutual friend invited me to go to dinner with Eeyore. For two hours I was treated to a catalogue of how wronged poor Eeyore was by the publishing industry, and fickle fans, and the world at large. Everything sucked, everyone is against Eeyore, Eeyore wants to give it all up and go live in a cave. Eep. Some of my favorite books have apparently been written under contractual duress, and Eeyore hates them. In five years, Eeyore predicts that no one will be buying books at all, and authors will be obsolete. EEP! I went home so depressed that I felt like wilted lettuce. I was so bothered that THREE DAYS LATER I finally emailed Guy Kay to ask Why?! Why is Eeyore like this? Is Eeyore’s life really so terrible? Is Eeyore’s dire publishing prediction coming true?
According to Guy: no. Apparently, Eeyore was like this twenty years ago when the little gray donkey was on the top of the bestseller list and the darling of the publishing industry. Eeyore has issues, but they shouldn’t get me down. Eeyore can continue eating thistles, in short, and I should go eat honey with Pooh and try to wash My Dinner with Eeyore from my brain.
For a little while, I thought I would be unable to read any of Eeyore’s books, but the next one that came out was good enough that I was able to put the author’s attitude behind me and enjoy the book for it’s own sake. Whew.
I’ve been very fortunate in that the majority of the authors that I have met have been lovely people. My sister and I have a Nice Authors Write Great Books theory: We swear that the most gracious people turn out to be the best authors. Perhaps our opinions of their books are colored by meeting them, but perhaps not. (See anecdotes above: I was already a fan of Guy, Garth, Charles, Jane, and Sherman before meeting them!) True story, I just spent an evening in a hotel room eating chocolate cake with Bree Despain, Holly Black and Emily Wing Smith, among others. Wonderful ladies all, fun at parties, and fabulous authors!
So don’t be afraid to have your own Moment of Squee! If you get an opportunity to meet an author you admire, take it! Good things come to those who meet authors!
(Unless you meet Eeyore. Seriously. Something is wrong with that little donkey.)
Use the comments to tell us about your Moment of Squee! If you must relate a Moment of Eep, pick a fun pseudonym for the bad author, we don’t want to start any flame wars, please!