Piercing Meeting: A Drama in One Act

It’s October, 2005.  Jim and I are in Chicago for a bookseller’s convention.  We’ve been walking the floor, chatting with whoever wants to chat.  It’s amazing how many people take the time to ask how Jim hurt his hand, which is in a cast

Some Books By Tamora Pierce

and sling.

(Jim had gone off his bike when a car in front of him stopped without warning.  He had several hairline fractures and a couple dislocated fingers.  In an effort to avoid surgery, the doctors kept in Jim’s hand in a cast for a long time.  Patience did the trick.  No surgery.  No pins.  Most of the movement back.)

Eventually, Jim and I decide to head back to our room and read for a bit before going out to dinner with David Moench, one of Tor’s publicists, and (then new Tor author) John Scalzi.

I’m in an odd mood. On the one hand, I’m burned out on small talk.  On the other, I’m buzzing, not quite ready to be quiet.  As we’re walking off the convention floor, I pass a pleasant looking-lady.  Her badge is coded “Author.”  Some imp of the perverse seizes me.  I decide it might be fun to buy a cup of coffee for a perfect stranger with whom I at least share a vocation.

ME: Author!

LADY (very politely): Yes?

ME (fumbling slightly, then glancing at the lady’s badge and reading “Tamora Pierce”): Oh, my god, it’s you!  I love your books!  I’m especially fond of the Protector of the Small series…

[Incoherent babbling follows, then I manage…]

You see, I do this, too.  Write Fantasy.  I know how hard it is to do what you did with Kel.

LADY (now revealed as Tamora Pierce, glancing at my badge): “Oh!  It’s you!  I love your books!”

[We clasp both hands and start bouncing up and down, rather like Tigger in Winnie the Pooh.  Eventually, we stop and start chattering.  Amused Jim, bemused Handler from Scholastic, and confused vendors look on.  Suddenly, Tamora Pierce realizes she had been on her way to an event sponsored by one of her publishers.  She politely excuses herself.  Jim and I head off to our room – me beaming.]

The End – but not quite. We’d meet again the next morning as Tammy was on her way to the airport.  Serendipity at work.  We promised to keep in touch and have done so.

I really do admire Tamora Pierce’s work.  I came to it comparatively late with her “Protector of the Small” series, featuring Keladry of Mindelan.  (The cat currently on my desk is named Kel.)

After reading the “Protector of the Small” series, I went back and read the rest of Pierce’s Tortall books: “The Song of the Lioness Quartet” and “The Immortals Quartet.”  Later, I would read the new Tortall “Beka Cooper” and “Trickster” books.

I read her non-Tortall novels as well, enjoying both the quirky magics of Winding Circle and watching the protagonists grow from dysfunctional children to competent young adults.  Over and over again, I was impressed by how Tammy developed her characters and stories.  I also noted how the longer she pursued her craft, the more she developed confidence in her own worlds.  As a result, her world-building became more complex, less reliant on typical tropes.

You can say I’m a fan.

We’ve met up only once since…  That was in a battered New Orleans, rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.  There we had breakfast in a hotel with barely enough staff to get simple meals on the table.  We talked not only “shop” but “story.”  Jim and Tammy discovered a mutual enthusiasm for Leon Uris’s novel Battle Cry and talked about its influence on Tammy’s own work.

Now Jim and I are excitedly anticipating seeing Tammy again – this time over Memorial Day weekend at Conduit in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Jim and I already have a stack of books set aside to have signed.

I’ve often wondered what prompted shy me to give in to the impulse to think about inviting a perfect strange to have a cup of coffee.  Whatever the reason, I’m really glad it happened.  Sometimes you take a moment to talk to a stranger and discover you’ve made friend.

(Maybe I’ll see some of you in Utah.  If so, do come up and introduce yourselves!)

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13 Responses to “Piercing Meeting: A Drama in One Act”

  1. heteromeles Says:

    I won’t be in Utah, but it’s a lovely story, and I hope you have a lovely time.

  2. scrivener212 Says:

    And there I was meeting the author of CHANGER, one of my favorite books EVER, and BROTHER TO DRAGONS, COMPANION TO OWLS, and THE PIPES OF ORPHEUS, and barely able to contain myself! Breakfast in New Orleans was even better, because I so seldom get to talk shop with someone new, someone who has her own process and perceptions, someone I respect.

    I am giddily looking forward to seeing you and Jim in the land of the Bee!

    Tammy

    • John C Says:

      As a 35 year old man, I just read Alanna: The First Adventure for the first time, and loved it. I can’t believe I missed this gem in my first childhood.
      Thanks!

  3. Jim Says:

    It was fun meeting Tammy the way Jane describes, and that’s how it actually happened. I hadn’t read any of Tammy’s books yet, but was soon inspired to read the Kel series, then the Beka Cooper trilogy. Both great reads. Quite often I have been inspired to read something by an author I met at a convention, or met an author that I have read a few books by and suddenly feel a need to read more of their books; something about the personal contact can make a great impression. So, if you are at a con and have a chance to met an author, even one you don’t haven’t yet read, take the chance and dive right in!

  4. Dominique Says:

    This is so cool! I am at a loss of words! 🙂

  5. Nicholas Wells Says:

    I fell in love with a fantasy series. I found an e-mail address for the author. I decided to share my thoughts on each book of hers I read, especially once I learned she was as nuts about wolves as I was.

    The rest is history.

    You never know when that random act will lead to something so much better. It’s a wonder we don’t do it more often. Who else might we forge bonds with?

    • janelindskold Says:

      I think most of us fear rejection.

      However, to answer your question, while we can’t know who we might forge bonds with, if we don’t try, we absolutely know who we won’t…

      It think it’s worth the risk. I really do.

  6. Paul Says:

    I love the description of that meeting, especially the gleeful bouncing! I still remember my first WorldCon more than four decades ago, when most of the writers I’d grown up reading were still alive and most of them were attendees. I probably gawked the whole weekend. Those were legends walking around there.

  7. shibiku Says:

    I still think this is one of the sweetest stories. I’ve got nothing to add. Just… awesome.

  8. janelindskold Says:

    I’m glad people enjoyed the story. It really was “gleeful” as Rowan said. The thing that’s even neater is that it wasn’t a one shot liking.

  9. scrivener212 Says:

    There is just something so wonderful that happens when you meet someone you’ve admired for years and you discover that they are every bit as cool as you hoped.

    It’s also wonderful to find someone else in your craft with whom you can talk ideas, creativity, process, and abstracts, and find they “get” you and you get them–so many people turn competitive, or they are fixed on commercial goals and are concerned only with what will generate sales. To talk with someone who is interested in the sources of ideas and how to get at them, who cares more for ranging far and wee over the worldscape to get them and is willing to talk about that with you–that’s a gift. That breakfast left me floating on creative happiness for weeks. It still does when I think of it. I have conversations like that so seldom, and I remember them!

    • janelindskold Says:

      Oh! I agree. Talking “shop” is useful to a point, but I didn’t get into writing because I loved the business. I love the craft, words, the shape of a story…

      I get all excited!

  10. Other Jane Says:

    It’s a rare occurence when you first meet someone and it immediately feels like you’re meeting an old friend. That sort of connection is rare and special.

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