NEWS FLASH: Wanderings on Writing is now available as both a paperback (from Amazon Create Space) and e-book. Now to our regularly schedule Wandering…
“Can I help you find something?” That was my opening line as I took part in the Indies First promotion this past Saturday at Page One books. Most of the time the response was something along the lines of “No, thanks. I’m just browsing.” I did have a few “hits,” though.
On lady said hesitantly, “I’m looking for Things Fall Apart by Ch…” She stopped, obviously uncertain. I finished for her, “Chinue Achebe.” She brightened. “That’s it!” I snagged one of the regular booksellers, who knew where to find a book, and handed her off.
I had a few other good chats. One young woman said she was “Just browsing,” but seemed to invite further conversation. I said, “What do you usually read?” She said, “I used to read a lot of things, but now I’m an engineering student and I don’t have much time. I did just read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and now I’m reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.”
Greatly cheered, I asked her if she knew that the translator of those books lived right here in Albuquerque. When she said she didn’t, I went on, “I can give you a great piece of trivia I learned from him. Do you know what the original title of that book was?” She shook her head. I grinned, “Men Who Hate Women. For some reason, they didn’t think that would sell here.” The young woman laughed, “Having just finished the book, I can understand that title, but I never would have read the book if it had been called that.”
We chatted a little more, then she drifted off to continue browsing. I got a break from inflicting myself on perfect strangers when two people I’d met at my signing for Artemis Awakening came in. We recognized each other, and fell to catching up. Both are avid readers. Later, one of the booksellers – Craig Chrissenger, who is also one of the con chairs for Bubonicon – joined us. He convinced the couple that they needed copies of my Changer and Changer’s Daughter (aka Legends Walking).
While I was signing their books, the woman said, “I can’t believe you’re here, just talking to people. I have an urge to jump up and down and say ‘This is Jane Lindskold! Come and talk to her.’” Later, as they were leaving, she actually snagged a woman I’d seen, but hadn’t spoken to because she seemed a little shy, and said, “This is Jane Lindskold!” The woman smiled broadly, the shyness leaving her face. “I know. I have some of her books and we talked once.” I grinned back. “I though you looked familiar!”
On the way home, I found myself thinking about shyness and how being shy created a couple of missed opportunities for me. I grew up reading Andre Norton’s novels. However, the one time I could have spoken with her, I was too shy. It was at a World Fantasy convention. I’d sold some short stories and had a novel in the pipeline, but I wasn’t really used to the whole convention environment.
Andre Norton was sitting somewhere – it’s been a long time, but I have a vague impression she might have been waiting to go be on a panel or had just finished one. Anyhow, Roger Zelazny, with whom I was hanging out, went over to speak with her. In addition to being long-time writers, they had the connection of both being from Ohio. I hung back, feeling as if I’d be intruding. In the back of my thoughts, I also figured there would be another place, another time. There wasn’t, though.
I did have later contact with Andre Norton, when I made a cold submission to one of her “Cat Fantastic” anthologies and sold her a story. I still have the letter she sent, but I never did have the chance to tell her how much her works meant to me.
The second opportunity missed was also at a World Fantasy. Diana Wynne Jones was attending. I went to one of the panels she was on and so, when she came into a later panel, and sat down right in front of me, I was tempted to tap her on the shoulder and thank her for her wonderful books. Cursed shyness reared its head again… I didn’t, thinking “She’s ‘off-duty,’ just here to see this panel. I shouldn’t bother her.”
Again, I never had another chance. When Ms. Wynne Jones died a few years ago, my regret that there would be no more wonderful books from her was made stronger because I’d been handed an opportunity to tell her how much I loved her work and missed it.
I learned my lesson, though. The last time I attended a World Fantasy, I noticed that several of the older “regulars” weren’t in attendance. As the mass signing was winding down, I saw that Patricia McKillip, whose works I hugely admire, currently didn’t have a line. Now, Ms. McKillip isn’t elderly or anything, but I wasn’t going to let chance pass by again.
Asking Jim to cover my spot and tell anyone who might happen by that I’d be back in a moment, I marched over to where Ms. McKillip sat. I introduced myself, reminded her that we’d been on a panel back in 1995 (the fact that I remember the date shows what big deal it was for me), then launched into a short speech about how much I admired her work. I ended by saying, “I’ve always meant to tell you and now I have.” She smiled with warmth and humor and replied, “And you’ve done a very good job, too.”
Sure, I felt a little silly, but I was glad I did it. Now that I think about it, I’ve rarely regretted telling someone I admire what they do and sharing my enthusiasm. I’ve even made a friend or two that way. What I’ve regretted is holding back.
And, you know, this doesn’t just go for authors or artists or the like. As we wander into the darkness of winter, consider sharing the light of your joy with the people close to you. You won’t regret it.