Monday, November 23, 2009
Because You Never Know
What big name author is enough to get you to a conference?
By Rebecca Cantrell
I thought I was going to be the first curmudgeon of the week, but CJ beat me to it. She’s right though. I don’t go to conferences hoping to meet big name authors. Not that I’m not thrilled when I do. It was wonderful finding out that Lee Child is as charming as everyone says, the James Rollins is very funny, and when I met R.L. Stine it took all my self control not to go all fan-girl on him.
But the people I spend most of my time with are other writers whom I know and don’t get a chance to see enough of, such as our very own Kelli Stanley and Sophie Littlefield, both of whom are pee-in-the-pants funny. Or wise and funny CJ Lyons. Or the ever charming Tim Maleeny and Shane Gericke. I’ve never met Gabi, but I want to, even if I won’t eat anything she gives me after reading her questions to Lisa Black, whom I also met in Indianapolis.
And then there are the wonderful wild cards. This year I finally got to meet Jen Forbus. I didn’t spend as much time with her as I would have liked because I got cornered by a guy who wanted to talk about Prague in 1589, which was likewise fascinating.
I also met a former world champion fencer and writer, Mitchell Graham, who actually met Helene Mayer (she won the silver medal for Germany in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and was the only Jewish athlete competing on the German team). She shows up in my next novel, A GAME OF LIES, as do references to fencing that are now much more accurate.
I once sat next to a very shy woman at a technical translation conference who turned out to have written her PhD thesis on Weimar Germany and had translated novels and autobiographies from some its major players. This was a few months after I decided to set my book in 1931 (the end of Weimar-era Germany).
You could never get away with this in a movie, as the coincidences are just too great. But for me, conferences are always like that. I just happen to stand next to someone who has the most amazing story to tell. It’s not always a big name, although it sometimes is (I don’t think I can ever look in Joseph Finder’s freezer without cracking a smile). Sometimes it’s another early career writer like me, or a writer who isn’t yet published, or a reader, a historian.
It’s not the big names that get me to a conference, it’s everyone.