I walked up to Jonathan Safran Foer with shaking knees.
I had fallen in love with the writer ten years prior when I read Everything is Illuminated, a book I considered to be a masterpiece. I wrote my college senior seminar paper on it. For years I quoted it as my favorite book. If I had met the writer back then, as a young bookworm and wobbly aspiring writer, I know I would have quavered in his presence. But now I was a grown woman at a book reading. I had held a handful of jobs, real-life jobs like people have in the movies. I liked who I was. I liked my hair color and my smile. I was confident.
But Jonathan Safran Foer is the George Clooney of the book world and I was no match. I walked up to the signing table, mortified to find myself flustered and shaky.
“Hi,” I said with a too-big grin, plunking my new copy of Here I Am on the table in front of him.
“Hi.” Jonathan smiled politely. “Would you like me to make this out to you?”
I blushed. He was talking to me. “Yes.” I blushed harder.
He waited. I waited.
“Great,” he said finally, then: “What’s your name?”
This kicked off what I consider the triumvirate of embarrassing author-and-me meet-cutes. Only months after the mortifying JSF incident, I cried in front of Maria Semple for the mere fact of meeting her. I couldn’t help it. Where’d You Go, Bernadette was my new Everything is Illuminated. In my defense, no tears fell. Maria mercifully looked away from my welling eyes to sign my book and I seized the opportunity to blink them back. After, I managed to eek out an I’m a big fan as I ran away to the safety of Maria Semple-less space.
But the self-inflicted torture wouldn’t stop there. A few months later, I bumped into a local author in the library where I volunteer. I had seen her speak at the Texas Book Festival and thought she was lovely. My record wasn’t great, but after I whispered about her to my librarian friend, she pushed me towards the author with a supportive, Go talk to her!
Amanda Eyre Ward may not have been the George Clooney of my literary world, but I still could not be cool. I flushed and gushed my way through a stumbling praise of her, to which she kindly reciprocated with a hug. A hug!
“I’m sorry to accost you,” I said as a goodbye remark. My face was still prickling with heat.
“Are you kidding me?” Amanda gave me a look. “This made my day.”
I may never be cool in face of my heroes, but I’m a believer in sharing praise. I think it bolsters you no matter how George Clooney-ish you are. How could a well-deserved pat on the back ever get old? And don’t we want our authors feeling loved? They are the people who transport us to other worlds, send us on adventures from the safety of our beds. So I will continue to make a fool of myself as I tell them how much they mean to me.
And, authors, if you see a girl about five foot five with reddish brown hair approach you with shaking knees and tears in her eyes, I’m not there to stalk you or make you feel uncomfortable. I just really really like you and I want you to know.