What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Have you ever read a book that made you want to become best friends with the author? I have a secret (or not so secret) problem: I do that all the time. It’s reasons like this that I find articles like this one about stalking authors, and I cringe. While I would never be crazy or obsessive (like seriously, that’s not ok), I totally understand how powerful literature has been in my life and how much I credit the authors for that. And knowing that I want to be an author myself someday, the authors themselves are interesting to me. When I was pretty young, I wrote a letter to Tomie DePaola, my favorite children’s author, and drew him a picture. I later received a letter from him (a form letter but a letter nonetheless) and an autographed photo. I was thrilled.
I no longer write letters or emails to my favorite authors. I might occasionally tweet at them. My favorite thing, now, is to try to see them in real life by going to speaking events and signing. My first major event of the kind was at Carnegie Library where I saw and spoke to John Green, twice. This was seriously one of the highlights of my life. His talk was fantastic, and as we were walking from the lecture hall to where the signing was, my friend pulled me back saying “I think you want to be back here right now.” I laughed and said something loudly, turning around. And John Green was RIGHT NEXT TO ME. My response? A squeal and the phrase “Oh hi John Green.” He said hi back.
I can’t quite explain how fantastic that moment was for me. John Green, whose videos I’ve watched and books I’ve read over and over. The man who gets what I’m thinking but says it so much more eloquently than I do. When I read his work, I’m always astounded. Who covers his face in Sharpie while hand signing a billion copies of The Fault in Our Stars. I want to write books like his: philosophical and funny and emotional and fantastically unrealistically real.
I saw him again in the signing line. My friends and I were in the very back after hundreds of people. They were trying to rush us through the line, understandably but I handed him my book and said my piece (which I’m pretty sure was “I want to be you when I grow up, only not a man.’). I fangirled so hard it was ridiculous. I don’t remember what he said to me (probably nothing… I was kinda creepy). It was so exciting, though.
The next major author I got the pleasure to briefly meet was Sarah Dessen, who was hugely enjoyed in my high school years. We were at the National Book Festival by chance and we
technically missed her signing time, but she stayed and signed for an extra hour or so to accomodate every in line. I had her sign my “Will Write for Food” shirt that I had recently acquired at the Newseum. She looked at me like I was crazy and I didn’t quite have time to explain that, for me, her signing that shirt signified the possibility that someday I would write well enough to make a living and afford food and whatnot.
Anyways, these stories show how crazy I am, but also how very much every interaction with an author means so much to me as a reader. I’ll never probably get to sit down and have a beautiful and legitimate conversation with any of these people, but their words have changed. The position they are in, within my life, earns them honor and respect. I want to emulate them because I want to affect people the way I’ve been affected. I value who they are as people. And I follow their social media presences a little too closely at time.