Our Reading Lives

On Meeting Authors In Real Life

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For some people, meeting rock stars would be the ultimate dream. For others, meeting movie stars or models. For me, it’s always been more…cerebral people. When I studied oncology, meeting researchers at the cancer center where I was an intern would send me into paroxysms of awe. I would watch as the founder of psycho-oncology – gasp – went into the restroom. Yes, they’re human, too. But it still filled me with wonder. Same with writers. Don’t get me wrong; in my writing program, I got to meet quite a few well-known writers, whether they were instructors in my program, classroom guests, or featured speakers. In the beginning, I found myself highly intimidated. I think I spent half of the first semester of my class with Eileen Myles completely terrified of talking, knowing I’d be tongue-tied.

So this is old hat by now, right? Ha. Far from it. One of my favorite writers, Lidia Yuknavitch, is coming to NYC in July for her new book The Small Backs of Children. This is a woman who spoke to me through the pages of her other books, gave me encouragement from the printed words, and later, critiqued my thesis and taught an online class I took. She is no stranger — on the screen, anyway. Yet at the thought of meeting her in real life, my heart starts pounding and I have the instinct to turn and run. There is nothing I want more than to finally meet her in person, give her a hug, and take a selfie with our Docs. Yet the anxiety persists.

What is it, with readers and authors? Is this something we never truly outgrow, no matter how old we are? Would someone like J.K. Rowling have the power to render us speechless if we found ourselves in an elevator with her? Or is it always the case with someone whom we admire or strive to emulate?

Which authors would leave you quaking in your shoes with anticipation?