Some people handle meeting their heroes with poise and grace. I can’t even handle crossing the kitchen without walking into a chair, dropping my fork and knocking the mail off the counter.
Knowing I faced two of my literary favorites in one day, I spent last night preparing myself for impending disaster by making a list of rules:
1. Make sure to breathe. It’s not helpfultotgetsoexcitedyoudon’tpausebetweenwords.
2. Don’t do the scary I-can’t-stop-smiling thing.
3. Avoid topics that could be construed as disturbing, like: the toilet-tweezers incident and the ballet recital brawl. Or pretty much anything that happened before middle school. Or since MS. Maybe just don’t talk about yourself at all.
4. Don’t be overly helpful. People can choose their own meals off a menu. They don’t need an escort to the bathroom or someone to taste their food to make sure it’s not poisoned.
Today I spoke with Jordan Sonnenblick on the phone and ate dinner with Ralph Fletcher and six other PAWLP fellows.
Ummmmm, I did a pretty good job of following rule #4 – does that count for anything?
I’d abandoned rule#1 before Jordan had even been handed the phone. I told his wife my name, my school, the date of his visit, how I’d called earlier whileJordanwasfixingthelawnmower, OMG, that sounds weird, I know because he e-mailed me. I’m not a crazy stalker or anything. *cue nervous laughter* And I spilt this torrent of unnecessary information in my phone voice – because put a phone in my hand and my vocal cords constrict in a way that makes me sound almost 8.
All of this was in response to: “Can I tell him who’s calling?” If she covered the receiver and mouthed “CRAZY” before passing the phone, I wouldn’t blame her.
Despite my kid-hopped-up-on-Halloween-candy voice, Jordan was unperturbed. He even managed to cook stir-fry and keep me on task while I blathered. I’ve got until May 18th to practice my rules so that my first face-to-face interaction with him is slightly less giggly and monumentally more coherent.
Off the phone and off to dinner with Ralph Fletcher. He’s in town as the keynote speaker for this weekend’s Pennsylvania Writing and Literacy Conference. (Strange coincidence? Jordan Sonnenblick’s the keynote speaker at next year’s conference!) As one of the presenters at the conference, I was meeting him for dinner with a handful of other PAWLP Fellows.
A piece of advice: don’t get a large cappuccino when you’re already on a post-writerly-hero-phonecall high. I wish someone had told me this! Luckily I was able to burn off some of the caffeine during my wait by singing ABBA for the employees of the local GAP while I pranced around the store and tried on hats.
My new hat and I arrived at dinner a little early, so I got out my writer’s notebook and pen. How was I to know that just because Ralph writes so much about writer’s notebooks and brainstorming activities, he didn’t plan on giving us a writing prompt at the dinner table? It was with disappointed fingers that I stowed the notebook back in my purse.
Someone thought it was a smart idea to seat ME next to Ralph.
*I didn’t break rule #4.
*Dinner was tasty, although I was too busy smiling maniacally to eat much.
*Ralph was just as profound and lyrical in person as he is in writing.
*It may have been mentioned that I’d make an interesting character in his next novel. Ralph even wrote the first line: She felt a need to name everything… But I’ve got to admit, I take a certain pleasure out of knowing Ralph Fletcher refers to my Blackberry as Petunia.
*I may have offered to cut up the appetizer for him.
*I may have repeatedly asked if I should take out my writer’s notebook…
But apparently I didn’t scare him off – he did teach high school in NYC for a year, he’s pretty unscareable – when we asked to take a picture, he turned to me and joked: “You’re going to go home and put it on Twitter, right?” (Um, maybe… if the photo’s ever sent to me *cough*). He also accepted my offer to meet him Saturday pre-conference so I can show him the way to the school – little does he know I am navigationally nonfunctional. And as we walked to our cars after dinner, he smiled at me and said: “I bet you named yours.”
He’s right! I DID name my car! See how well he knows me already?
Clearly we’re destined to be best friends. Or I’m destined to be immortalized as a crazy in his next book…
Must practice rules before Saturday…