Why Writers are my Rock Stars
The crowd around me was swollen with anticipation.
The spotlight spun from his hair like the heroic thread of gilded biblical texts.
By the time I had shuffled to the front of the crowd I was so giddy that I would have let him sign the flesh of my bare extremities. Instead, I lost the ability to speak and stood with doe-eyed adoration.
This was not a Rock Concert and I wasn’t supplicating in front of a leather-clad Rock Star. Instead, this is a recount of the moment that I met the one and only Bill Bryson at a book signing.
A book signing.
You see, writers are my Rock Stars and there is nothing quite as intoxicating as meeting a writer face to face.
Reading is an intimate experience enjoyed in the heat of warmed bed linen on Sunday mornings.
To me, imbibing the words of another becomes physical. I crest the waves of conflict and complication and subsume to the inner worlds of imagined characters. It’s after this shared intimacy that I feel connected to the hand who wrote them.
What could give you a deeper sense of knowing someone than reading their words?
When I’ve experienced this sort of connection with a writer, albeit remotely, I can think of nothing better than meeting them.
I understand that I sound maniacal and would like to reassure you that I’m as harmless as a bunny.
Then again, as soon as someone starts explaining why they’re not maniacal its best to keep your distance isn’t it?
I like to think that I presented sane when I stood in front of Bill Bryson on that evening but I’m fairly certain there was a ‘crazy lady’ glint in my eyes.
Needless to say, it was inconvenient that I stood mute at such a moment. My sister, grasping the calamity, intervened.
“This is my sister. She’s one of your biggest fans (read… crazy lady). She’s read every single thing you’ve ever written; can she grab a photo with you?”
There was a pause as poor Bill assessed the possibility of physical harm. Then he outstretched those warm literary arms of his and embraced me as my sister snapped away.
I was in a similar state when I met Elizabeth Gilbert. I had just finished reading her most recent work, The Signature of all Things.
A sweeping novel, its protagonist, Alma Whittaker, is a nineteenth century botanist devoted to moss. I had wrapped myself in its deeply satisfying embrace in the previous month in Bali.
Such was my connection to this novel and its gorgeous creator that upon reaching the end of the signing cue I did the unthinkable. I asked for a hug.
If writers are my rock stars then writers’ festivals are my concerts.
I prepare, I plan and I deliberate extensively over the best ‘I may meet my literary hero today’ ensemble.
It was in such an outfit that I attended a Brisbane Writer’s Festival several years ago and sat in the audience of a forum with the rock star writer Simon Winchester.
I hadn’t read a word he’d written before but after an hour of listening to his cadenced tales of Africa to the Arctic and of the research into Krakatoa, his fictionalised account of the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, I was smitten. I almost tripped over myself in the rush to secure a copy of his novel.
It’s only two weeks until this year’s festival. I have booked a packed program that only allows time for an elegantly determined gait between each venue.
So to Bill, Elizabeth, Simon and the countless other writers whom I have adored both from afar and in dangerously close proximity, I say thank you.
You have gifted me not only with your words but with the grace not to run in the opposite direction.