Friday, September 14, 2007

Expectations

Last week I attended the Decatur Book Festival just outside of Atlanta. One of the perks of having books in print is that you occasionally get to travel to places you might not have gone otherwise. You also meet people you wouldn’t have met if not for a publishing contract. The weekend trip to this little Georgia ‘burb is a perfect example.

The festival director, Daren Wang, runs a marketing company and is involved in publishing through a company called Verb. It revolves around recording the author reading a chapter of his or her book. Then these clips run as apart of a quarterly audio magazine. That’s a cool idea and Daren impressed me with it at the Southeastern Independent Booksellers show two years ago. On top of producing the magazine he organizes the festival. The energy of these festival directors amazes me. It’s not hyperness, is that a word? It is a focused beam of concentration and determination that would wither the soul of the average person. From a succinct, funny introduction to keynote speaker Kinky Freidman to a friendly, open attitude toward the attending authors, Daren set the standard for cool under pressure.

I also ran into the South Carolina Book Festival Director Paula Watkins Millen and author wrangler Mary Harris. As usual, these two lovely ladies made me feel like a fellow South Carolinian. This time they added South Carolina’s Poet laureate Marjory Wentowrth and her husband, independent film maker Peter Wentworth. I could have languished the entire weekend in my room or off on my own but this group got me up, out and into the festival.

My panel included crime writer and good guy, Con Lehane and mystery writer Jaclyn Weldon White. We had fun and the moderator, Dana Barrett, did a great job. We fielded questions as diverse as “How do you come up with ideas?” To “Where did you find an agent?” A good, engaged crowd. I may have inadvertently started the rumor that Con Lehane was my father. I doubt that it’s true.

I got to meet one of my favorite authors, Terry Brooks. It is so nice when your expectation of someone is fulfilled. He is a nice, funny man and that’s pretty much all I look for in people anymore. He was the model many authors should follow while signing books. The line to buy books after his talk lasted at least two hours. He was as gracious and pleasant to the first person in line as he was to the last. Always smiling and chatting, he is a guy who hasn’t lost the connection between readers and writers. In fact, he impressed me so much with his demeanor that when I returned home and recovered from the devastating loss of Florida State to Clemson, my meeting with him was the enduring memory from the festival.

Do you have any strong impressions, good or bad, of an author you met? Let’s hear them.

11 comments:

  1. Sounds like you had a great time, Jim. I have had, for the most part, amazing experiences in meeting other authors, particularly when I published my first book and began going to various events. I was like a rabbit caught in the headlights, completely intimidated, but everyone was so welcoming, so supportive, it put me at ease. That's not to say I don't suffer from nerves at these things, but I have made so many friends since becoming a published author, that I wish I had had the courage to write a book years ago.

    However, I had one very disappointing meeting, and I can't give too many details, because I would hate to reveal the identity of the person. We met at an event at which we were both guest speakers - I was just about shaking, I was so nervous because it was my first time speaking in front of over 1000 people. I been really looking forward to meeting this particular author as I had been a long-time fan, however, when we got into conversation, it seemed that he had to have a stab at one-upmanship at every opportunity. For example, we were talking about being on the road, and I said something about keeping up with things at home while away, and he said, "Oh, well, imagine how that feels with five homes - I can hardly keep tabs on them all." He let me know that he doesn't fly commercial any more - he has a private jet ("You should do it," he said. Oh, right, yeah ..). He told me I should hire an assistant (Hmmmm ...), and when we talked about my husband (he asked me what my husband did), turns out he shared the same main recreational pursuit, only he had rooms dedicated to it in each of those houses. Needless to say, we don't have that kind of space at our house.

    I think my overwhelming feeling was that I was so disappointed, so sad. In every other way he was such a gentleman, so very thoughtful, but I felt as if I were caught in that song, "Anything you can do, I can do better ..." I still read his books though. He's a terrific writer, and I was honored to be on the same panel with him.

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  2. patty smiley9/13/2007 9:57 AM

    Attending events like this is great fun for me. The organizers and attendees are always welcoming and supportive. Most authors I've met are quite modest and understand where they're positioned in the pecking order, but I once spent some time with an author who engaged in a nonstop propaganda rant about how he was the most brilliant and successful writer in the universe. What a bore, especially since it was much ado about nothing.

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  3. I once met James Michener at the University of Miami. A kindly gent, he advised me to start writing first thing in the morning...before reading the newspaper, my usual custom. "If you read the paper, you'll lose all the ideas you had while you were sleeping."

    I tried following his advice, but I can't get along with starting the day with the sports section. Besides, I don't wake up with ideas. Usually, I wake up having forgotten all the ideas I had the day before.

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  4. Okay. It took me 20 minutes to figure out how to post a comment. I suppose everyone already knows what a great guy and generous co-panelist Jim Born is, so I won't go into that--or not much. Nor will I spend much time dispelling the notion that I'm Jim's father--something no more than half our audience believed anyway. What I will say is that if you get a chance to be on a panel with Jim or attend a conference with him, by all means do so. It's something akin to walking around with a candidate who's running for office and leading in the polls (it probably comes from escorting governors around all the time). Also, in case you didn't already know, Jim actually is cheerful--morning, noon, and night. If he wasn't a cop, he'd make a great bartender.

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  5. James O. Born9/13/2007 10:42 AM

    I would have loved to meet Michner.

    J - I think I know who you're talking about. I may have had a similar experience.

    Michael Connelly is the guy that I hold up as an example. Personable, not too taken with himself and smart. This is despite the fact that he attended the University of Florida.

    Jim

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  6. James O. Born9/13/2007 10:43 AM

    Thanks, Con. It was fun and I'll see you in Nashville.

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  7. Most authors I've met at book signings (and I go as often as possible to support you guys) are mostly pleasant, rushed and tired. A few are genuinely appreciative of their readers, Naked Truthers included. :-) But, there are those who are dismissive and high-fallutin. And, I did stop buying there books.

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  8. I bought "Flase Profits" after meeting Patty at an AWOSC panel discussion simply because she as so genuinely nice. Loved the book and now I am a fan.

    What's more, when I emailed her to say how much I enjoyed meeting/reading her, she actually answered me and encouraged my writing.

    In general, I've found authors very accessible when approached with respect for their work and their time.

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  9. Lori G. Armstrong9/13/2007 2:54 PM

    I attended a Bouchercon years ago and three of the five panelists were well-known, icons, you might say. The moderator - an author also - was an absolute pompous ass, and asked the most ridiculous questions. When the panel ended the moderator's closing remarks were: "We all know you came here to see the "big name" authors, but do the rest of us a favor and buy someone else's books besides just theirs. We work just as hard as they do." I nearly fell off my chair. I've heard nothing but bad bad things about this author since, some comments I've witnessed on a common loop; some I've heard about second and third hand. Bottom line is I'm soured and I will never ever buy the author's book.

    A literary author came across so snotty and petty and mean (to a very successful fellow mystery author) in a public forum, that I will never ever buy any of her books either.

    But I will say most of the other authors I've met, whether I've admired them from afar or I've become a recent fan, are incredibly generous. High on that list of authors I admire is Mr. Born :)

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  10. Authors are usually personable celebrities. John Grisham was a nice guy, he visited Boca Raton in 1993. He autographed books and was really nice to everybody.

    Harley Jane Kozak, Susan McBride and Elaine Viets are classy individuals.

    Having just James O.Born, I may become a regular on this cool blog.

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  11. patty smiley9/13/2007 7:45 PM

    Carson!!!!! How incredibly sweet of you to say that (the check's in the mail) and an enthusiastic welcome to cinemadave.

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