I have a problem.
When I meet AUTHORS I lose the ability to be a normal, proper 'person'.
I want nothing more than to be able to approach them and say
'Oh hi Quentin/Jacqueline/Philip/Patrick/Louise. I just wanted to say that I thing what you do is wonderful and important. By the way...' (then introduce a topic of conversation and speak about it coherently and wittily with the result that we become best friends)
But no. I see these people and, with a sad inevitability, this happens:
- I lurk. And stare.
- I lurk and stare a bit closer. Probably just on the edge of the group surrounding the author. Before it was possible to ignore me, but now I'm firmly in their eyeline like a silent, angry creep. So the author feels they should say something polite to acknowledge me, like 'er hello' or 'are you a writer?' or 'are you okay? you're not blinking...'
- I bark. I usually manage about two words. THANK YOU or WELL DONE or I'M LIZ.
- I leave, quickly.
Ah, a child. A legitimate fan of my books.
Someone's given her a glass of wine... Is that allowed? Maybe it's ribena in a wine glass to make her feel grown up.
She's talking about 'going to work'. They don't send them up chimneys any more do they? I'm pretty sure child labour is illegal.
Ohh she's a 25 year old with a child's face! That makes a lot more sense. She should probably have learnt to function socially by now though...
So I thought I would share with you my tales of author-stalking shame.
Here are some of the very worst:
1. Quentin Blake
I queued up to get my copy of THE WITCHES signed. Did plenty of staring on the way. Most people were striking up conversation when they got to him - asking about illustration techniques and relevant things like that. I am sure I had a question in mind, but when I got there...
I said nothing. Not a word. I watched him sign my book in silence (while staring and smiling, a facial expression that makes you look a bit like a psychopath).
Then when I went to say 'thank you' I did that thing when you speak but no sound comes out. So my thank you came out as a menacing whisper. He may have thought I'd been sent to kill him.
2. Jacqueline Wilson
I saw Jacqueline Wilson talk at the Hay Festival. I got a raffle ticket which meant I could get a signed book and so I thought I'd get one to send to an Armadillo Magazine competition winner.
(I mentioned this loudly in the queue because, as I've said, I am often mistaken for a child, and all of the thirteen-year-old girls in the queue were taller than me. There is nothing wrong with being a thirteen-year-old girl, but there is something quite wrong in masquerading as one and getting a signed Jacqueline Wilson book.)
Making it clear I was an adult also meant having a 'serious face', so I couldn't show the fact that I was VERY VERY excited. My turn came and I finally had the chance to speak to a childhood hero. In fact, I coined a new word.
3. Philip Pullman
Philip Pullman was at a children's literature conference, enjoying a glass of wine and talking to people he actually knew. Without the structure of a book signing, I had to rely on my own 'social skills'.
I became Bridget Jones. Having stood on the edge of the group for a while, I laughed loudly. And they turned and looked at me.
'Have you read the book?' said theactualPhilipPullman in a friendly tone.
To this day I do not know which book they were talking about. This was painfully and tragically obvious to all present. I said my favourite bit of it was 'the characters'. I stood for a while, smiling and nodding in all the wrong places, before backing away to go and find a corner to cry in.
4. Patrick Ness
This one is short and sweet, as I pretty much embarrassed myself the instant I met Patrick Ness. I arrived quite early to the launch of A MONSTER CALLS. I went tentatively into the room, and a tall friendly-looking man came over and said 'Are you okay?'
'Yes... I've come for the Patrick Ness - A Monster Calls launch?'
'Well you're in the right place. I'm Patrick Ness!'
Oh crap. Maybe next time look up what the author looks like. Better say something intelligent.
Then I said 'I'll get a drink!' and ran away. So instead of telling him how much I loved the Chaos Walking books, or congratulating him on the new book, I congratulated him on being himself and walked off.
5. Jacqueline Wilson AGAIN
Yes, I have terrorised Dame Jacqui TWICE. This time I spied her near a table of food. I sidled up to her.
(Do you sidle? When I do it I look a bit like a bobbing crab. I think it comes from feeling awkward about approaching someone. I don't know why I think it will be any less awkward if I dance.)
Someone else is talking to her. I have to trail off and pretend to be very interested in a bowl of fruit. Also, it would be a good idea to breathe.
I then asked her about writing tips for Armadillo Magazine, and asked for her literary crush for this blog (you'll find out who it is soooon!). But all the while we were both aware that I had begun the conversation as a crazed fan. I sidled away.
6. Louise Rennison
I have already mentioned this painful experience on this blog, but as it is the most embarrassing one and concerns my favourite author, it needs including.
I was going to see her at the Oxford Literary festival and I was late. I ran from the station like a mad thing past all the old, posh-looking buildings and people. When I arrived wheezing in the festival tent I had sweated into my own eyes and so was having trouble seeing. I ran straight into...
Louise Rennison. She said 'Hello!'
Oh. my. god. She said hello to me. It can be like my dream where we become best friends and laugh together over wine.
'Hi!' I say, in a voice of pure delight.
She was talking to the person behind me.
On that note of pain, I'll leave you. Have you ever embarrassed yourself in front of your favourite author? Or any famous person for that matter? Do tell me about it - it might make me feel better.