Author Martha O’Connor bumped into one of her favorite authors in the grocery store:
I stared for awhile (she probably thought I was nuts), just to make sure I was right. Anne Lamott lives in Marin County, about
five miles from me. In fact, I am almost certain I saw her driving her
car once about a year ago. Anyway, I was pretty sure it was her. I got in line to pay; Anne
Lamott was paying at a nearby register. As she was leaving I stopped
her and said:
Me: Excuse me, are you Anne Lamott?
AL: Yes (smiles)
just have to tell you how much I love your work, especially your
writings on faith and spirituality. They’re the kind of books you can
just read over and over again.
AL: Well, I’m so glad (humble smile, seems genuinely happy to hear this)
Me: I know you’re on your way somewhere but I just had to tell you that.
AL: No, it’s OK. (smiles again) Thank you so much for telling me!
Oddly, since I have told this story a few times, every single person has asked me why I didn’t say something about MY work…. "I’m a writer too, may I send you a copy of my book?" something like that. To be honest, it didn’t even cross my mind.
(Now, I’m sure Joe Konrath, the book promotion machine, would dismember me if he knew I didn’t take the opportunity to do so, but it would have polluted the moment with horrid
black dreck and mold. All wrong. Ya know?)
Yes, I know. She did the right thing. The moment wasn’t about selling herself. It was about telling another person how much you admire them and the positive impact their work has had on your life (and what would Martha have gained by telling her that she, too was an author? It would have made a special moment seem insincere and self-centered). I’ve been lucky enough to have had several experiences like that over the years and, at the risk of sounding like a geek, it’s magical. And on those occasions I’ve rarely, if ever, mentioned my own connection to the entertainment or publishing industries.
But there are authors I know (and I’m not saying Joe is one of them) who see every encounter as a book-promotion opportunity…and they come across as obnoxious and self-involved. And they miss out on some very special moments…like the one Martha had. More often than not, it’s better just enjoy the opportunity to meet people without feeling compelled to promote you own work.