Monday, June 22, 2009

In Awe of a Published Author

One cold, January day in 1995, I hurried home from work, stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things, and flipped through the book rack while standing in the check-out line.

A western, my favorite plot, caught my eye. The book was Desert Dreams, by Deborah Cox. I bought it, and thoroughly enjoyed the story of the tortured hero and the woman who saves him.

Fast forward a few months, and my librarian called to let me know that someone with an interest in writing had stopped by the library. She gave me the woman’s name and number, and we connected.

Julene and I met at the library, and I learned that there was a national writer’s organization named Romance Writers of America that allowed unpublished authors to join. Amazingly, there was a chapter about an hour from my small hometown.

And, as we talked more, I found out that Deborah Cox was a member of that chapter. I couldn’t believe it! A real, live, published author lived within an hour of me. Not too long after that, Julene invited me to go to a meeting. I was nervous about meeting a published author. Would Deborah Cox be there? Would she be a prima donna? Would she sign my copy of Desert Dreams that I conveniently stuck in my bag?

We arrived at the library where the Magnolia State Romance Writers (MSRW) met. We trooped down to the basement meeting room. (It was a great place to meet, btw!), and Julene introduced me to the ones already gathered there. To my disappointment, Deborah Cox wasn’t there. But the meeting hadn’t started yet, so there was still time.

She came, floating down the stairs to the basement like a queen. I thought she was so sophisticated, gracious, and brilliant. Of course she was brilliant! She’d written a book that I loved, and Harper Collins had published. I was in awe. To me, a country girl who’d never met anyone of any importance in the publishing world, meeting Deborah Cox was like meeting a celebrity.

Somehow I managed to get up the nerve to ask her to sign my copy of Desert Dreams, which I still have, btw. I’ll never part with it!

Debbie was the first published author I ever met, and she set the stage for a host of friendly, gracious authors who have befriended me through RWA, MSRW, and ACFW. When I met Debbie, I realized that authors are people too.

Thanks Debbie, for being so sweet to this starstruck fan. I'm sure I blubbered like an idiot.

So, friends of Seekerville, tell us about that special meeting with a published author you’ll never forget.


Walt M said...

Memorable? Does standing in long lines at book signings to meet George Takei (Sulu from Star Trek) or Amy Tan count? As a fan, I'll always remember those days. However, just meeting someone at a book signing is a long way from getting to know them.

Within RWA, it's kind of an odd story for me. I've met many wonderful authors. However, since I didn't read romance novels two years ago when I joined (and, yes, I do read them now), I had no clue who any of the authors were until after I met them.

Ann said...

A couple of years ago, I went to my first Indiana cluster meeting for ACFW. Did not know what to expect and did not know anybody.

Janet Dean hosted it at Fort Wayne. Her pretty house was decorated for Christmas, so it looked even prettier.

I met some really nice people there. But I kept stealingn glances at Janet, because here was a published author who made a mean lasagna and had a great collection of nativity scenes.

Amy said...

Fun post, Pam!

My "famous author" story was with Deb Raney at my very first ACFW Conference (yes, the one I went up to my room and cried at during every seminar break and every night, per my Seeker blog entitled The Hardest Contest (

Anyway, I was reading her award-winning novel, Beneath a Southern Sky, which I carried in my purse. She signed it for me at the ACFW book signing, and I was thrilled because she was so gracious. But the real fun came when I was waiting at the airport on the way home and discovered that Deb Raney was on my flight! We sat talking, Deb, me (in the middle) and another ACFW attendee when all at once I said, "Excuse me, ladies, but if you don't mind, I'm at the tail end of a book that I just have to finish." And then proceeded to pull out my Deb Raney novel from my purse. She got a kick out of that ... and to tell you the truth, I'm waiting for that same scenario someday ... gosh, I hope I'm alive to see it ... :)


Tina M. Russo said...

Awe I remember those starstruck moments too. My first Debbie Macomber, Nora Roberts and Janet Evanovich signings.

Now published authors are my..gulp friends. Well they keep moving off the island. But besides that I think they are swell.

Debra E Marvin said...

many years ago when I was a member of our local RWA chapter and contest chairman, we hosted a weekend workshop with Susan Elizabeth Phillips. The chapter pres.planned on taking her out to dinner after picking her up at the airport and asked if anyone would want to join her. Unbelievably I was the only one who volunteered.
I didn't really know that much about her writing at the time so I was probably more impressed after when I read her many NYT bestselling novels. But I found her to be 'a real person' too. Even a bit shy and reserved. What a relief. But very warm as we sat and chatted about family, writing and where she was in her writing journey.
Of course my friends have gotten quite tired of me using the line, "my friend the NYTimes bestselling author . . ."

I've met some authors who do like to carry that mystique of being a bit better than the rest of us, but so many more have been just real people and full of encouragement.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pam, this is awesome.

So fun.

My first RWA chapter meeting, God love those blessed women, no one fell asleep when I READ them my work because I only brought one copy, a totally brilliant twelve-page opening with no dialogue.





You'd a thought I was Charles Dickens or something. Oh mylanta!!!!

And they were so gentle and gracious. Bless their hearts (sincerely!), they offered sage advice and we moved on from there.

Thank the Lord!


In my typical unassuming Ruthy way, my first big author experience was at ACFW Denver where I had a meeting set up with Brandilyn Collins. Each attendee was allowed an audience with a pubbed author, so in the land of the giants I picked a funny, sweet giant...


I messed up the meeting time in my nerve attack, dragged her away from the book fair where the poor woman THOUGHT she had fifteen minutes of peace, and then, when she asked, "Ruth, where do you see yourself in five years?" I replied,

"Rubbing elbows in contests with you and Dee Henderson."

Cheeky even then. Oy vey.

God love her she prayed for me then and she's probably still praying now.

What a sincerely fun, funny and faithful woman she is.

Hey, um, not for nothin', but FOOD????


I brought carrot cake from Katie's birthday party/Father's Day celebration and a sausage/cheese/egg bake with fresh bagels.

Dig in, guys. And Walt? Hey, Dude, first one in gets the coffee going.
Whattya thinkin', Bud????


I brought coffee too, we'll let Walt off the hook this time.

Hey, and Italian sweet cream. Yum.


Julie Lessman said...

Ooops ... Pammy, Amy's comment above was actually mine! Sigh ... it's tough sharing a computer with your 21-year-old daughter after she's moved back home after graduation ... :)


Walt M said...


Yes, Ruthy, I forgot the coffee. I'm embarassed. It would shock my wife, though. The one thing I never forget at home is coffee.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

I got stuck in an elevator with Nora once and I couldn't get up the nerve to say ANYTHING to her. I just shoved myself against the corner of the elevator and tried not to stare at her. LOL!

The first pubbed author I "met" was Kathy Denosky at a local writer's meeting where she taught GMC. Totally revolutionized the way I wrote.

The next one was Brandilyn Collins when she prayed with me and three other aspirings at my first ACFW. A life-changing experience to be sure. And Ruthy's right, Brandilyn is so funny and insightful.

Fun post!


Glynna Kaye said...

Pam -- I can't remember who was the very first published author I ever met, but I know mystery writer Sue Grafton was my first BIG TIME "meet" at the Southwest Writers Workshop in Albuquerque. Loved her humor and her gracious willingness to answer all the newbie questions!

The first published author I met who actually became a dear friend and a personal cheerleader is Joan Elliott Pickart who wrote way over 100 books for Harlequin/Silhouette. She's so knowledgeable, funny and encouraging, and I love it whenever we get a chance to visit in person. She recently sent me a stash of gold "autographed" stickers to put on my soon-to-be-published book!

JStantonChandler said...

Ok, I'm hoping that my author moment counts because I never actually met her.

Madeleine L'Engle is the reason I'm writing today. I grew up reading "A Wrinkle in Time" and still read it at least twice every year. I wrote to her, about ten years ago, just to tell her how much I appreciated her works and how much she inspired me. I dropped the letter in the mail and forgot about it.

Months went by. One day, I went to the mail box and there was a letter. The return address was from one Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. "Who could that be from?" I wondered. (If a letter came now from them now I'd either dance for joy or make my husband open it for fear of a rejection slip!) Inside was a letter. Addressed to me. From Madeleine L'Engle. It was handwritten, on plain white paper, and was a very personal response.

I almost cried! To think that my favorite author would take the time to reply to my letter with a handwritten letter of her own was so touching. I still have it, of course, in a plastic report cover tucked away in a three ring binder I reserve for my collection of writing wisdom.

Melanie Dickerson said...

My first published author experience was before I started writing. It was actually Heather Whitestone. She had just written a book called Listening with My Heart after winning the Miss America pageant. I was so terrified I couldn't even say ANYTHING. I was a teacher of hearing impaired children, and she was our HERO, and I acted like an idiot. It was at a book signing. Poor girl. The only thing I could tell her was my name.

I still get star-struck. Karen Kingsbury was at a women's conference I went to with a group of ladies from my church last year. They were all like, "Go say hi to Karen Kingsbury and tell her you're an author too. Ask her advice, talk to her." I refused to even go with them to meet her. I told them I didn't want to make a fool of myself. So they went and stood in line to meet her and told her that their friend, Melanie Dickerson, was a very talented author too (AI YI YI!) and Karen was so incredibly gracious. My friend bought a book for me and had Karen sign it, and she wrote, "Melanie, Keep writing for Him. Jer. 29:11"

My friends couldn't believe I was too chicken to brag about my writing to her! I was all, "But she's KAREN KINGSBURY! I just a nobody from McKenzie, Alabama!" I know, I'm a dunce.

It's a good thing I met Mary before she was published or I'd be like that with her. "Mary Connealy! I could never talk to HER!!!"

Pam Hillman said...

I'm working today, but I'll pop in and comment when I can.

Walt, I know what you mean. At RWA one year, I sat in a little cubbyhole, and a woman came and sat with me.

We chatted about our aching feet, etc.

Glanced over and saw that she was a RITA finalist. Her name was NOT familiar at all, and I was worried that I was talking to a NYT bestseller!

I congratulated her, and we chatted some more. Later I found out she was a writer of some renown.

I imagine she just enjoyed chatting with someone without any strings attached.

Mary Connealy said...

I attended a writer's retreat once and Lori Copeland was there. This was very shortly after I was contracted for Petticoat Ranch. And I'd been pitching Petticoat Ranch for about two years by saying, "People who like Lori Copeland's Men of the Saddle series would like my book."

I'd just gotten the cover art for the book and I took it with me to this retreat. It took some nerve but I walked up to Lori and said, "Hi, I've been using your name to try and get a book published for years." Then I whipped out the cover and said, "And it worked!"

She laughed and we had a terrific visit.

I also got Tracie Peterson as a finalist judge for my book Montana Rose, the year it came in third in the Genesis contest. I had a meeting scheduled with her to pitch a Heartsong but instead of pitching that we talked about Montana Rose. She was so great, really gave me SUBSTANTIAL useful wise advice, specific. "I liked this, but this was weak, you need to make the heroine more this and less that."

I really credit her with some of the best changes in Montana Rose, which releases July 1st...NEXT WEEK!!!!!!!

And one other meeting, maybe my very first, I signed up for paid critique with DiAnn Mills at the ACFW conference the first year. She was so helpful, not just nice and generic in her advice but she really got into details. "Here's who you should pitch too. This company does books like this. Find the editor and sit with her a lunch."

Names, publishers, pointers on pitching. She was terrific.

Mary Connealy said...

I think the very first author I ever met was Cheryl St.John, who's been on Seekerville a few times and is a wonderful writer.

I read her name in the Omaha World Herald newspaper...A tiny article about a women's writer's group that met monthly in Omaha, part of RWA. I'd never heard of RWA let along local chapters.

It seems like maybe I phoned her. Is it possible the woman put her phone number in the newspaper? This was before I was online, but I had an email address long before I was online at home and I could check my email at the local library.

These are memories that are nearly lost in the mists of time. :)
Anyway, somehow I found out about the meeting...the details were probably in the newspaper. I went and she was really friendly and encouraging and seemed to have a great time talking writing with me.

She went out of her way (or so it seemed to me) to sit with me at the lunch that followed the meeting just to be friendly and make the newcomer feel welcome.

I have been in and out of that Omaha group over the years, it's a loooooooong drive for me and I'm a slacker. But I made a commitment about two years ago to try and get more involved and be more faithful about attending meetings. I make it to about 1/2 of them...well, maybe 1/3 of them. And Cheryl is as friendly and fun as ever. We did a booksigning together in Kansas City about two weeks ago.

Tamara said...

Deb Raney graciously invited this newbie to her home and we had tea, even though we had never met. Just a friend of a friend thing. Through the years, we had tea many times at her home, and ate out a couple times too. I'll never forget those times. We've moved to Colorado since then and I miss that personal "connection". Such an incredibly nice, encouraging lady.

Pam Hillman said...

Ann, I can see why you were so enamored of Janet. She's grace personified: sweet and beautiful and elegant!

Janet, are your cyber ears burning? lol

But the truth's the truth, girl!

Pam Hillman said...

Amy, aka Julie, I can't believe you READ while seated next to Deb Raney and another author.

That is just too funny.

But since you were reading Deb's book, I imagine she was thrilled!

Pam Hillman said...

Tina, I agree. Sometimes I'm amazed at the authors I've met and know personally. When I say, "Oh, [insert any Seeker name] is a friend of mine." I think my family wonder if said Seeker even knows I exist! lol

Mindy Obenhaus said...

Elizabeth White. I LOVE her writing. A few years ago at an ACFW conference, I spotted her sitting across the table from me during one of the worship times. I was so excited.

When we broke, I made my way around to her and introduced myself. I had been an influencer for one of her books and she actually remembered me. Not only did she just say "hi," she asked me if I had time to talk.

She wanted to know all about my writing and really took an interest in ME! I could hardly believe it. She was so gracious.

Pam Hillman said...

Debra, of course you're friends with a NYT bestselling author! You had lunch with her, so that's good enough for me! lol

Pam Hillman said...

Ruthy, those first meetings were kind of nerve-wracking for me too. You look around at 10-20 other men and women and wonder who's a newbie like you, or who's a NYT bestseller... because you don't want to stick your foot in your mouth.

Over lunch one day years ago, I asked Sherrilyn Kenyon what she'd done before she became a published author. Her cheeky response, "I was in college." lol

Linda Cacaci said...

I have been pretty lucky. I used to work for Kathryn Falk at Romantic Times many years ago. I met Heather Graham there and actually spoke to Nora Roberts by telephone. They were all very nice and down-to-earth people.
I also met Mary Higgins Clark at a book signing. I spoke with her about being a writer. She was very kind and elegant.Writers are the nicest people in the world!

Pam Hillman said...

JStanton, that's a keeper for sure! Time to whip out that ring binder for a trip down memory lane, huh?

Melanie, meeting authors when they're still nobody(not that Mary was ever nobody, of course) is definitely a plus. lol

Pam Hillman said...

Cheryl, your Nora sighting sounds like mine! At RWA in Atlanta, my mother, son and I were walking through the skywalk to the shopping mall, and met three or four women headed back to the hotel. In the middle of the pack as if surrounded by guards was Nora Roberts. I sorta nodded and we walked on by. Then I grabbed my mother’s arm, and practically ribbed it off.

“That was Nora!”

Mom looked at me as if I'd gone crazy. “Who?”

Pam Hillman said...

Mary, loved your story of meeting Cheryl St. John.

And, for visitors to Seekerville who haven't met a published author in person yet, isn't it wonderful to know that they're the nicest people on earth, as Linda said.

Now, I wouldn't recommend that we show up univited on their doorstep, suitcase in hand, but when attending a writer's meeting, everyone's there to talk about writing, and enjoy others with like-minded interests.

It doesn't get any better than that!

Ayrian Stone said...

Julie--you're definitely the amazing author I'll never forget meeting, even if it was via email. :) Your heart shone through, and the fact you took the time to respond to all my emails blessed the socks off me. I think it's easier to shrug away an email than a face-to-face encounter or to jot something surface, but you didn't. You went deep and I loved our meeting of hearts and passions. One day I'm going to give you a hug in person!

Sandra Leesmith said...

My first experience was Vickie Lewis Thompson and Mary Tate Engles. They were signing in Phoenix and my mother saw the article in the paper. I ran to the used book store and bought every book I cpuld find. They both looked at me so funny and politely informed me that a booksigning was to sell NEW books. Hey, what did I know. But I will always remember the sweet smiles as they told me. I'm sure they had a good laugh. Vickie still encourages me.

The most memorable though was when I was at the Santa Barbara writers conference in the eighties and met Irving Stone. His historical, MEN TO MATCH MY MOUNTAINS has my grandmother in it. When I met him, he remembered her. Amazing. I was so thrilled.

At that conference was Sidney Sheldon, Ray Bradbury, Jacqueline Collins, Bo Derek who signed her photo for Ed. Well I'm really dating myself. LOL

Hey Ruthy, Thanks for the goodies.

Pam Hillman said...

His historical, MEN TO MATCH MY MOUNTAINS has my grandmother in it.

Sandra! Really! I have this book. Who, what, where is your granny?

Too cool!

Shannon Vannatter said...

I attended my second ACFW conference in Dallas 2006. I didn't know a soul. I got breakfast and found a table on the first day. This pretty blonde came with her plate and asked me if anyone was sitting next to me. I said no. She said, I'm Lenora Worth. My jaw dropped. I'd read countless books of hers and managed to stutter that out, I think. Of course, I couldn't think of one title, character, or storyline to tell her I liked. Totally brain dead. Every time somebody else came to the table, I pointed at her and said, That's Lenora Worth. I've run into her at three conferences since and she always rememebers me, probably as tht stuttering idiot, but she doens't let on if she thinks that. She's always very gracious and inspiring.

On another note: Congrats Ruth! We sat at the same breakfast table once. I think 2005 Nashville. I thought you were very sweet and was thrilled later that day when you placed in the Genesis. Or was it the Noble Theme then. I'm so glad you made it off the island.

Shannon Vannatter

Pam Hillman said...

Hmmm, Shannon, I need to come up with something unique for people to remember me by.

Cheryl dumps her food on people, so that's out.

You point and introduce them to everyone in sight.

I know, I'll just squeal: "Oh, it's Ruth Logan Herne!!!" and keel over in a dead faint! That ought to do it.

PS. I met Lenora at MSRW several years ago. She was speaking and I got to introduce her. She's the sweetest thing you ever saw! And too funny!

Just don't let her stick a fork in you. Do I need to explain?

Sheila Deeth said...

I won an hour of Jane Kirkpatrick's time from Willamette Writers and she was wonderful. She treated me as if I was an author and made me feel like maybe I could be. She gave me solid, sensible advice that I'm still trying to follow. And she introduced me to her husband and her dog. It's a gorgeous dog!

Oh, and she signed two books and called me a fellow writer. I will treasure them forever.

Leigh said...

What great stories -- I guess we all have our moments. :-)

The 'biggest' author I've met to date is Elizabeth Sherrill -- Guideposts editor and writer for almost 60 years, ghostwriter (usually with her husband John) of stories like The Hiding Place, Cross & the Switchblade, God's Smuggler. And I met her in Covington, GA, of all places!

She led a conference that my local writers group hosted last summer. Oh my! She was the most gracious, unassuming woman I've ever met. She taught us for 2 full days -- just sat in a comfy armchair or propped on it when she wasn't filling the flipchart, with us circled around close enough to hear (she's pretty soft spoken). We had a small crowd and she made a point to speak to each of us individually, ask about our writing, and encourage us.

Dr. Dennis Hensley will be leading our conference this year and we know he'll also be great. But Elizabeth will always hold a special place in our hearts. :-)

Mary Connealy said...

SHANNON! Don't call Ruthy SWEET.

Didn't you get the memo???

Quick, move and leave no forwarding address. We'll distract her until you can get away.

Missy Tippens said...

Glynna, I just now saw your new photo!! It's gorgeous!!

Okay, now to the post.:)

Pam, this was so fun. The first time I met authors in person was when I attended my first Georgia Romance Writers meeting. We have a LOT of pubbed authors in our group. And I was dumbstruck as I looked at nametags and saw people I'd been reading for years. I was so nervous I couldn't eat my lunch!!

Pam Hillman said...

Yep, that puts it all in perspective, Missy...being so nervous that we can't eat!

Shaddy said...

I haven't met an author but I received an e-mail response from one I had contacted at her website regarding her book.

I also e-mail back and forth with another author I've met through my blog.

Who knows what the future holds for me!

Cheryl Wyatt said...



Edna said...

I have never meet face to face with any of my favorite authors, but some live close by as Elizabeth Easton lives in a nearby city and a man just moved in next door to me that has written a book and had it printed. He hitched hiked all across the old Lewis and Clark trail from Boston and to the end of the trail when he was 70 years. He gave me one of his books but said they were not for sale as he did it for his children, I was so trilled and he signed it for me.


Jessica said...

Meeting a pubbed author is like meeting a celebrity. LOL Yeah, I know they're human and toiled over their manuscripts just like me, but I am still in awe because I know most pubbies are hard workers, tenacious and industry smart. :-)
The first authors I met were at a conference. Tom Morissey, Jeanette Windle (who kindly looked at my first pages), and Mark Mynheir.

Pam Hillman said...

Jessica, I loved Jeanette Windle's DMZ. I pulled it off the shelf this week and gave it to my 16 yo. He's seems to be enjoying it as much as I did.

tamelia said...

I guess I have a strange first published author meeting. Let me say to begin with that I have not actually went anywhere like meetings or booksignings or anywhere that a published author might be. And I never accidentally met a published author anywhere that I can recall...


My aunt is Patricia Maxwell (aka Jennifer Blake) and I grew up "knowing" she was a NYT bestseller published author. At the time that didn't really mean anything to me. She was just Aunt Pat. :)

I even remember many years ago before the luxory of computers she would be at one of my other aunt's house (we all lived on the same street) while Aunt Edith typed Aunt Pat's books. Still... I didn't get it. LOL. It was just Aunt Pat and Aunt Edith. LOL.

Now as I've decided, hmm I like writing and I plan to be published one day too, I realize the significance of being a NYT Bestselling author. And I think "Wow" she's been doing this for over 30 years. I guess I'm a little more in "awe" now than I was as a child and teenager. I really appreciate the hard work she does. And of course the fact she's been a gem in giving me advice when I get stuck though I try NOT to ask for very much advice. I really want to do this on my own. And I know she's always busy working on her own masterpieces. :)

Pam Hillman said...

Oh, my stars, Tamelia, Jennifer Blake is your aunt? Cool!

But like you said, probably growing up you had no idea it was such a big deal.

And, I imagine she's thrilled that you're following in her footsteps!

Tina M. Russo said...

Tamelia, you get four gold starfish from unpubbed island for that story. That's just too cool.

Cathy Shouse said...

Mary C,

I'm taking an online class with Cheryl St. John and she has totally gone out of her way to make me feel at home. So she hasn't changed a bit.

I tend to be "loud" in class in my effort to learn.

I asked about her backlist which I looked for at a used book store, to no avail.

She sent me a couple she had. Love them and her :)

BTW, those of you meeting Debbie Macomber in Denver are in for a real treat. She's my fave from when I met her at RWA Spring Fling 2008, then waited in line FOREVER to see her at Indiana Meijer signing. I finally had to leave, came back hours later and she was alone signing stock!

She remembered me from Spring Fling (she seemed sincere and I was wearing the same unusual top both times) and signed my book with a wonderful verse (I'm too tired to look it up right now but very loosely paraphrased, it was about God did not give us an attitude of timidity but of boldness.) I totally treasure the book!

I'm devoted to her for life, and to many other terrific authors I've interviewed for news assignments, too :)

Great topic, ladies, as usual!

Pam Hillman said...

Cathy, thanks for stopping by! I've been eyeing Cheryl's latest book, and am going to have to pick it up ASAP!

And I've only heard great things about Debbie. Can't wait to hear her in Denver.

Ashli said...

I love this blog!!! It is sooo much fun here!

The first published author I had the chance to actually meet was Julie! I absolutely LOVED her first two books, (WOW! Can't say enough good about them!!!) so at the risk of sounding like the cheesy bookworm I am =) I decided to email her from her website. I told her that her writing had been such a blessing to me, and gushed about how my sister and I talk about her characters like they are our own family (and pointed out the fact that our husbands like to laugh at us for it!) Honestly, if I expected a reply, it would be the automated response know, the "Thank you for your email, unfortunately, due to Mrs. Lessman's schedule she is unable to reply to every email..." So, needless to say, I was HYPERVENTILATING when I opened my email and there was a real response!!! I have met her twice in person since then and cannot even say how much of a blessing AND great friend she has become!!!!!!!!

Hugs, Ashli