April Fool’s Day. I was never very good at it. Maybe because I really did have a spider on my coat when I was little girl. Furthermore, it was my mom’s birthday so we celebrated rather than teased. Say spider to me and I jump. I’m fine with them in the garden, but not on me, or in the house. I think that makes me rather ordinary.
Many years ago, I was in my vegetable garden trying to weed when a family friend stopped by. I think he though the was going to scare me when he told me I had a snake behind me. I turned my head slowly and spotted the largest black snake I’d ever seen. I looked back at the man standing before me and smiled. Keeping my cool, I reached out, ran my hand over the snake as it slithered away from me, and said, “It’s just a black snake.”
I know its stupid to touch wildlife, but I promise that snake took off at the speed of light when I touched him. He could have bit me. It’s not a poisonous snake, but any snake bite is dirty. It was a dumb thing to do. But I’m at home in the garden and the wildlife doesn’t bother me too much. I have a strong live and let live attitude. I’ve been within a foot of a water moccasin. We watched each other as I moved away from it. I’ve also shot a rattler before it struck my friend when I was a young teen. Now that was scary! I did what I had to, when I needed to, and that didn’t make me special.
Writers are pretty ordinary people, at least the ones I know and I know quite a few. I don’t think of myself as someone famous. Some writers have a lifetime of experiences behind them. It think it adds a richness to what they write. Some have day jobs. Some have studied ballet, danced with major ballet companies, and now write about it. Some have been cops, They know what it’s like to handle a crime scene or chase a criminal. But they are still ordinary people.
It seems as though most of my life I’ve been known for some reason. I was my parents’ daughter, the youngest sibling, my husband’s wife, the mother of my children, and eventually the grandmother of my grandchildren. When I worked, I was known for the job I did. The closest I came to fame was being known for my gardening articles for the local newspaper. My knowledge of historical and in particular American Victorian gardens kept me in demand for any group where more than five woman gathered and wanted a speaker. I did it for years and it was fun. But my life changed and I didn’t have time to do it.
I went back to writing. This time I wasn’t entertaining my own children or their friends. I wanted to make it a serious career. And as they say, the rest is history.
But me? I’m still me. I haven’t changed one iota. I wear jeans and tee shirts.
Since I’m now writing full time, there are days I never get any further than brushing my teeth and combing my hair. Some days I meet a friend for coffee. I call her my drinking buddy, and we joke about finding the best places to go drinking (coffee).
The other night, we went to the Starbucks closest to me. We stood outside talking for a few minutes and by the time we went inside, my coffee was already waiting for me. Why? Because they know me. I’m the decaf, dark roast, pour over. That doesn’t make me famous or special.
I do try to make myself presentable when I leave the house. But there are times when I don’t care. If I’ve got to make the dog food run and it’s pouring rain, I’ll pull my hair into a mommy tail and fly to the car. I don’t worry about makeup, or earrings. I just go as my plain self. Yes, I know I’ll never attract a man looking like a drown wharf rat. But if all I need is dog food, I’m really not worried about it.
I’m also one of those people who can’t remember what I wore two days ago. As a full time writer, I wear what is clean and comfortable. So my big question is…what was I wearing the other night? Oh, please! I hope I had on some makeup and something better than my baggie sweatshirt and my equally baggie, and not quite matching pants. Was my hair actually fixed or swirled into a big claw clip off my face?
My mother tried her best to convince me to always put my best foot forward. My mother wore heels, stockings, a pretty slip, and dresses. Her nails were perfect and so was her hair. She never budged from her bedroom until she was dressed and had on makeup. Now I know why.
My local grocery store orders dog food by the case for me several times a month. I have a big dog, and it’s the only thing she can eat that doesn’t upset her tummy. A wonderful friend is one of the managers at that store. They put my special order behind the service desk for me to collect. Considering that she is working, we really don’t get to chitchat. If we’re lucky, it’s a grand total of three minutes while she rings up my stuff.
The other night she ran a text message to me and asked if we could get together when she got off. Who else but a writer is willing to head to the local twenty-four-hour restaurant to meet a friend at 12:30 at night?
We’re sitting at the restaurant drinking coffee and she says that she forgot to tell me about a customer the other night when I picked up my dog food. Anyone who works with the public can recount some stories so I’m waiting to hear the usual crazy tale. That’s not what she tells me.
A woman approached her after I had left and asked my friend if she knew that woman – meaning me. She replied that she did. But the woman pushed it further and asked if she knew who I was. Well, yeah! Then the woman wanted to know if my friend could get my autograph. The woman gushed about how she’s read all my novels and loved them, and how she’d recognized me by my picture.
Part of me is groaning. What was I wearing? Was my hair fixed? Did I look presentable or had I run into the market figuring the only people there were the ones who knew me and didn’t care? But the other part of me is thrilled beyond belief. There’s nothing an author loves more than to discover that someone loves what they write.
The author world is quite small and I really should know better. Readers are everywhere! I just wasn’t expecting one in my town.
I can remember being in Wal-Mart and buying a paperback book by Cathy Maxwell. As I went through the checkout, the gal on the register told me how she loved Cathy’s books and buys them as soon as they come into the store. I smiled and told the woman that I knew Cathy and I’d pass her praise along. That evening I emailed Cathy. She was thrilled. Cathy is a New York Times Best Seller. Lot of folks buy her books. But there’s something about that person who says; “I love so-and-so’s books.”
It’s actually rare that we get direct feedback from our readers. My email addy is in the back of all my books. In fact, most authors are fairly easy to contact. Search your favorite author. It’s usually in their books or it’s on their website. Over the years, I’ve been able to contact all of my favorite contemporary authors. As a reader, I completely understand the thrill of conversing with a special author, especially one that you love. As a writer, I love hearing from my readers.
And if you see me in the market or drinking coffee with a friend, say hello! Just try to picture me wearing something nice with my hair styled, because the odds are my resolution to never leave the house without being totally presentable will last all of a week.
I’m a normal person. I have good days and not so great days. I hate having to pump gas, I eat yogurt, drink coffee, love cookies, and clean my own toilets. I do my own laundry, drag the trashcans to the curb, almost never watch TV, and I love all sorts of music. I’m an artist, and photographer. I love the clean, wet scent of clothes as I pull them from the washer. I love making a batch of beef vegetable soup on a cold day and I love baking bread. The only really strange thing about me is that I’m a writer. Specifically I’m a novelist. That sets me apart from the rest of the world.
I really do love hearing from my fans. Email me. If you want my autograph, go to authorgraph.com. And if you love my books, please leave a review.
And yes, I’m dying to meet this woman who thinks I’m famous and loves my books. I hope she stops me in the middle of the grocery aisle when I’m trying to figure which applesauce has the least amount of sugar for the lowest cost, because I want to thank her for reading my books. I’d like to buy her a cup of coffee.