Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

The Babbling Paradigm

Recently, at a book signing, an author told at story about meeting Sue Grafton.

This author was at a major publishing event, one of those ALA’s or RT’s or RWA conferences where authors at different stages of their careers hobnob with the other members of their profession.

You all know who Sue Grafton is, right? The Alphabet Mysteries? A is for Alibi? Chances are you’ve seen these wildly popular mysteries around. She’s a very popular author.

While Jane Author was hanging out, someone said to her, “Don’t look now, but Sue Grafton is standing right behind you.”

Like all self-respecting human beings would do in that situation, Jane whipped around and yelled, “SUE!” For the next few minutes, during which she was shaking Sue Grafton’s hand, Jane blabbed her way through the encounter and didn’t actually remember what was said.

Which brings me to my point:

Who, if you had the chance to meet them, would you absolutely flip your shit over?

During lunch (with the author), she laughed about her Sue Grafton encounter and admitted that she would do it again. I answered, “We all have someone we would so that to. It’s just finding that person.”

I think this is an interesting question. Everyone has someone they would become a babbling idiot over. In the recent Nerdist podcast, host Chris Hardwick admits that he got a little flustered when talking to Tina Fey. If Tina Fey made time in her schedule to hang out with me for an hour and a half, I might lose it a little bit myself.

We’ve all seen that moment when the little girl meets the Disney princess at Disney World. Her eyes light up, she gasps, she runs across the park paying no heed to what’s going on around her. She wants to tell her everything. She babbles.

We never really grow out of that phase.

I have my stock answers: Robert Downey, Jr. and J.J. Abrams, but I don’t know if that’s particularly true. I suppose I would actually have to meet them in order to know whether or not that’s true.

You’re Iron Man. I-you-you’re Iron Man.

When does the mere idea of a meeting person become life-changing?

At the same event, a girl hung back and waited a little, quiet and unassuming. She stood in line, got her books signed, and walked around the store until the rest of the crowd cleared out a bit and the authors were left alone, signing stock and making plans for later.

When the time was right, she walked up to one of the authors and asked, “Are you ____?”

Author: “Yes.”

Girl: “Did you write _____?”

Author: “Yes, I did.”

Girl: “It’s one of my favorite books! I read it, like, a year ago and I want to read it again every time I finish another book!” She became a babbling idiot.

What does it take to be the person on the other side? How do we accept that praise? It’s not just admiration, it’s adoration. It’s breathtaking to behold. As a storyteller, I can only pray that I can reach someone on that level. You can write it off, play it down in front of your peers, ignore it in front of your friends, but that has to be an amazing moment.

You changed someone.

And, in the end, that’s all we can ever hope for.

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