Saturday, September 17, 2011

What Audrey Niffenegger and I Have in Common

We both write? True. We both draw? True, but that's not what I'm talking about. We both wrote runaway bestsellers that were made into major motion pictures? Well, one of us did. Not me unfortunately. We both were presenters at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in Burnsville, NC last weekend? Yes!
Of course, I was there with my FABULOUS critique group, The Secret Gardeners. Our panel was called What Makes A Successful Critique Group. Which was about how, for example, two members of the SGs recently secured wonderful agents. And how we all inspire, cojole and urge each other on to be the best we can be. And how we use incentives for success, such as champagne and chocolate. My stomach was all jumbly on the ride there while practicing speaking Slowly and Clearly, which is not my forte. I am LEARNING to be more comfortable with public speaking, but I am still in the uncomfortable stage. I was hoping less than 3 people would show up, so as not to be overwhelmed by a huge audience. Was Audrey Niffenegger experiencing these same emotions? We arrived in the Courtroom which was our venue in the small, adorable town of Burnsville and sat in what I suppose might be called the Lawyer Table. We did not want to be in the jury box, as one early-arrival audience member suggested. We're not that kind of critique group. About 15 people showed up. And they all looked nice. I read my intro about our group. People laughed at the appropriate times. We had a lively discussion. Everyone seemed interested. I spoke slowly. Afterwards, many people told us how much they enjoyed it. And then we all went to hear the brilliant Audrey Niffenegger. And she really is brilliant, her artwork is amazing, her novels are amazing, she read us some wonderful, funny stories. But I noticed one other thing about her.
(This doesn't look like her either. If her presentation had gone on for another two hours, I might have gotten it right) She is just a person. A sweet, down-to-earth person, from what I could tell after hearing her and seeing her for 45 miniutes, but also just a person. Sometimes her hair escapes from her hair band. Maybe she even sometimes feels nervous. And once upon a time, she was trying to get published and not wildly famous. She might have once been in a critique group, sharing her work and dreaming of the day when her work would be out in the world for everyone to see. So, if I could be a time-travelling writer and could go back to that time when she was working and hoping and not knowing if one day....Well, then maybe we actually have two things in common.