Meeting best-selling author Ridley Pearson was after all rather exciting.
So there we were at lunch to which Mr. Pearson was invited as a guest speaker.
We got through the song (this club always sings a song!) and then the club Prez address, then a word from a 3rd generational member whose references made everyone laugh, but not being a member, I was clueless and did my linen tablecloth smile nevertheless.
And then there was a joke and general announcements.
During all of this, a lovely pot roast and oven roasted potatoes and fine creamed spinach, nothing literary but certainly surprisingly delicious, was set before each of us. And at this club, it’s polite to eat AND listen.
(This was in the midst of a corporate work day. Oh, how civilized the rest of the world seems at lunch hour – I had no idea and really must leave my office more often!)
And Ridley Pearson, a small fellow, not tall, that is, fairly thin but in a collegiate (prep! which I adore) navy blazer and khakis and button down shirt and plenty of wavy hair, is one of those writers who can also talk. He is entertaining. He can tell a story, not just write one. He’s had plenty of practice, speaking and all, but ya’ gotta like him, even though you know he’s rehearsed. He loves what he’s doing.
So, what’s he doing?
…He is writing four books at once. Two of them are “series” books: the fourth book in his Peter-and-the-Star-Catchers trilogy(!) and another in his Kingdom series (for kids) and then of course there are two more, which makes four in progress.
…He is playing bass in a band with Stephen King, Dave Berry and Robert Fulghum and others who rotate in and out of the group called the Rock Bottom Remainders.
…He is enjoying family life with lovely wife and two daughers, Page and Story. (yes, those are their names.)
…He works 80 hours a week, writing.
…He is developing a creative writing program at a university in Shanghai, China where he and his family spent all of last year as he taught a course in creative writing, all in English.
What else did we learn?
…That Pearson spent some time with a uni friend in Bankgkok in his 18th year.
…That his first book, UNDERCURRENTS, was completely re-written before the editor said yes, it was done.
…TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is his favorite book probably and Harper Lee his mentor hero. He taught the book, which he has read 8 times, in China, in fact. He has not yet met Harper Lee who lives in Alabama.
…Stephen King has a library of 17,000 books. He has several shelves labeled TBR. He’s read all the rest.
There’s more but I’ll likely think of it in the middle of the night.
After Pearson spoke and having elicited a fair share of appreciative chuckles and laughs-out-loud, he came away from the podium and as people left or decided to gather and share a few quick tales of prep school, travel in China, and the lauds of St. Louis, I stood in line, two books, his books of course, clutched in one hand, a pen in the other.
I was nervous. What the hell is my problem in the face of best selling authors? Come on, I tell myself, I have experience, I have nerve. I have interviewed Diane von Furstenbrug, Lou Brock, Marshall Faulk, Mossimo, uptown Manhattan Bernard Marais and others with nary a flinch or a sweat, but here I was, nervously anticipating what brilliantly stupid thing I would say to an author whose autograph I sought though I’d read nary a word of his…yet.
“Hello!” he said, leaning forward.
I offered my hand and he shook it as I announced my name.
Then, “Would you?” I asked, holding the books forth.
“Oh yes, I’d be delighted.”
“Thanks, I’m a shameful book groupie,” I said (whaaat??????) and here I looked around. No one, I mean no one else was standing around waiting to have a book signed.
We moved to a table and he opened the first book and I asked him to address it to my Mom, “Jeanie,” a new fan, I explained lamely.
“And the second one is for me,” I said, feeling even stupider as my voice broke. He didn’t ask my name. Good grief, the man remembered it! and wrote “To Oh, All my best, Ridley Pearson.” I said thank you, and hoped to hear his band next time it was in town at the Pageant.
Walking away, I nearly swooned. No, no, no, not over him! Over the whole “book” thing, the reality of it, the potential we all have and the prize if we stick to it (if that’s what we want.)
HM sauntered over with several colleagues. “Got your autrograph then, love?”
“I did, yeah.”
“Glad you came?”
“Oh yes, ever so.”
“Come on, let’s get your parking garage ticket stamped. ”
HM likes it when he can come up with book-ish things to engage me. We parted at our cars, his pointed toward his city office, me toward the burbs. I thought about just going home to sit down and get started on my own 80-hour writing week.
I almost believe in it enough.