Sorry About The Sweaty Palms

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting Mary Higgins Clark. We were at the same author event in Paramus, New Jersey, and I knew my mom would never forgive me if I didn’t get a book signed by her. She was warm, friendly, gracious and wrote the nicest note to my mom.

But as I was approaching her table, my hands started to shake. I got tongue-tied. My brow started to perspire and my glasses began to fog up. (That unfortunately happens a lot. I have bigger eyebrows than Bert from Sesame Street.) In short, I was nervous as hell.

Now, I could chalk it up to being intimidated by a woman who has sold a gazillion copies during her long career. Then there’s the fact that my mother has read every one of her books, which were as common to see in the living room as the TV Guide or my dad’s copies of Sports Illustrated. I grew up knowing her name, so it was a tad surreal to be seeing her in person.

But the truth is, I get nervous meeting any author, especially one I’ve read and admired for years. I know this is silly. I’m an author myself, and I realize that we’re all just people who tell stories for a living and experience the same frustration, writer’s block and┬ásense of relief when we finish a book.

I’ve gotten better at this over the past year. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet an insane number of fellow writers. Many have become acquaintances. Some have even become friends. And I look forward to events like Thrillerfest and Bouchercon because I know it will give me a chance to chat with them.

But there are still those writers who loom large in my mind. I’m talking about authors whose talent (not to mention┬ásales) make me feel tiny and inconsequential in comparison. I’ve had the good fortune to meet some of them. Harlan Coben, for example, couldn’t have been nicer when I told him TELL NO ONE is the book that convinced me I needed to write. Lee Child was funny, friendly and too suave for words. And when Louise Penny hugged me and congratulated me on having my first novel published, I momentarily thought I had died and gone to writer heaven.

Despite those great experiences, there are still writers out there who would turn my legs to jelly and make me act like a tongue-tied fool. So Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Lorrie Moore and Laura Lippman, if we ever meet one day, don’t worry if my palms are sweaty and my glasses are so fogged up that I look like someone who has recently escaped a meat freezer. It’s just nerves.

What authors have you met? And did they make you irrationally nervous? Share your stories in the comments section below.

Posted on by Todd Posted in Musings

One Response to Sorry About The Sweaty Palms

  1. Eric

    I don’t know if you can relate as a journalist, depending on what path your career has taken to the copy desk, but I know for me one of the downsides of being a sportswriter is that I am seldom impressed by celebrity anymore. I say downsides because I want to be impressed, I want to feel like you do… but when you’ve stuck a tape recorder in the face of some of the most famous people on Earth, with a job to do that requires not losing your cool, well… I guess you probably understand. I remember the first few times I was like, “don’t lose it, be professional, don’t go nuts.” And by the end, it was kind of like, “hey, there’s the guy I need to talk to, thank goodness, I’ve got a deadline.” Glad you can still feel this way, and scared to think what might happen if you meet Stephen King!