This past weekend I attended the World Fantasy Convention in Madison Wisconsin, where I’d been invited to speak on a couple of author panels and do a reading. Normally, I love going to these things because you meet a lot of great people and often get to spend some one-on-one time with the guest of honor. But I’m on a tight manuscript deadline at the moment, so I was worried about keeping up with the work while there. The one thing that kept me from totally stressing over it was knowing that WFC had garnered best-selling author Peter Straub for the event. Deadline or not, I wanted to meet this author!
Well, while driving up to Wisconsin, I started feeling a little funky, not quite myself. I blew it off to fatigue. By the time I reached the hotel in Madison, though, funky had turned to yuk, so I took a couple of Tylenol and crashed for the night. The next morning I woke only to discover that the sinus, flu, and swollen face gods had decided to pay me a visit during the night. My right eye was nearly swollen shut, and the rest of my face felt…lumpy. Here I was with only three hours to go before a panel and I looked like a mutated gerbil. And I was supposed to meet Straub today!
I rushed out and bought sinus tabs, stomach tabs, Benadryl, then downed the recommended doses with a Coke. I waited…and waited….and waited…and by the time I had to go downstairs for the panel, I still looked like a gerbil. Only now I was a woozy gerbil because of the Benadryl and sinus meds. Are we having fun yet?
Fortunately, the panel discussion went okay, thanks to an understanding moderator, who quickly stepped in whenever my brain clicked over to pause. Unfortunately, my brain was still mush when I went to hear Peter Straub’s keynote address.
Mr. Straub spoke for an hour, sharing how he got started in the business, how he dared to step out of the norm by writing stories that had changing narratives and chronology, and what it was like to collaborate with Stephen King. Although I was fascinated by what he had to say, I felt my head bobbing a few times throughout his presentation. At one point, I found myself startled awake by audience laughter, then heard Straub say, “Do you realize that women characters never urinate in books? (more laughter) It’s true! Writers have men urinating everywhere, a bathroom, behind a tree or a bush, but you never read anything about women.”
I’m sure I missed something between here and there, but I joined in the ensuing laughter, then remembered that I had a female character in Family Inheritance who urinated. How cool was that?
A few minutes later, when Mr. Straub wrapped up his presentation, I went to the front of the room to introduce myself. Before I could reach him, a man engaged his attention. I patiently waited my turn, all the while thinking…you know, Family Inheritance has changing narrative and chronology…
No sooner did I think that than the man who was talking to Straub leave, and I found myself face to face with the icon. I know I had a huge grin on my face, which probably made me look like a demented gerbil. You couldn’t tell it by Straub, though. He smiled, shook my hand, and asked me how I was enjoying the convention. I don’t even remember what I told the man. What I DO remember though, is sticking a hand into my book bag and pulling out a copy of FI. My intent was to associate the changing narratives and chronology in the book to his presentation. Instead, I thrust the book at Straub and in a Benadryl stupor said, “Uh…this is my first book, and I’d like to give you a copy….a woman pees in it.”
When I realized what I’d said, my jaw dropped, and I just blinked up at him. Straub blinked, too…then burst into a hearty laugh. He thanked me, took the book, and said (still laughing), “I’ll look forward to reading this.”