Why Writers are my Rock Stars
I stood palpitating, the crowd around me swollen with hysteric anticipation. If only I could just get a glimpse of him. I had idolised, fawned and fantasised for so long.
The hot spotlight hit his head and spun outward like the golden heroic thread of gilded biblical texts.
By the time I had shuffled to the front of the crowd I was so giddy with anticipation that I would have let him sign the flesh of my bare extremities. Instead, I completely lost the ability to speak and stood stunned with doe-eyed adoration; mesmerised by his magnificent gaze.
This was not a Rock Concert and I wasn’t supplicating in front of a leather-panted-black-eye-lined Rock Star. Instead, this is a recount of the moment that I met the one and only Bill Bryson at a book signing.
A book signing.
You see, writers are my Rock Stars. It’s true. And there is nothing quite as intoxicating as meeting a writer face to face.
Reading is an intimate experience. It’s peppered with sweet metaphorical kisses and is enjoyed in the steamy heat of layers of warmed bed linen on Sunday mornings.
It doesn’t take long, if truly enchanted, to submit. Perhaps it’s a chapter in, or two, but there is nothing like that foetal symbiosis when my heartbeat syncopates with the rhythm of a writer’s words.
To me, imbibing the words of another becomes physical. I crest the waves of conflict and complication, subsume to the inner worlds of imagined characters and tearfully ascend to tumultuous climax. It’s after this shared intimacy with the written word that I feel truly connected to the hand who wrote them.
What could give you a deeper sense of knowing someone than reading their words?
When I’ve experienced this sort of connection with a writer, albeit remotely and let’s face it altogether imagined, I can think of nothing more fulfilling then meeting them.
I understand that I sound slightly maniacal at this point and would like to reassure you, dear reader, and any writer whom I may have stalked, that I’m as harmless as a bunny.
Then again, as soon as someone starts explaining why they’re not maniacal its best to keep your distance isn’t it?
I like to think that I presented as a harmless bunny when I stood in front of Bill Bryson on that twinkling evening but I’m fairly certain there was a ‘crazy lady’ glint in my eyes.
Needless to say, it was incredibly inconvenient that I stood mute at such a moment. My sister, grasping the calamity of my transformation from articulate butterfly to dribbling fool, quickly intervened:
“This is my sister Brooke. She’s one of your biggest fans (read: crazy lady). She’s read every single thing you’ve ever written; can she grab a photo with you?”
There was a pause as poor Bill assessed the possibility of physical harm and then he outstretched those warm literary arms of his and embraced me as my sister snapped away.
I was in a similar state when I met Elizabeth Gilbert. I had just finished reading her most recent work: The Signature of all Things. A grand novel, its protagonist, Alma Whittaker, is a nineteenth century botanist with an exquisite devotion to the minutia of moss.
I had wrapped myself in its deeply satisfying embrace in the previous month in Bali; ensconced in none other than moss-smothered walls and the pulsating hum of a monkey-throbbing jungle.
Such was my connection to this novel and its gorgeous creator that upon reaching the end of the signing cue I did the unthinkable… I asked for a hug.
Again… the pause.
Poor Elizabeth, she must have encountered the same ‘I think we could be best friends’ entreaty a thousand times during her tour. I definitely hadn’t been the first articulate and interesting woman to have lost all trace of either attribute in her presence and had requested, instead, to connect through hugging it out.
If writers are my rock stars then writer’s festivals are my concerts.
I prepare, I plan and I deliberate extensively over the best ‘I may meet my literary hero today’ ensemble. This, I may add, is a studied version of ‘serious sexiness’ with black rimmed spectacles and silk slacks as de-rigour.
It was in such a painfully deliberated outfit that I attended a Brisbane Writer’s Festival several years ago and sat in the audience of a forum with the jaw-droppingly -rock -star-writer Simon Winchester.
I hadn’t read a word he’d written before but after an hour of listening to his deeply cadenced tales of adventures from Africa to the Arctic and of the research into Krakatoa, his fictionalised account of the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history; I was smitten. I almost tripped over myself in the rush to secure a copy of his novel at the festival’s bookstore and that evening it was as if Winchester himself was reclined in a khaki safari suit whispering next to me as I sank into a post festival reading binge.
The Brisbane Writer’s Festival is an annual source of rock-star-writer inspiration and the slightly fanatical hordes of scarf-swathed-spectacled-sycophants swell to biblical proportions when someone ‘big’ arrives.
I’ve seen people push, yes, PUSH to get a good seat. Heels shuffle and programs rustle in the jostle for prime seating for a rock-star-writer. The RSW effect will see people go without food, drink and respite in order to ‘catch a glimpse’.
At least I’m not the only one.
It’s only two weeks until this year’s festival. I have booked a packed program that only allows time for an elegantly determined gait between each venue. I figure I can eat when I lay in a euphoric puddle of post-forum-mosh-pit exhaustion at the end of the day; fanning myself with my crumpled program and re-creating stolen moments when a great writer held my gaze from the front row.
So to Bill, Elizabeth, Simon and the countless other writers whom I have adored both from afar and in dangerously close proximity, I say thank you.
You have gifted me not only with the sweet sanctuary of time spent cocooned in the womb-like warmth of your words but you have been gracious and generous enough not to desperately run in the opposite direction when confronted with me face to face.
Get your Rock Star tickets now..