Thursday, January 20, 2005


Some years back, I and a group of romance writers took author Mary Balogh, the guest speaker at our conference, to a restaurant called Casablanca's on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Mary is a lovely, soft-spoken Welsh lady who is to Regency romance what Stephen King is to horror.

Now I've been a fan of Mary's work for, oh, I don't know. Most of my adult life? So I was really revved about the dinner. How often do you get to talk to the woman who's written half the books on your keeper shelf?

No, being the shy, retiring flower that I am, I plopped into the chair next to Mary, talked to her all through dinner, and even convinced her to share a plate of steamed mussels with me (right now all my pals are groaning, covering their eyes and telling their monitors, "Christ, not the Feeding Mary Mussels story again." Yeah, yeah. Like I haven't listened to your Neil Gaiman Smiled at Me anecdotes a million times.)

This would be a happy memory, except on the morning after the dinner, one of the other writers who had been there took me aside and told me I had no business being so casual with such an important author. Famous people expected to be treated with respect and deference, and if I wanted to get anywhere in this business, I'd better learn to how to behave. Like the newbie moron I was, I believed this, and spent the rest of the week feeling like the world's largest posterior and dodging Mary.

Fast forward to last night, me reading e-mail, and politely turning down offers to profit from my growing PBW fame. There is no such thing as having too much money, in my opinion, but sometimes you have to do things for reasons other than making the Almighty Buck. If you don't, ghosts with poor dental plans and chain fetishes show up to deliver free three-night guilt trip tickets, am I right?

One reply appeared to bounce back, but it was actually a reply to my reply. The sender was disappointed, but only because I'm obviously not serious about my career. If I want my current fame to last longer than fifteen minutes, I am told, I'd better stop fooling around. The wording wasn't the same, but the tone was identical to the one used years ago to deliver the Mary reprimand.

Alas, I am older and a bit wiser now. I've also written to Mary a few times since that dinner, and her replies have never once started with, "Dear Disrepectful Ninny." My friends will agree that I will never learn how to behave myself, and fame, while nice, can race on out of here any time it wants.

Steamed mussels are fabulous, though, if you get the good ones without too much grit. Ever tried them?

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