Saturday, June 18, 2011
Drinking with Authors and Other Scraps
NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – A New York children's author who used a curse word in exasperation during a plane delay at a U.S. airport was ejected from the aircraft for disruptive behavior.
Robert Sayegh, 37, said Atlantic Southeast Airlines overreacted to his salty language when it summoned police aboard to escort him off the Sunday evening flight at Detroit Metro Airport.
I get it. Most of us get exasperated and drop the F bomb, but not on planes. Flying is hard enough without upsetting flight attendants. Times have changed. They don’t fly terrorists, obvious madmen, drunks, or dirty mouths. If old Bob there hadn’t been a kiddie-book author it would not have been news. Kids don’t read papers, so the publicity won’t help his sales. It got me thinking about the times my mouth has thrown me into a bear stew. Roald Dahl proved you don’t have to be an angel, or even a nice person, to write great and classic kids books. But I’m sure Robert is a great guy once you’ve had a drink with him. Maybe the author was late for a conference. I bet the bar at a kiddie authors conference is Lamp Shade City.
On occasion, my social filters fail. One example of hundreds: I was in a restaurant in New York a few years ago sitting with another author and our conversation rolled around to some example of violence and gore. Conversation was purely technical, as I recall––heads of shotgun suicides that looked like day lilies, or perhaps what high-velocity rounds do to a human body. I was blissfully unaware of my surroundings until a woman at an adjoining table interrupted us to say, “Could you please change your conversation, we’re trying to eat here.” I don’t get that. I’ve been at an autopsy where the ME and an assistant were talking about cooking various venison dishes while the ME was popping out a brain, and weighing it. You get inured to what exposure to such subjects do to other people when you are always thinking and writing about it.
Most authors are curious about a wide variety of things, and they will go to amazing lengths to learn something potentially useful. Instead of having knowledge in a concentrated area, their knowledge tends to be as wide-ranging as that of a Jeopardy Champion. I once sat through an hour-long story that had no punch line at all. It was riding in a ox-drawn cart five miles across a desert only to ride off a cliff. Conversations with most of the authors I’ve met (especially in a bar) are almost always interesting, entertaining, and enlightening. It’s no surprise that authors tend to find each other’s company pleasurable. You sit having drinks, listening to people who know how to tell a good story with maximum impact¬, and it is never boring.
I’ve never decided if conferences were profitable, but they are worth the investment simply for entertainment value and being in contact with peers. It can be expensive to attend Bouchercon, Thrillerfest, Magna Cum Murder, or any one of a hundred national, regional or local writers conferences. If you’ve never been or can’t afford $1500.00 on a weekend, what you should do, if you’ve never done one, is drive to the closest one and go to the closest bar to the conference rooms (Usually in the venue hotel), get a table, order a drink to nurse, and just sit there. When the authors start walking in and the place starts filling up, offer one a place at your table. Soon the table will be crowded with authors because they are social animals, especially after a drink or two. The later it gets the better the stories. Don’t be shy. Most authors are approachable. This will never fail, and you can decide if you want to sign up for the next one and spend the money. You don’t have to be a published author. You can be a fan of a conference’s genre, a librarian, or an accountant. It doesn’t matter at all. If you have questions, you’ll get real answers and unguarded ones at that. And you will laugh. That in itself is worth the effort and the expense.
I am a fan of interesting conversations over drinks in a quiet bar or on my deck. I am not very comfortable in crowds, but I’m okay in crowded bars filled with good people. You don’t have to be a drinker for this at a conference. A quarter of the authors in the room will be drinking soda with a bit of lime in the glass, which is, of course, a fictionalized drink.
John Ramsey Miller
Posted by John Ramsey Miller at 12:01 AM