Monday, July 21, 2008

RWA: How to handle the overstuffed author

Found this among my posts from last year's RWA convention posts and thought I'd share yet again. Hee

Most authors you meet at RWA are friendly, very real people. The best thing about RWA is getting together with friends, friends-to-be is associating with people who LIKE romance.

What a relief it is to NOT have to defend the genre, to know that others identify with the same struggles and joys of writing a book.Yet once in a great while, it happens. You meet the Overstuffed Author.

It comes without warning. You're eating rubber chicken at a conference luncheon at a table of strangers. The woman next to you starts talking about herself and her books. And she Does Not Stop. She’s an endless loop.

If a hurricane blew inside the room and everyone scrambled madly for shelter, she’d still be there, rambling on about her and "Look! A hurricane! Why I once wrote a best-seller about a hurricane!"

As an author, I talk about my books. Yes, it’s called promoting myself. Sometimes I ramble, but I also like to get to know about others’ interests. What are they writing? Where are they from? What do they think about the conference?

Most authors do the same. Of course there are authors whom you admire and all you want to do is ask them questions because you’ll rarely get the chance again. You WANT them to talk about themselves! Luck out with a Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Teresa Medeiros at your table, or Linda Howard, and you’ve struck gold.

Or there's the funny author who makes you laugh so hard you snort tea out your nose. You just want her to keep telling stories.Then there is the Overstuffed Author. Her/his ego is bigger than the Goodyear Blimp. It can't be deflated, not even using a hammer and chisel.

For example, a luncheon conversation goes like this:

Overstuffed Author (OA for short): "My newest book, THE DANDY RAKE'S HANDY TOOL, is a quadruple RITA finalist! It was Number 89 on USA Today and number minus 1 on Bookscan! I just had dinner with my editor, Miss Tired and Weary and Overworked Jones, and agent, Mr. I'm So Happy I Have a Bestseller Author Now I Can Pay The Phone Bill Smith, and they assured me my career is skyrocketing! Why they predicted I'll make the NY Times soon! I'm leaving with my husband after the conference for Paris, Rome, Istanbul and Yeehaw Junction, Florida to research my next book in my gadzillion book contract, THE RAKE AND THE HO, after my Oprah interview, of course."

You: ""

NY Times bestselling author sitting on other side of you asks you directly: "What do you write?"

You: "Well, I write contemporary women's fiction and..."

OA: "My editor just asked me to write a contemporary women's fiction novel! I don’t know HOW I’ll find time, but she said she’d give me a four book contract and a book tour with a $2,000 a day expense account and ..."

yada yada yada. You get the picture.

Most published authors are VERY nice. Down-to-earth, modest, fun people. They're helpful, very willing to share. But once in a while... you run into the OA.

Years ago before I got published, I sat next to an OA at a luncheon. I think my head finally fell into the ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes. I may have actually passed out and needed oxygen, but she kept blathering about herself. She didn't even bother to check to see if I had a pulse.

It was shortly after that a dear friend and I encountered two OA's trying to outdo each other in the Olympic version of Look how wonderful I am! My friend and I devised this very simple, but effective scenario we used to play tag team.

Next time you get stuck besides an OA, use this handy phrase:


Then you smile.THAT SOUNDS GREAT is code for many things.It could mean, "You are boring me to death and I'd rather walk on hot coals and eat writhing worms."

It could mean, "Did you exit your mother's womb talking about yourself?"

Or even, "I see a mob with pitchforks and torches. I'm assuming they're coming for you because they have to sit by you at the NEXT luncheon."

It can even mean, if you are sitting next to an author you admire, "I really am so glad I got to meet you!"Such is the wonderful simplicity of THAT SOUNDS GREAT!

It depends upon the person you meet. Whatever you desire, that's what it means. It's just a nice little polite way of enduring the OA when you're trapped. And a much nicer option than throwing your scoop of plastic mashed potatoes at her face.


Gillian Layne said...

How funny!!

I think I met one of "those people" last year. I went through the introduction thing but I think she was so offended I had to ask what she wrote after she said her name that she just talked to someone else. Another friend told me she was a very "big name" in her genre.

I can be so clueless. :)

I hope you have a great time at Nationals and I hope to meet you next year!

Bonnie Vanak said...

You're not clueless, Gillian. Some people just think that everyone should know who they are. Their egos are too big for their britches.

I found out that some of the nicest authors are also the ones who are superstars. Lisa Kleypas, for example. She's warm, hospitable and very gracious. So are Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan and many others.

Alas, I'm NOT going to RWA this year; just posted that post b/c I found it amusing. Maybe next year!