I met one of my heroes yesterday! Jennifer Weiner was here in Cambridge on her "Cupcakes Across America" tour, talking about The Bachelorette, her young daughter's refusal to wear undergarments, and her new book, Fly Away Home. She was hilarious, entertaining...and surprised the $@% out of me when she knew who I was.
One of the perks of writing books is that the author community is SO supportive of each other. After my brief career as an attorney (where, let's just say, that was not the case...) it never ceases to amaze me how writers cheer each other on, promote one another's books, and send waves of Tweets/FB posts/emails saying "Get to work! I want to read your next book, so write it!" when one of us is having an "I should have been an accountant..." kind of day. I know Jen has been uber-supportive of fellow novelists, running contests through her blog to get the word out about debut novels, fighting to get better review coverage for women writers in the New York Times. But our paths have never crossed--I simply admired her from afar.
Back when my writing career was just a dream and I was temping in a venture capital firm that was about to be swallowed in a takeover, I had a lot of time on my hands. I spent that time reading Jen's blog. She was one of the earliest writers to really embrace blogging (the archives go back to 2002, when she was finishing her second book, In Her Shoes) and she was this brilliant combination of hilarious, encouraging, and real that I hadn't seen before--it became like my own soap opera, tuning in each day to see what would happen next.
In the years since, I've kept up with her books, and her blog, and admired something else: how adaptable she is. She takes chances in her writing, trying things: murder mystery, short stories, revisiting characters from a previous book to catch up. It takes guts to do that (and--let's be honest--HUGE book sales so that your publisher will let you take those kinds of risks) because it means she's not just churning out the same book over and over again for the same audience. Not everyone loves everything she writes...but she has something in that will entertain almost any reader. Smart strategy.
So last night...I handed her my book after the girl in front of me had explained the complicated spelling of her name. "Mine is easy," I said. "It's Trish."
She looked at me. "Are you Trish Ryan?" she asked.
"Um, yes..." I muttered, like a complete flabbergasted dork.
"It's so nice to meet you!!!" She got up from her table, ignoring the crush of people waiting for her signature, and gave me a giant hug. She asked how my second book was doing, and when I'd be going on tour.
Again, being the brilliant on-the-spot conversationalist that I am, said something about how we'd pushed the tour to September because only Jennifer Weiner can tour in July (which is true, but still...who says that?) She was funny and gracious and said that July is hotter than $#@$ and September would be better anyway.
Then, as I was walking away, she said to the crowd, "You guys: She's an author, too!" She didn't have to do that...it was just an act of huge generosity, sharing her spotlight with someone who occupies an much (much) lower spot on the literary ladder. A reporter from the Boston Globe came over to take my name. It was all surreal, and (I'll admit) wonderful. It gave me a nudge to keep writing, because I want to be part of this amazingly supportive world.
So thanks, Jen...for the untold hours of entertainment and encouragement, and also for knowing how much a moment like that can mean to another writer. Your generosity rocks :)