Living in Los Angeles, I’m seldom star-struck. But partway through a writers’ conference in Cleveland, I morphed into a pile of quivering You’re my hero! mush.
I’ve just returned from Bouchercon—a convention celebrating crime fiction. In my three times attending, I’ve been struck by the incredible warmth of the community. And I’m not talking thriller-style heat. The general attitude among authors is “How can I help you?”
While the fest is a blast, it’s also work. Authors mingle about in professional/friend mode, soaking up the experience with business cards at the ready. On day two, I snapped from adult professional to quivering, twitter-pattered teen. Sitting in the front row before a panel featuring Mary Higgins Clark, my palms clammy and my heart beating triple time, I nearly burst into tears.
I first read Clark’s A Cry in the Night by Clark in fourth grade. The tattered library book I never returned accompanied me to school, bed and my first—nearly last—babysitting job. (Picture two-year-old twin boys “playing” in a bathroom to the ignorance of their book-obsessed babysitter. Not pretty.) I’d finish the book then try to repress parts before reading it again. In all, I probably read A Cry in the Night eight times. Thankfully, she had other books to fill the gaps.
Back then, the Indigo Girls, Oprah and Mary Higgins Clark were my peeps—the cool aunties I looked up to and relied on whenever times grew drab, confusing or tough. According to recent studies, I’m not alone.
Research compiled by the British Psychological Society showed that celebrity fandom often peaks during adolescence, and might function as part of our extended social networks.
It makes sense that we look to those we admire when questioning and contemplating our identities and the plethora of changes that infiltrate our pubescent lives. The Indigo Girls taught me to play guitar, to share honest feelings through song and not place my self worth in brand-names or makeup. Oprah taught me—well, that’s another
episode series. And Mary Higgins Clark cemented in me the incredible power of story. Seeing as I “grew up” to be a writer, she’s arguably the most influential of all.
Fearing I’d stand up and open the flood gates by asking Clark a question, I simply absorbed the talk then headed to the book room where I stood in line for an autograph. (Though the crowd and vibe varied, it reminded me of waiting for the Indigo Girls post-concert for the first time—minus my security
blanket guitar.) By the time my turn came, time and Clark’s kindness induced calm. I thanked her, briefly shared she’s meant to me then answered her questions about my career. (Like I said, warm.) I walked away with an autograph and gratitude for what Oprah would call a full-circle moment. I’d done my inner-little-girl proud.
I don’t know about you, but as time goes on, I feel continually more connected to the little-kid me. It’s as though life’s struggles sent me on a detour then back to my authentic self. Having an opportunity to thank someone who’s played such a valuable role in my journey made Bouchercon feel like Christmas.
When we love what we do and do what we love, most anything’s possible. And while I don’t have any findings to support it, I suspect that connecting with fabulous others, putting ourselves out there, pursuing passion and expressing gratitude can make dreams we never realized we had come true. Experiences like Bouchercon show me that. Who knew a crime fiction fest could be so darn heart-felt?
Have you ever been star-struck? Or met someone you admired as a kid? What celeb makes your heart pound?