A Tale of Two Authors

In the spring of 1995, my first novel for young readers was published and I was invited to speak to a librarian’s conference in the midwest. Also invited: an author who was much more established and very well known. Let’s  call this author “R.W.”  I arrived at the venue early, saw that RW had also arrived and went over to introduce myself. I said that my first book had just come out and that I was looking forward to sharing the podium.  RW glared at me. “Who are you? I never heard of you.”

The event organizers arrived and RW went ballistic. The seats were arranged incorrectly. They would have to be moved. The slide projector was the wrong kind. Find another one. Way too arrogant and imperious for a mere author of children’s books.  I felt diminished, and angry for the librarians who had worked so hard to organize things. To this day, I remember those words spoken with such disdain,” I  never heard of you.” I never bought a single RW book and I never recommended them to others either.

Fast forward to August of that same year. I was vacationing in Charleston, South Carolina, when Pat Conroy arrived at Books-a Million’s  Hoover Commons to sign copies of his newest novel, Beach Music. Though  I was too late to get my book signed,  almost 500 other people arrived  carrying not only copies of Beach Music but other Pat Conroy titles they wanted signed. Pat Conroy made a point of speaking to each and every fan, asking what they did for a living, or where they went to school, or what town they were from. For more than three hours he signed and chatted with people, handed out advice to would-be authors, and joked around with his father, Don, “the Great Santini.”   His fans adored him, and he adored them right back. Not one speck of ego, not one temper tantrum or snide remark.  Go to his website today and you’ll  find literally hundreds of  posts from fans who beg to cook dinner for him, who want to meet him, who tell him how his books have changed their lives.  Fans rejoiced earlier this month when he announced that he would be blogging occasionally. Like his millions of other fans, I check in every day to see whether he has posted anything new. Pat Conroy is one of my literary heroes. That day in Charleston, I promised myself I’d try always to emulate his humility and grace.

Which author would you rather meet? Which would you rather be?


8 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Authors

  1. Sandra Robbins

    I would rather meet Pat Conroy. His novel The Water Is Wide touched my heart when I read it. As a former teacher, I saw his love for children in that book. The encounter you described reinforced my feeling that he really does care about people. All of us, whether we’re writers or not, need to incoroporate that characteristic in our lives. Thanks for a wonderful post, Dorothy.

    Sandra Robbins

    1. dorothy Post author

      Hi Sandra.

      Thanks for taking time to comment. I loved The Water is Wide, too, and “Conrack” the movie based on Pat’s book. I still watch it whenever it’s on TV. He is a caring person, which I admire even more, knowing that he came from a childhood with such an abusive father. The new novel he is working on is about how he came to forgive his father and is tentatively titled “The Death of Santini.” I can’t wait to read it. Every person, author or not, should strive to emulate Pat’s humility and grace. I love him.

  2. Ane Mulligan

    What a great post, Dorothy! I have a hard time imagining someone could be that full of themselves to act like that. May we always remember from whence we came. 🙂

    1. dorothy Post author

      Hi Ane,
      To say that RW’s actions stunned me would be an understatement. Obviously it made its mark, as I am still writing about 16 years after it happened. One of my mentors once said to be kind to those we meet on the way up the ladder, for we will surely meet them again on the way down. I’ve never forgotten that. thanks for your comments. Always appreciated!!

  3. caralynnjames

    Very interesting post, and very sad some authors can be so arrogant and rude. Fortunately, most are helpful and friendly. I always remember those who offer encouragement, but I also remember those few who aren’t.

    1. dorothy Post author

      Hi Cara, I appreciate your comments. You’d think an author who has been so blessed with success as RW has, would have the grace to encourage others. I’m not a mega seller but I try to remember what it was like to be unpublished and wanting that first sale, and to offer advice and encouragement when I can. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Susan Karsten

    Thanks for posting this – as Christians, we should all be the “humble writer”! I don’t read Pat Conroy, but now I sure would like him as a friend. You painted a very enticing picture of his character!

    1. dorothy Post author

      Susan, thanks for your comments. I was so impressed with the way he interacted with 500 people all wanting his attention. He is just so humble and caring. I guess this is why his fans beg to cook dinner for him! He came from a very abusive family. When his mother finally got up the nerve to file for divorce, she tossed her diary into the judge’s lap and said, “It’s all there.” It would have been easy for Pat to become bitter and hateful but he channeled his pain into stories that resonate with readers who grew up in similar circumstances. Though he is not a “Christian writer” per se, he uses his immense talent to show others how to survive. In that way, his books are a ministry.

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