Recently I was invited by some friends of mine to attend one of their book signings. This particular one just happened to be at Turn the Page Bookstore Cafe in Boonsboro, Maryland. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s owned and operated by Bruce Wilder. Now, while I’ve never met Mr. Wilder, I’d imagine he’s a pretty good guy. He owns a bookstore on Main Street in a pre-Civil War Townhouse. He sells unique trinkets, has a selection of good coffees, and offers a variety of his own photography on the walls. As soon as I stepped foot inside, I thought – Yeah, I could hang out here all day.
He also just so happens to be the husband to one Nora Roberts.
Her family has quite the stamp in Boonsboro, owning not only the bookstore, but an Inn and the local pizza parlor across the road.
I was so excited for my friends who had been invited to be part of the local authors signing with Nora that day. It was a thrill to no end to see their books, the books I’ve only heard about in developmental stages, lined across the table for readers to discover.
I arrived early with two more writers I know, with the intention of checking out the lay of the land and gabbing a bite to eat before the big hour. Our timing could not have been more perfect as it seemed the local pub was the go to place for everyone. Before entrees were served, we were pushing tables together and having wild conversations about not only the excitement of the day, but our own individual happenings in the writer world.
When the big hour happened, we wished our friends good luck as they took their places at the signing table. We took the time we had to browse through the vast selection of books the store had to offer. One of the staff members gave us a small tour, explaining how they organize everything. She introduced us to the Nora Room, which was an entire room full of Nora’s works.
An entire room.
As writers still early in our careers, none of us can imagine the day when we could fill a room with our books. Nora really meant it in the documentary Between The Sheets when she said to put your ass in the chair and write.
As we looked, my one friend admitted she had never read one of Nora’s books. She asked me which one I would recommend. I looked at the room full of selections and asked her what kind of books she liked. Nora has one for everybody. She asked me which ones, of all of them, have I read. I looked at one wall, then another, and another. I picked out four books, all published within the last year or so, and said–
These are the ones I haven’t read. Yet.
My friend looked at me, confused. She asked me if I meant to say that I have read every other book in that room?
Yes, Yes I have. I honestly don’t know how many she has but it’s well over the 200 mark.
She smiled, and said, “So you meeting Nora today…it’s a big deal.”
Yeah. It’s a big deal. There is no other writer in the world that I have read more books of. No other stories that I have loved more than I love hers. No other experience I’ve had reading a book to solidify that the Romance genre is where I want to be.
As I giggled with my friends and got them to autograph my copies of their books, I got in line to have Nora autograph a book for me. Now, I own many of her books and I could have taken the opportunity to buy a new book and have her sign it. But I didn’t do that. I combed through the books for sale and found Montana Sky, a book I have owned for over two decades.
This book was the first book I ever read written by her. I was in the middle of high school and a friend of mine gave it to me to fill an afternoon of boredom. I remember getting sucked into this book, into the story, into the characters. And I remember when I read the last word on the last page, I didn’t say that I wanted to read more of her works. I said THIS is what I want to do. I want to tell stories like this woman has, to make people want to be part of the story like this woman has.
This book woke up my brain to the idea that my heart already knew; I wanted to be a writer.
As I waited my turn, I watched Nora smile and chat with people. I watched her sign and pose for pictures. As I got closer and closer, I could start to feel my heartbeat in my face. Nervous was an understatement. I had a whole thing planned, what to say to Nora Roberts if I was ever in her company. What do you say to your career hero? I already knew.
What I had planned:
You know, I’ve been a fan of yours my whole adult life. I love your books, and I love the variety that you exercise in your writing. This book (Montana Sky) is the first book I ever read from you, and it changed my world. When I closed the book, I realized I had spent a week on a ranch I had never seen before in Montana, a State I have never been to. But somehow in these pages, with these words, this place was my home. These characters were my sisters. They were me. I walked away thinking I needed more jeans in my closet and cowboy boots for my feet. I was convinced that I could run a ranch successfully now, and boy did I want to. But that’s not why I wanted you to sign this book. I wanted you to sign this book because it was the book that introduced me to what being a writer could mean. I’ve always looked to words to help me express myself, I write letters to people. I write letters, pages and pages long, laying my feelings out for them to see, and I never send them. Just the act itself is cathartic for me. Words have always been important.
After I read this book, I realized that I want to read more. I had never been a reader before because I had never found a story (with the grand exception of Anne of Green Gables) that I wanted to be a part of. I’ve never closed a book and was sad that I would not be spending more time with the characters. And they were people. Real people. After I read your book, I realized that I wrote letters to people because part of me has always wanted to paint my world with words.
In the years since, I have read almost all of your books. I have enjoyed every adventure right along with you. I have loved, and hated, and cried, and cheered. While I have never met you, your words wrap around me with the comfort of an old friend.
Watching you in this new light, as a learning writer myself, I enjoy what you have to offer on the craft. I love your blogs that celebrate new ideas, and taking chances on a different kind of story. I love when you admit that you get crabby, and that you just want to write the words and let the business people do the business things. I love that you want people to fall in love with your books, but you know that they won’t fall in love with all of them, and that’s okay. I love that you follow an idea to see what magic it has waiting. I even love it when you’re a bit snarky with the peanut gallery.
I value you. As a reader myself, and as a writer who is still finding her way. I value how much you’ve given to me, personally, without ever having even known me.
It is an honor to have met you today. I hope that one day, we will find ourselves in the same room again. Perhaps I’ll find you within the group at my dinner table. Celebrating what was, and what is yet to come.
What I actually said,–
So here it is, one more letter for my collection of never sent. Thank you Nora, for all the words. Yours, mine, and all of them in between.