As I stepped into the room where Phyllis Tickle was speaking, our eyes met and, in her words later, “I jumped! Did you see me jump?”
She remembered. She remembered the transatlantic flight we shared in 2005, and the descent that led to my child’s airsickness. She remembered how my husband and I mopped up vomit as the plane landed. She remembered handing me a paper towel, and how, when I turned around to thank the kind stranger, I realized it was her and exclaimed, “You’re Phyllis Tickle!” She remembered saying, “Why, yes, I am! You look familiar…how do I know you?”
I explained that I met her at a writing event, and I reminded her of something stupid I said, and she remembered that, too.
And she remembered how I introduced my husband to her, and how he thoughtfully didn’t extend his vomit-y hand to shake hers. She remembered how I totally abandoned him to the cleanup to continue talking with Phyllis and find out why she was on the same flight from Belgium. I was so focused on my kids for the six- or seven-hour flight that I never bothered to turn around. She was one row behind me the entire time.
And so after her talk yesterday, we had a big laugh reconnecting and remembering.
And, of course, cheesy-me, I asked someone to take our photo:
That whole airsickness incident reminds me to take a tip from the world of advertising and marketing: if you want someone to remember you, even bad press is good press. So do something memorable, or don’t feel bad if something memorable happens.
When I was sitting through Phyllis’s presentation, I scribbled a quote that stood out–and it wasn’t even the point of her talk: Some writers “are learning to say very well…nothing.” About the only application that kind of writing might work for is ad copy, she said, or on the Web.
I thought about blogging. I hope to learn to say things very well. But I hope to use any skill I may acquire to say something meaningful, not “nothing.” It’s a good warning; a reminder to merge craft and content, or, to have content with craftsmanship, or something like that. She didn’t say all that–that’s me chewing on her one thought.
The title of her talk was “Writing as Catechesis.” It’s too hard to explain briefly, so I’ll just type out her description from the information packet and let you ponder it:
Writers of all stripes have claimed to write for discovery, yet religious writers, according to Tickle, write to discover what they believe as well as what they think, making writing the ultimate catechesis.
I recognized them from their blogs. I’d clicked over there from this blog or that blog. Who knows how we arrive at places on this crazy World Wide Web, eh? Anyway, I recognized their faces and names, and decided once again to be a bold attendee. I stuck out my hand and said, “Hi there! I recognize you both from online…would you mind if I took your picture and put it on my blog?”
“Of course not!”
As I introduced myself to Claudia, I mentioned someone that I was pretty sure she knew, Don Pape, and I mentioned that I was working on a book for David C Cook, where Don is Trade Book Publisher, and she said, “Don’s my buddy! And I just came out with a book with David C Cook!” She held it out. It’s called Zora & Nicky: A Novel in Black and White. Then, she handed it to me.
“Here,” she said. “I want you to have this.”
“What? No! No, I can buy a copy.”
“No, I want you to have it. Here.” She put it in my hands.
“But…well…Thank you. Thank you so much.”
So congratulations, Claudia, on the book’s release. And thank you again. I can’t wait to read it!
And then I got to talk with Lisa Samson, and she’s a bright, lively, fun author who has written a lot of Christian fiction and just came out with a book called Embrace Me.
Congratulations, Lisa, for the book’s release!
After chatting for a moment or two about publishing, they introduced me to someone else. It turns out that she’s the Executive Director of the Christy Awards, Donna Kehoe. I said hello, chatted about nothing too memorable, nor did anything memorable happen–no kids around to produce vomit–and I think it was Donna who offered to take a picture of Claudia and Lisa that had me in it, too.
Then I excused myself to go get that snapshot with Phyllis.Later that afternoon I was passing through the little campus hangout, making a beeline for a booth where I planned to unpack my bag and write, and there sat Claudia in a comfy chair, eating some yogurt.
“Ann!” she called out. “Pull up a chair and join us!”
“Oh, no, no, I don’t want to intrude on your gathering. You should feel free to sit here and talk shop.”
“You aren’t intruding–I’m inviting you. And we aren’t going to be talking shop, or if we do, you can hear it, too. Sit down. Pull up that chair.”
So, unsure what the others would think, I set down my bag and pulled up a chair. Then Lisa Samson came over along with Donna Kehoe, and then another author named Cindy Crosby came over. They introduced her to the group as well. They’re all so warm, welcoming, and gracious. The world felt all rosy and soft-focus as I listened to them tell funny stories and explain the plots for their next book projects.
A funny little “small world” thing about Cindy Crosby is that she grew up in the next town over from where I grew up, and her dad owned the Christian bookstore just around the corner from where my mom worked. I used to walk there with just a little bit of change jingling in my pocket. I’d look at all the book titles and study the pamphlets. Every once in a while, I’d buy a little pamphlet, because that would be all I could afford with my change. But one time, I saved up enough to buy my first Bible with my own money. My parents would have bought it for me, but I wanted it to be all my own, and somehow purchasing it must have been key to that in my mind.
Cindy’s dad tried to talk me into an NIV or NASB, but I had it in my head that I needed a KJV. I think I was about 12 years old. So I made my final selection: a King James bound with inexpensive burgundy leather. Her dad did succeed in talking me into getting my name stamped on it in gold. I think he understood how personal it was, and convinced me that my name in gold would solidify the deal.
Later, with birthday money from my aunt, and because I was having a little trouble understanding the King James, I bought my second Bible from him–a copy of The Living Bible with a kind of puffy green hardcover binding.
Anyway, I took a terrible, terrible self-snapped shot of Cindy and me, but I’m including it because Cindy looks okay. I’m the one who looks terrible, and I’m okay with that:
Apparently, I am so tired, I’ve decided to take a nap on Cindy’s shoulder. Or, rather, I need a little coaching in how to take self-snappers.
Anyway, Cindy is author of several books, including By Willoway Brook. She doesn’t have a website, but you can do an Amazon search on her name to pull up her titles.
“I wish there were some fun way to get a picture of us together that I could post on my blog,” I said, “that would still respect your privacy.”
And then, as we shifted our feet, inspiration hit her.”I know!”
And that was the only moment during the festival that I regretted wearing my sensible walking shoes. Mine are on the left, and I can see now that they are probably far, far too sensible…scuffed…worn…a disgrace…unsightly and unstylish.
Okay, maybe they aren’t that bad.
Then again, maybe they are.
People, if you ever meet L.L. Barkat, pray that you shined your shoes that morning. This is her new thing. I ran into her later, and she said she got a nice shot of her shoes next to Ed Gilbreath’s.
Here’s a shot of my new friend L., who wishes to remain unnamed, when we were sitting in an auditorium waiting for Yann Martel to speak. Martel is the author of Life of Pi and maintains a blog called “What is Stephen Harper Reading.” He explains the reason for the blog and what he does here.
We ended up walking together to Elizabeth’s book signing, so I just stood in line with them in order to continue the conversation. I didn’t have a book of Elizabeth’s for her to sign, but I thought it might be fun to get a picture, because I was just thinking of you all so much and wanting to share everything with you. Really.
So there I was at the table, and her sweet husband said, “No flash,” because Elizabeth has an eye condition. So we turned off the flash, and Nadyne snapped this picture that will prove to the world what an intimate friendship I’ve forged with Elizabeth Berg.
You can see for yourself the rich interaction we were enjoying and what a surprising connection we made in such a short time.
I had two more favorite moments. One was when I ran into a dear friend at the very end of the conference, just before heading to Katherine Paterson’s lecture. I was with Nadyne, and she snapped this picture of my happy reunion with Jim Poole.
In addition to being very tall, my friend Jim is a talented actor, video producer, and writer, but he will be most familiar to you as the voice of Scooter in the VeggieTales productions. That’s the vegetable with the Scottish brogue. We have a sing-along CD with “I Can Be Your Friend” on it, and I always jump in and sing along with Jim, imitating his accent, “Aye, that’s why we’ve got feelin’s that are verrrry (roll the “r”) much the same!”
Too bad I didn’t run into Jim sooner, as he managed to get himself known by several of the “names” at the event–he’s endearing and easy to know, so one of his new BFFs (Scott Cairns, maybe or Jeffrey Overstreet) invited him to the evening reception where all the authors were sipping colas and eating hors d’oeuvres. Before I ran into Jim, I peeked and saw them all mingling. It was a grown-up-writers’ party to which I was not invited…but…apparently Jim could have gotten me in.
Life just didn’t time out quite right, however, and I wasn’t able to nibble triangles of chicken quesadilla next to Kathleen Norris and Scott Cairns. I wouldn’t have known what to say anyway. I would have been tongue tied, and if I managed to think of something to say, I would have said it with tortilla blobs stuck in my teeth.
Memorable.My other favorite moment happened this afternoon. Ever since I saw the comment from Monica at Paper Bridges (formerly “Books Are My Friends”) that she wished she could sit in on a session with Rob Bell, I had this idea…I wasn’t sure if I should try it. I mean, I knew it would be goofy and borderline junior-highish. I waffled.
Then I just did it.
I walked up to Rob after his session. “Hi, I’m Ann Kroeker,” I said, holding out my hand to shake his. “I really enjoyed your talk just now (he said thanks), but what I wanted to ask is a favor. A friend of mine couldn’t be here, but really wanted to see you most of all. And so I was just wondering if I could get a picture of you with this and put it on my blog.”
He grinned really big, nodded, took the piece of paper, and I snapped this:
And this, my friends, is an example not only of how to do something so memorable so that you might be remembered for your silliness, but also of why you want to make friends with a blogger. You never know when she’ll be thinking of you.