This weekend I attended the Context24 convention in Columbus. Context24 is the first convention of any kind I've ever gone to, and I really just wanted to see what it was like. Mike Resnick was one of the major guests, and I ended up having coffee with him... alone.
Here's a little background info to set the scene: 1) I was very tired. By that point I'd had maybe 9 hours of sleep in the last two days, having driven to Columbus and back twice; plus there was a lot of other stuff going on that kept me up at night: My daughter going to school for the first time, home refinance, writing stuff, etc. 2) Despite the fact that Mr. Resnick is an incredibly prolific, multiple award winning writer, I've read exactly four of his books EVER, and just by chance, I'm working on a fifth (the last book of his Starship series, having read the other four). I know who he is, of course, but I honestly don't know that much about him (like the fact he lives in Ohio and attends Context regularly). 3) I was not in the room to meet Mike Resnick, I was there to snag some free coffee and jam food into my mouth.
Here's how things played out:
I decided to skip lunch, having had a large, late breakfast with my family. Instead of eating, I scoped out the room for the next panel I was going to attend: "What women want in female protagonists" (they had me at what women want). I left my bag in the room and stepped out for a moment. Clever me, I then figured there was bound to be coffee in the NEXT room where Mike Resnick was scheduled to sit and chat with fans. There is coffee in the room, but of course, there's also Mike Resnick, only moments after I enter the room--so it seems like I'm waiting for him.
Now, I am not someone who is intimidated by celebrities (I suck at small talk with EVERYONE, not just the handful of celebrities I've ever met), so I figure it's just me and Mike, why not man up and chat a bit and get some coffee in the process? (I'm a nobody in the scifi/fantasy community, but I think that will change in time, and part of that is meeting with and talking to people). Problem: I can't figure out how to get the FUCKING COFFEE OUT OF THE STUPID POT. I REALLY needed some damn coffee. Something on the coffee pot wasn't working properly, so all there was was hot water and decaf. (What the fuck's the point of decaf coffee?) So after wrestling a bit with the coffee pot, I step back and let Mr. Resnick pour himself some decaf while I try to figure out how to fix the regular pot. I'm also trying to gauge whether I can fit an entire scone in my mouth and swallow it without choking to death while Mr. Resnick has his back turned, because I don't particularly want to eat in front of him (but I'd also prefer not to choke to death).
Since I'm VERY tired and in desperate need of coffee, my brain isn't working so well. I'm standing behind Mr. Resnick as I'm thinking very hard about how I'm going to get coffee out of that fucking pot (I've been told my look of concentration makes me look like I'm angry). Resnick is probably wondering what the hell the big, creepy, silent, angry looking dude is doing, glowering behind him. Having failed to figure out how to make the coffee pot work as intended, I just tip the whole damn thing over and pour myself a cup of coffee (yay, brute force!). Sadly, I deny myself a scone (I had a biscotti later, once Mr. Resnick had left... meh, should have had the scone). Having spent an awkward (but generally pleasant) few minutes chatting with Mr. Resnick, I figured I'd look like an asshole if I just took my hard earned coffee and left him sitting by himself at the table. I figure, what the hell, chatting with someone of his stature is much more cool than the panel I was waiting for, so I'll just sit and chat with him a little longer, and when the rest of the people show for the coffee talk, I'll excuse myself and slip out.
No one else shows up. I have no idea why. Mike Resnick is fucking cool. He's also really nice, from what Matt Cook from my writers' group has told me, and Resnick is perfectly willing to talk to others about writing (pulling no punches, I've been told).
Some additional background info: 1) I'm not a genius, but I'm pretty damn smart. I learn very quickly, and I have an excellent memory. 2) I can remember almost ANYTHING... IF I write it down first. Part of my problem with small talk is my brain is so far ahead of my mouth that I end up sounding like an idiot. Writing stuff down lets me organize my thoughts and slow my brain down. 3) I had not prepared in any way to speak to Mr. Resnick.
So I largely squander a golden opportunity to talk about writing with Mr. Resnick (or get an autograph, or a picture, or ANYTHING). I can barely think of anything to say to him. I can remember, almost word for word, what some troll on Amazon said about Resnick's fifth book of the Starship series, but somehow that seemed like a bad topic.
If I'd said, "Here's where I am right now with my writing. [explain]. What else would you suggest?" My guess is he'd tell me to do exactly what I'm doing: A. Write tons of stuff. B. Try to write something different each time as a challenge; stretch your abilities. C. Find a writers' group. I've found two excellent writers' groups: Writeshop and Codex. D. Rinse, repeat, make yourself a better writer.
I've only been submitting work for a year (after a twenty year gap of even trying to write fiction), so there's a ton of stuff I don't know that I SHOULD know (I'm trying to play catch up to the field as fast as I can). While I think I've done fairly well in a short amount of time, I'm really not at the stage where I can ask Mike Resnick anything particularly insightful. Instead, I blather about nothing in particular and try a few attempts at asking him about what he's been up to. I smile and nod a lot, like a big dorky dumbass. He mentions his daughter went to Ohio University for a grad degree (where I'm going for a second bachelors in a couple of weeks), and I don't even think to ask what her degree program was. I've got a daughter of my own (though she's just 5), and could have made SOME connection with Resnick as a father, if not a writer.
And while I'm not really an autograph person, I would have asked him for one (or a picture) except that my bag with my camera, my paper and pens, and everything else is sitting in the room where I had intended to listen to that panel. I figured it would look weird to go grab my bag at this point, making it obvious that I had intended to be somewhere else.
Despite the lame attempts at chit chat on my end, Mr. Resnick did spend some quality time talking to me. While not all of the information he gave me may be useful to me at this exact moment, I'll damn sure remember it all. So, thank you, Mr. Resnick. I imagine I'll be at Context next year, and hopefully I'll be able to offer a bit better conversation.
Here's a little epilogue: Eventually, Resnick excused himself to go sign autographs, and I finally made it to the panel. Later, Mr. Resnick and Matt Cook sat and signed autographs at the same table in the author's room. I figured Matt would want a photo with him and Mike together at the table, so I sat around, waiting for Mike and Matt to finish conversations with a couple of fans (yes, I was still smiling like a dumbass. Mr. Resnick probably figured I was a stalker). I kind of wanted Matt to take a picture of me and Mr. Resnick together (we put the time in together, after all.), but I had a panel to go to and I didn't want to interrupt Mr. Resnick's conversation.
So instead, I have this story, and something to talk to Mr. Resnick about next year (Hey, Mike, remember that big creepy weird guy?). Priceless. Honest. And next time I'll do my homework (and get a decent night's sleep the day before).