Sunday, April 27, 2014

Elizabeth Berg Stalker

So some people have a movie star or a sports legend they would be goofy over meeting.  For me it is authors.  I have anticipated meeting a particular author for many years now.  I first fell in love with her prose when she wrote parenting articles for Good Housekeeping (or Parenting I forget which) and discovered her books and ate them up the way you eat a bunch of cool grapes on a hot summer afternoon.  (or a butterscotch candy at a football game. ) Then I waited patiently as her books gradually were released and treated myself to one whenever they came out.  There is something about her writing that makes me feel like we could easily be best-friends.  I discovered that I'm not the only one that feels this way about Elizabeth Berg.  She now has a facebook following of very kindred spirits and I'm still surprised how many of them will post something that is exactly what I was thinking. 

Some years ago, I guess it would be 15 now to be exact (as I remember this trip was just weeks after my youngest was born), I was going to Boston on a business trip and I knew Elizabeth lived there.  Then I discovered the hotel they were putting me in was in the very suburb that I'd seen her mention in her essays.  I knew from her writing book that she often spent time at a coffee shop and so I decided while in this little burb, I would hang out at the coffee shop in hopes of sighting her.  This got me so excited, that I expanded the idea, and I wrote her a letter asking her to meet me for coffee at this shop on a particular day in June.  Just know that 'stalking' wasn't even a term then.

No surprise thinking back now, but she was unable to meet me.  She wrote me a charming letter on stationary though, explaining she would be in Hershey, PA that day. And though crest-fallen, the thought of her having a chocolate-related excuse did give me some comfort.  I'm sure if a complete stranger figured out my home address and asked me to meet for coffee, I wouldn't be the least bit suspicious or wary.  But, we didn't meet.

Down the road she moved to Chicago. And one year she was going to speak at the Iowa City Book Festival and I was going to go and spend two days there and hear my favorite author speak.  So close to home, books, party, and Elizabeth.  It was all meant to be, right?  Right.   Until I came down with not just a cold but pneumonia in July and had to miss that trip.  So close. 

I've reread her book for Writers every other year or so since it came out, "Escaping into the Open".  And I've daydreamed about attending one of her writing workshops she holds in Italy combining cooking classes, food, and fiction writing.  What could possibly be better?  But then I remind myself that I haven't written in weeks and do not deserve something like that until I grow my chops as a writer.  Until I get off my butt and get disciplined.  Unless I show that I can write and write and write some more.  Which in my mind, I haven't done.  I seem to take my writing career similar to that of a postage stamp hobbyist -- I work on it when the fancy strikes me, with weeks in between.

After that  I decided it was better not to meet someone that was so built up in your imagination that they couldn't possibly ever live up that image I have created over the years. It would be like meeting Mary Engelbreit and finding out she was jaded and negative in real life, like myself at times.

Then, surprise surprise, I found out she is speaking at the Midwest Writers' Workshop I'm attending this July.  Elizabeth Berg is the Saturday evening speaker.  At a dinner.  In INDIANA!  It seems crazy to think it.  And no I don't plan to go up to her and tell her, as the 597th fifty-something woman to do so, that I'm her biggest fan.  I don't plan to ask her to read my manuscript.  In fact I'm really hoping I don't have to speak to her at all.  I just want to soak it in.  Being in a room, watching her mannerisms, listening to her words, and matching what I've grown to understand about her over the years with a face. I do know she is human and not perfect and is in fact perfectly imperfect in the same way I strive to be.  I will go back to my hotel room and write down all the details I can and keep it for a rainy day when I want to read about it.  Because face it, now that I'm more mature, I can take a step back and acknowledge it for what it is -- a bit creepy.  But it is meant with genuine affection and esteem, and I sincerely hope I do not embarrass myself when the opportunity does present itself this July. 

No really.  I swear.  I'll be mature.  And I'll stay away from the wine.  Ok, I'll stay away from more than two glasses of wine and only take four pictures.  No three. Well, for now, anticipation.....

if you want to become a fan too, here is her website:
and here is the link to the writer's conference