Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Day my Breath Sang in my Geek Lungs

 I was sitting in my seat in the cool auditorium, beaming down good vibes on our speaker for the evening, Elizabeth Berg, anticipating the next two hours with tangible relish. It was like I was slicing a happy cake and sitting there with a large wedge of it on my porcelain plate, ready for the first delicious bite, fork poised.  Elizabeth Berg slips on her reading glasses and peers down at a yellow sticky note and says "Is there a Toni House Evans in the audience".  My physical reaction was so clich├ęd.  Slow motion, face turns red, eyes bulge, heart beats hard. Don't have a coronary Toni, you'll miss the talk.   It felt surreal to hear my name come out of her mouth.  In a crowd of several hundred. Plus I'd never heard my facebook name said aloud before so I hesitantly raised my hand inch by inch while I said in my head.  Yes, that is me, right?  That is my maiden name with my last name.

She spotted my hand finally, as I raised it high and grinned like an idiot. 

"I need you to see me afterwards.  I have something for you." said Elizabeth Berg.  To Toni Evans.

I was speechless.  Now anyone who knows me knows I am never short of a word or ten. I was now breathing in and out choir music through my lungs.

She went on to give a heart-warming, realistic, and thoughtful talk about becoming and being a writer and author.  I did my best to absorb each word.  I took notes. I said to myself, 'Self, use all your senses here, breathe it in, this is the good stuff'.

I have to pause here for a confession.   Somehow(??) on the day before this conference, when she posted on facebook page about her upcoming speech, I got uncharacteristically ballsy and posted a link to my blog post about her  on her facebook. And she read it.  Here is the proof, I just can't resist storing it here for my grandchildren to see (Someday. If my kids ever get married. Wait-- will Blogger still be around?...):

So I have a written compliment from my favorite author and she said my name out loud in public.  "But wait," the universe said, "there's more!"

Afterwards I perused her books and bought one (even though I already own every single one)  so that if I told her who I was and she said 'And I care because?' I could just give her my book to sign.  I got at the end of the line. This guy was carefully handwriting everyone's name on a sticky note and placing it on the correct page for Elizabeth, so she could more easily sign and keep the line moving and didn't have to ask how to spell, etc.  I assumed it was another of the many conference volunteers being gracious.  But when he got to me he stopped and chatted and said "I'm Bill by the way."  I had just given my name so I just kind of smiled nervously and bobbed my head and he said 'Her Bill' and he nods towards the book-signing table.  Suddenly my face became very animated and I got very friendly, because just like every other blood-sucking celebrity fan out there, I thought I might get some little insight or morsel of Elizabeth-ness from him.  We chatted for a while as the line was long and slow-moving.  I liked him.  He was not intimidating at all.

I guess I used up all my charm on Bill, because by the time I got to Elizabeth I said something non-sensical, and then Bill said something like 'this is her' and then Kelly standing nearby leaned down at the same time to say "This is the Toni you were looking for earlier" or something like that, the blood was pounding in my ears, drowning out reality.  I then said something unnecessary as she was signing my book, along the lines of "I think I've read them all except this one." Even though I have read this one (?).  Then she said "I have something for you. A signed first-edition of my first novel".  Except in my ears it was like trumpets and her mouth moving and I just smiled and nodded and accepted this from her:

So I then asked for a hug and leaned across the table very awkwardly (I'm not even a hugger) and she said 'What?  I thought said you were going to show me your tattoos?'  Yeah, I'm a silver-tongued beast. As I floated away from her table, hoping to get away before I did anything to spoil the iridescent-glitter haze I was in, Bill stopped me and said "There aren't very many of these in existence."  pointing to my gift. My signed, first-edition copy of Durable Goods. I just kept saying "Thank YOU" and smiling and backing away.

By the way, that photo was taken on my hotel room bedspread minutes later, before I pulled the ribbon and peeked inside.  It now has a place of pride in my living room. I have only shared this story with about three people, because if you aren't a book-lovin' girl down to your toes, I will just sound crazy here. (So if you are thinking She's crazy, it is ok, I don't blame you.)  But hey, blogging is about transparency, and it just doesn't get much more transparent than this.  At least not and still be fun to read.  Which is one of my goals here.

Bottom line: I am worthy.  Regardless of how I come across in person. The memory of July 25, 2014 is tied with a white satin ribbon and always will be.


  1. How exciting! I'm very jealous of your experience and can just imagine how your heart must have hammered when she said your name before her talk. I hope the rest of the conference was excellent, too. I'd love to hear about it sometime!

  2. Toni, I loved reading this. So glad you wrote about it. I had the privilege of having dinner with Elizabeth and then driving her to Pruis Hall, and one of the first things she said was that she had a gift for someone, and then told me about the post you'd written. She's lovely, isn't she? Amazing. And I'm so happy you had this experience. You ARE worthy :-).
    P.S. I was completely embarrassed that I couldn't keep it together long enough to introduce her. And I don't have a signed first edition of any of her books—but I do treasure the vintage handkerchief she gave me to sop up my tears afterwards :-).

  3. Toni, how very exciting for you. I enjoy everything you have blogged and I have always thought you had a real flair. Never ever under estimate yourself, you are more than worthy amd I am in awe of your talent.

  4. Thanks Elise and Peggy for leaving a comment. Makes me smile. Kelly -- she must know you pretty well to know you'd be in tears and need a handkerchief! You did an awesome introduction.