Some people are musician groupies and collect signed concert ticket stubs. I am a writer groupie and collect signed books. This year was a particularly good one for me. I met two of my favorite living authors. Or, at least I met one author who I wished would be my new best friend, and I met another whom I was hoping would hire me as his assistant and ask me to live in France with him and his partner.
I met Elizabeth Gilbert at the Music Hall’s “Writers on a New England Stage” series in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, while she came through town to promote the softcover release of the book, Committed, which “followed up where Eat, Pray, Love left off.” The latter book was the reason I wanted her to be my new best friend. (Listen to her interview from my evening at The Music Hall and you will want to be her new best friend too.) I loved Eat, Pray, Love, though I was not at all committed to Committed. I had bought the hardcover of it; however, after realizing this was not the book for me, I sold it back to the local bookstore where I got a small credit to buy another book.
The only thing I had for her to sign was an old softcover copy of Eat, Pray, Love. Of course, she had already signed that book five years ago, after my friend decided it would be the perfect birthday gift. (She was right, since at that point I had only listened to the audio version.)
Without Committed in hand, I thought it would be “fun” for my soon-to-be new best friend to sign the book she had already signed once, again. Unfortunately, about an hour before I met my idol, I had spilled an entire bottle of water on it. So, not only did I ask Elizabeth Gilbert to sign an old paperback copy of a book she was no longer promoting—that she had already signed once—it was also sopping wet.
If you haven’t guessed, the author I referenced next is David Sedaris. If he would only ask me to be his assistant, then my circuitous career path would finally make perfect sense—or at least my double major in English and French in college and my penchant for hilarious, smart, writers would finally translate to employment and my avocation would become my vocation—every liberally educated person’s dream!
I was so excited to meet David and ask him if I could be his assistant (which would entail me having to be the first person to read everything he writes) that I decided to wear my new pretty dress.
Wouldn’t you know, the first thing he said when I met him was, “I just love your dress.” To which I replied, “It matches your scarf.” To which he replied, “Oh yes, I recommend a pocket scarf to any man who wants to set himself apart from the crowd.”
(As an aside, as part of my employment as David Sedaris’ assistant, he would also apprentice me on the fine art of dialogue.)
Then he asked if I had ever been to China. I’d been to Taiwan, so I told him that and also mentioned that my given Mandarin Chinese name is “Wei Hei.” One of the first stories he had read that evening was about his trip to China where he said he noticed it was commonplace for people to hack loogies in public (inside at restaurants even!) . During that story, he also talked about how he had a tough time settling on his Chinese name, which is why I mentioned that I had one. We bantered a bit more. Yes, I was “bantering” with David Sedaris. And after all that bantering I never had the chance to mention that I would be available to move to France to be his assistant. But, he did sign my book.
Since I sometimes launch into stories, as I was waiting for Christine Chitnis, author of Markets of New England and one of our newest contributing editors for Yankee Magazine, to inscribe her book to me, I told her about meeting Elizabeth Gilbert and David Sedaris. Christine wasn’t sure what to write initially, but after my elaborate tale of my writerly encounters, she came up with this, which says, “To my new best friend”:
And to all the writers who have or will grace my books with their signatures, I say this: