Nobody Pinch Me

By John Gilstrap

I’ll start with an apology for shirking my blogging duties last week. I was at ThrillerFest and had neglected to plan ahead. I suppose I could have just ignored the parties and . . . Nah, people who know me understand that I am incapable of ignoring the parties.

Those who’ve been to T-Fest know that the parties there are different. Those other people in the bar or at the receptions aren’t just regular folks that you see at work every day. To a person, the people I met there in New York—from fans to fellow authors and everyone in between—were friendly, intelligent and fascinating. It’s what makes the conference a not-to-be-missed event for me every year.

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon on the heels of some media events in Boston the previous day, and I went to dinner with Jeffery Deaver. We had drinks at a little hotel bar on 44th Street, and then we ate at a largely forgettable restaurant whose name I’ve in fact forgotten. We were done by 9:00 and not yet ready to go our separate ways, so we wandered into the bar at the Algonquin Hotel. THE Algonquin Hotel, of Algonquin Roundtable fame.

That’s when it hit me: I’m living my own dream. Sitting there in such a famous room, I realized that had I been around in 1925, I might have had a place at the table. I might have participated in the conversations of those literary and critical giants, laughing at their jokes and maybe even offering up a few of my own. (Conversely, I might have been rejected as a commercial hack and banned from their presence, but this is my fantasy, so let me run with it.)

Now, of course, all of those giants are dead. Instead, I spent my time engaged in conversations with Joe Moore, Jeff Deaver, David Baldacci, Harlan Coben, Andrew Grant, Gayle Lynds, Joe Finder, Brett Battles, Kathryn Lilly and dozens more brilliant, witty writers. Forgive a moment of aggrandizement, but it occurred to me that collectively we might all be remembered as the next famed group. Given the level of talent in the room, I’m certain that at least a few will be tagged with greatness.

And I was there. God willing, I’ll be there again.

When I was a kid, I was in awe of writers and writing. I had little opportunity ever to meet an author in person, but on the occasions when I did, I stood there star struck. To think that I might ever join that elite club—if not as an equal, then at least as a colleague—was beyond my ken.

Yet there I was in New York, surrounded by talent. During the course of the next few days, I would have lunch with Anne Hawkins, my agent, and dinners with Michaela Hamilton, my editor, and Sam Franco, the producer who optioned Six Minutes to Freedom.

I’ll say it again: Agent, editor and producer. Never in a million years would I have dreamed that the guy at those meetings would be me.

Last Wednesday, as we sat in the Algonquin sipping scotch and chatting about whatever we were chatting about, I asked Jeff if he ever stopped to think about how cool this whole experience is, about how lucky we are.

“Every day,” he said.

Exactly. Every day. I am an author. I am what I’ve always wanted to be, and every day I wake up wondering what I did to deserve the good fortune.

And I pray that I don’t do something to screw it up.

Does anyone else find themselves amazed at where they are, and fearful that it might all go away?

11 thoughts on “Nobody Pinch Me

  1. You’re right about the people at the Fest, John. It was great to finally meet you, Joe and Kathryn up close and personal. And so many others, too. My wife and I enjoyed the trip immensely.

  2. Sigh. Maybe next year…

    I’m glad you’re living your dream! I am, too, although I’m not published in book length fiction yet. I thank God every day that I was given the opportunity to write full time, and a husband who makes it possible. Hopefully, one of these days I’ll make enough to at least pitch in for groceries.

  3. It was great to see you there, John. I only wish the conference wasn’t so hectic so more time could be spent building friendships. And I’m honored that you would even mention my name in the same paragraph with the likes of Deaver, Baldacci, Coben, et al.

    Each morning when I get up, I thank God that I am living my dream as a writer. And if it all ended tomorrow and I had to go get a real job, I would be totally content that I got to do this. It’s the best job in the world.

    I experienced the same rush of wonderment you did in NYC. Sitting at the same banquet table with Clive Cussler, the man who inspired me to write, I was living my dream big-time.

  4. I often have the ‘just pinch me’ moment where I think wow – I’m getting to do what I love!! It’s usually over the little things – like discovering I’m day dreaming about a scene in yoga class and that I can do that – it’s my job! I am however always a little fearful that it really is just a dream and I’ll wake up and discover I’m a lawyer once more (waaah!!!)

  5. I have met and chatted with three governors, a senator, and no small number of folks with stars on their shoulders. But I truly think chillin’ with the likes of you folks would be the highlight of Arctic Leprachaun life.

    One-O-these days….soon…

  6. I’m still dreaming, but loved reading this. And hey, I’m going to get a short story published; I can almost say I’m an author.

  7. It was great reading this.

    Thirty years ago I threw away the start of my career after publication of my second novel. Now I’m back, trying again.

    Hopefully some day I’ll be at Thrillerfest with the rest or you. Wish me luck.

  8. John!

    Wow. Just ran across this. We used to ‘know’ each other back on the hidden AOL boards, with JSS and Bad Cog and all the rest. You helped me out back then, with feedback on an outline, and you’ve since been at the top of my mensch list.

    So I’m happy you’re happy!


  9. It was great to meet you, Jim, and Joe in person at Thrillerfest, John. I really enjoyed your panel about series fiction. Next year, let’s all make reservations at a round table someplace for a Killer group photo!

  10. I had my 15 minutes of fame as a published writer in the Netherlands in 2003. Now I am in between publishers because I decided to change from writing in the Dutch to English. At this moment a US-based publisher is reading my most recent novel and I can’t wait to hear: We’re happy to publish it. But what if they don’t? I contacted 20 publishers and only one was willing to read the whole thing.
    I love being a writer every day and work horizontally in bed with my laptop on my lap, instead of sitting behind a desk in an office, but getting my books published is a process I don’t like.

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