I wonder if it's just me (it usually is, whenever I start a sentence with that) but when I am presented with a magical situation, you know the one, the one when all my dreams could come true, all my questions could be answered and a heroic presence in my life could materialise before me, I get rather...anxious.
I am referring to, of course, when one has the opportunity to meet someone. Someone famous, someone they admire, someone who has influenced their life in a good way.
It could be at a book signing, a gig, a party, even on the red carpet perhaps...when these occasions present themselves, it's the most wonderful and exciting thing.
And also the most terrifying, at times awkward thing.
Special VIP meet 'n' greets are nerve-racking. If only because there's the added pressure, the fact that the celebrity human you're meeting knows for a fact that you paid money for a ticket – maybe even paid extra on top of your pre-existing expensive ticket – for the chance to meet them. To chat with them. While this is immensely flattering for the celeb, it's effectively them getting a sense of their worth, it might also be scary for them because the nicer ones will want to make it worth your while parting with extra dolla and maybe queueing for more time...? And you might suddenly get shy when you come face-to-face with them at the end of the queue, and you get lost for words and they're freaking out because they don't know what to say to you...oh, it's a minefield.
Book signings are especially interesting in this sense. Over the past few years things have changed to make the whole signing process slicker and quicker, like for instance they now have assistants sweep down the queue asking for each fan's name to scribble on a Post-It and stick to the books, so the author doesn't have to ask 'name?' awkwardly and they can just sign while chatting. I actually worry for the author, having to focus on writing a little message and their signature on the inside page and at the same time make conversation with their readers on the other side of the table.
As someone who has been to her fair share (and several others' fair share) of book signings, I can safely say everything I intend to say falls out of my head when I actually lock eyes with the authors. Classic example would be John Green. As he frantically signed my copies (yes, pural) of The Fault in Our Stars, plus my Harry Potter Kings Cross ticket because my nerdiness is next level, I faltered fantastically trying to assemble words into coherent sentences. I believe the only thing I managed to say was: 'hey John...wow, I had so much to say and now it's all gone.' Excellent. I only hope that someday I can rectify that awkward meeting...maybe when we're chatting over a cuppa and co-writing our second book together.
Anyway, I managed to make better conversation when I met Louise O'Neill, Lisa Williamson and David Levithan at the New Day New Normal event at Waterstones – that was mostly down to the enormous bandage on my head that I had to have on for three days after my Cerebral Spinal Fluid aspiration...it was a killer conversation piece.
I was thinking about meeting my heroes recently, as I've met a couple of them in the past week. One of whom was Joshua Radin, who if you read regularly will know is my one true love and my favourite musical artist of all time, ever; last week I saw him live for the eighth time, and yes I paid extra to attend his sound check 'performance' and meet 'n' greet before the show. There was definitely a moment when I had no clue what on earth to say to him (as there has been the last three times I've met him) but eventually my fellow meet 'n' greeters and I just chattered with him about London, whisky, travelling...it was lovely. I think he relaxed just as much as we did when we started talking about the Shepherds Bush Empire's roof falling down and the relocation to funny little Clapham, the fact that it miraculously wasn't raining...we could have just been pals meeting up in an old theatre for some reason and catching up.
The other hero of mine I met last week was Jo Elvin. Yes, Jo Elvin, editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine. Yes, her. She was hosting the Mind Your Head book event at the gorgeous new Waterstones Tottenham Court Road; she chatted with Juno Dawson and Olivia Hewitt about their new non-fiction release, asking questions here and there, and watching her I remembered the days when I'd spend my pocket money on Glamour magazine in Tesco Express across the road and read it cover to cover as I walked to and from school, or when I was tucked up in bed at home with biscuits when I was really supposed to be revising for exams...I idolised Jo. I still do. I could never do what she does – I want to, but I don't know if I have the drive, the flair or the decision-making powers!
So after the talking, when Juno and Olivia were signing books, I saw Jo wandering the shop alone, looking at books with a glass of wine in her hand, and I thought...I can't not. I must say hi. I asked friends for assistance, saying 'I have nothing interesting to say to her!' over and over...but I knew I'd kick myself if I didn't talk to her even a little. So I did. We had an actual conversation! About blogging, about books, about Australia. I rambled madly at her, my stupid hybrid accent intensifying due to nerves and her accent; she smiled warmly, asking about me which I found insane but lovely. I gave her blogging advice to pass along to her daughter. By the time my friends retrieved me, my legs had gone numb with excitement and I was grinning like a complete freakzoid. It was magical.
I will be encouraging myself to talk to my heroes more, from now on. Following my recent positive experiences in which I pushed on through my social awkwardness and the crippling hero-worshipping fangirl tendencies that overcome me far too often...
I'd rather meet the hero and waffle endlessly in their face like a complete tit, than leave the event and be upset with myself for not saying anything all the way home, forever regretting missing my one opportunity...
I wonder if one day I'll be a hero of someone's; someone that people might want to meet and have a conversation with. That would be mind-blowingly cool. However, I would definitely never want anyone to feel that way with me. The way I do when I meet my idols. Awkward...and just generally 'what's the point I have nothing worthwhile to say'-ish. I'd never want that. I'd want to chat!
(Me meeting John Green and floundering epically)