I totally forgot to mention a fun story from the San Francisco Writer’s Conference…and that would be how I kissed up to Jane Smiley, heaping praise on her like a lovesick fan, only to find out that…
She wasn’t Jane Smiley.
No, she was someone who looked very much like Jane Smiley – tall, blonde, willowy, with an infectious smile -- minus about 10 years and the gigantic glasses that Smiley is always sporting in her author photos. (Photo courtesy of the Seattle Times)
But who was I to know? The other conference volunteers that I was having coffee with at the time told me she was Jane Smiley. Since she had been a keynote speaker at the conference earlier that day, I assumed they had seen her speak and knew what they were talking about.
We were hanging out in the Peet’s Coffee in Grace Cathedral, on the top of Nob Hill when I made my sycophantic overture to the Ms Smiley lookalike.
(And yes there’s a Peet’s Coffee in Grace Cathedral, only it’s under the cathedral, next to the gift shop, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. At least it's not a Starbucks.)
My companions had just assured me that it was Ms. Smiley herself who was ordering coffee and so I marched right up to her and started telling her how much I wished I had seen her speech earlier that morning; how good and “inspiring” I heard it was; working my way up to how I loved her novels A Thousand Acres: A Novel and Horse Heaven
and how one day I hoped to be as brilliant (and maybe as rich) as her, when she gave me a blank look.
“What speech?” she said. She had been smiling and nodding at me up til then and I was thinking gee, Jane Smiley is so nice. “Do you mean…my pitch to the agents?” The tall blonde woman looked confused. At which point I realized it wasn’t Jane Smiley at all but a conference attendee who had been pitching her heart out to agents all morning, hoping, just like me to be a brilliant, best-selling novelist like Jane Smiley one day.
Then I told her about the confusion and we had a good laugh.
I still wish I had heard Jane Smiley's speech, however!