One Christmas season, well over a decade ago, I found myself working at a local Chapters Book store. The holiday rush and spirit was intoxicating, and as a book lover and writer, there was no better place to work.
I was surrounded by bookies & coffee lovers – the combination was heaven sent. No task bothered me. I would have gladly spent my entire shift re-shelving and organizing misplaced books. Everything about the store calmed me and made me feel at home.
One day, when I was re-shelving some books, a lady walked up to me and asked me to help her locate a math book. I found what she was looking for, then spent a bit of time talking to her about the book choice. She went on to explain that the book was for her husband and that he was a big math lover. Talking to customers was one of my favourite things to do. Book lovers just seem to naturally connect with one another – something intrinsically clicks. She was no different.
As we wrapped up our conversation, she introduced herself to me and said that she was going to be signing her new book at our location that afternoon. I had no idea who she was, and even less of a clue about her books. But she was an author, who had taken the plunge to publish and was now inside a bookstore signing and promoting her newest book – I was so inspired and smitten. I knew that I wanted to be like her, one day.
So as the day went on, she sat there signing and exchanging conversations with some of her current and new readers. We chatted off and on, which is where I told her that I was an aspiring author, who at the time, was working on my first book. She was encouraging and kind – she offered to sit down and meet me for coffee to give me some tips. This was magic to my ears and I excitedly agreed – not knowing how valuable a meeting like this could be.
That meeting never happened. I never followed up. It was my fault.
This is a mistake that I still cringe about when I re count the missed opportunity. Want to know what stings even more? She became my favourite author and has been since I opened that incredible book over ten years ago. Presently, I own all of her books in print and on my kindle – and all have been read multiple times. I didn’t know this at the time, but she wrote in the same genre as I was tying to write in.
Why didn’t I get in touch? How could I blow that one?
First off, if I had that answer I would have made it my article’s title. Like I mentioned, it stings. Maybe I didn’t understand the value of what I had in front of me? Maybe I was intimidated? Maybe I didn’t think I would ever end up as anything other than a paramedic (which was what I was in school for at the time). Maybe I was too young and flippant to understand a god sent opportunity when placed in front of me?
One thing I do know now – I NEVER miss opportunities anymore. I value everything that I spend time learning and those I spend time with.
The mystery lady, for those who might be sitting on the edge of their seat, was New York Times Best Selling author, Susanna Kearsley. She writes in the historical fiction and romance genres – and is a PRO at creating stories that lay in the past and present. She is also Canadian – which I think is super cool – being a fellow Canadian. The book she was promoting way back then was, “The Winter Sea.” Super cool fact: one of her biggest fans is Diana Gabaldon, author of “The Outlander Series.” Who just so happens to be my other favourite author.
See what I missed? So much.
Don’t let these types of opportunities slip through your fingers. You never know what you can learn from someone. But you do know how it feels to miss out – don’t be the one missing out. Accept those coffee meetings, take those courses (free and paid), and use every opportunity to grow as a writer – those are things you won’t ever regret.