Please Say Hi

File Jun 02, 9 52 00 AMAnother pic from the RT Convention. This was an amazingly lovely and delicious dinner organized (and chauffeured) by Alexandra Haughton. Also attending were lovely friends Carolyn Crane, Tamsen Parker and Megan Mulry. Love my writer friends! Spending time talking with them is one of my favorite things about conventions.

But so is meeting readers.

Which I’m not sure readers understand. This morning I saw a Facebook post from a reader who’s become a friend. She attended RT for the first time this year and commented that she came back with far fewer pics of her with authors than she’d thought – mainly because she hesitated to ask to take photos with them. She and I had lunch at the convention and she’d asked then what the etiquette was for approaching authors, asking for autographs, photos, etc. Apparently there was a newbie session where people outlined “The Rules” for this. It made me think of a time that a gal pinged me online and said we’d ridden in an elevator together and she’d been excited, but didn’t introduce herself because she wasn’t sure if she should.

Both of these things kind of hurt my heart.

Naturally I don’t – and can’t – speak for all authors, but the primary reason I go to reader conventions is to MEET READERS. I *want* readers to say hi, to ask for my signature, to have their picture taken with me. It’s flattering as all hell that anyone would want to. As far as I’m concerned, if I’m in a public space, I’m available to be approached. Maybe don’t stalk me to my room, because everyone knows that’s creepy which is why no reasonable person would do it, but otherwise PLEASE SAY HI.

Which brings me to another kind of weird thing that happened to me at RT. Several times, in fact. I should preface this with saying that I’m not good at faces. I don’t know why, but that’s always been the case. I’m the person at the table who has no idea what our waitress looks like. I remember names reasonably well and can associate them with Twitter handles and even bits of personal history, but I am terrible at recognizing people. Which means I sometimes introduce myself to people multiple times.

I’m sorry. I really am.

Still, I’d rather re-introduce myself than have no idea who a person is. So, I often use the gambit of saying, “Hi, I’m Jeffe Kennedy,” offering my hand to shake, which usually prompts people to either a) introduce themselves in turn, or b) tell me that we’ve met before. Both responses are equally good and, when I inevitably apologize for the latter, it’s almost always just fine by them.

But this year I seemed to have crossed some threshold where I got a different response, always from other writers. I bet it happened three or four times, maybe more. I introduced myself and they said, “Oh, I know.”

It was really disconcerting.

In one case, the other gal actually rolled her eyes. In all of them, it wasn’t said in a happy, excited-to-meet-you way.

On the one hand, this bothered me because in every case, I never found out who the other person was, at least not immediately. On the other… I dunno. It kind of hurt my feelings. I mean, the implication of was that of course everyone knows who I am, right? Which is so not true. It’s lovely to be recognized, but far from everyone does. Besides, assuming everyone knows who I am would be unforgivably egotistical, wouldn’t it?

This bothered me enough that, when I got home, I emailed an author friend who’s WAY more famous than I am to ask if this had ever happened to her. And she said it had, many times. It hurt her feelings, too.

I’m still not sure of the take-home message here. I mostly wanted to put this out there. Being recognized for achievements can be a weird thing because I think most of us still feel like the same person inside. I’m the gal who works from home, Tweets too much, hangs out with cats more than people, and interfaces with a keyboard all day. And who never knows which one is our waitress. I don’t feel like a particularly special person. At a conference, I want to meet other writers. I want to meet readers, bloggers, reviewers, industry folks. That’s why I go – to talk to people.

So… this might have been a little ranty. Am I wrong here? What should I say when this happens?

6 Replies to “Please Say Hi”

  1. Ok that response is just WEIRD. My dad was awful with people’s faces and wouldn’t introduce me most of the time when I went to work with him. I, too, got in the habit of being the forward one. I’d put my hand out “Hi. I’m Tommy’s daughter Lynda.” Took the heat off my dad and gave me a way to figure out who we were talking to. Lol

    Since my first RT in Kansas City I get a lot of “Oh, YOU’RE FishWithSticks. LOLOL. Almost like I’m infamous. Still Kim f freaks me out a little.

    I did have an RT newbie ask me what the general etiquette is for approaching people. My response was along the same as yours. Be polite. Don’t be stalkerish and approach in bathrooms or more private spaces, but if it looks like they’re just hanging out, go approach! Especially in the bar/lounge area.

    I really wanted to meet Kristen Ashley in NOLA, and one night I saw her at the bar with a couple people. I finally got up the nerve to approach and she was happy to meet me and take pics and sign my book. I told her I wasn’t sure if I should interrupt, but it didn’t look like a meeting, so I took a chance. She told me if she’s in the bar, she’s there for the readers. If she wanted privacy, she’d be in her room.

    1. This makes me feel ever so much better! I *thought* it was weird. I think I’ll have to follow up with something like “and you are?” You ARE totally famous – everyone knows the Knitting Fish! That’s great about Kristen Ashley and I feel exactly the same way – If I want privacy I go to my room. Even if I’m in a meeting, I can always take a moment to say hi. If it’s a meeting where we really need to be not interrupted, we go off site. Easy.

  2. I’m the annoying person who calls folks by the wrong name…repeatedly. I always remember the face. Names are my kryptonite. Someone will be introduced as “Ashley,” but my brain will hear “Shirley.” Sorta close, but not close enough. It makes for some seriously awkward encounters. The folks who can laugh it off and shepherd me through retraining my brain–those are the people I actually want to remember.

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