I met this AMAZING WOMAN.
I got to spend some time with Janet Evanovich and Anne Perry...and they're amazing novelists. I chatted with Kevin O'Brien, Robert Randisi, Charles Todd, and William Kent Krueger...also amazing novelists. I bought a book from the convention bookstore of each of those author's works. All right, full disclosure, in some cases I bought two. That's where I spent all my convention money...in the bookstore. Not that I needed more books, but I needed those books from those authors. I also spent some time with Glenn Meade, an author from Ireland who wrote one of my favorite military books ever: Snow Wolf. And Beth Terrell (known as author Jaden Terrell) managed to find snippets of time to chat despite her ultra-busy schedule. I picked up her most recent book, River of Glass, and read it until I fell asleep last night. AWESOME. Go buy this book, y'all. It is seriously good.
Back to my headline...this amazing woman.
I sat in the hotel atrium early one morning, scribbling notes for a story, when this lanky woman with curly gray-white hair faintly streaked in places with blue and green (all of it looking like a beautiful water color painting) asked if she could join me. I like to talk to strangers, so of course I agreed. And soon I discovered she was AMAZING and I was blessed to have crossed her path. We reconnected throughout the convention, and each time I found her even more amazing. Okay, I'm being redundant...but the word fits her.
71 years old, she'd completed her first mystery novel, and an agent at the convention asked to see the entire manuscript. This is a big deal, getting a request for an entire manuscript. Her tale is set in Africa and has a shaman as the main character...she told me about the characters and the story, and I was hooked. I asked her: "Why Africa?"
My breakfast companion was a retired art history professor from New England, with multiple Masters and a PhD, with impressive nonfiction credits...naturally books about art history.
"I love elephants," she said, as if that explained everything. "I just love elephants." Then after we filled our plates with scrambled eggs and bacon, she told me about her volunteer work at nature preserves in South Africa. Finished with the academic world, she wanted to see the elephants up close. She slept on the hard ground in the open for weeks at a time, labored to maintain waterholes for baby elephants, and then later worked with monkeys and lions. She's had lions walk at her side--not tame ones, sit on her feet, and rub against her legs. She was sometimes frightened, but always in awe.
It's expensive volunteering, she said, the plane fare and occasional accomodations out of her pocket. Now she goes only every other year because of that. And now she writes about the people and the country, weaving them into mystery manuscripts and soothing that particular itch in her soul. She said it is never too late to follow your heart.
You are never too old to write.
And you are most certainly never too old to dance with elephants.
Out of all the impressive people I met and chatted with at this awesome convention, the New York Times bestselling authors, the folks who have written well more than one hundred books...I think I will treasure the connection with her the most.
This amazing woman.
We're going to stay in touch. I want to know where the next adventure takes her.