As I blogged in yesterday's post, this past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the annual NJ Romance Writers' conference. I was even more fortunate because this year's speaker was the incomparable Sherrilyn Kenyon, author of the Dark Hunter series, among others.
Let me preface this with a confession--I have never read a Sherrilyn Kenyon book. (Please don't throw tomatoes at me. I haven't read a lot of authors, honest, but I am trying to catch up.) That being known let me say this: the woman floored me. I'm sure that Sherrilyn the author would floor me too, but Sherrilyn the woman utterly floored me.
In a time where we have more technology but less time, and have more to be grateful for but less gratitude, my experience with SK brought reality into brilliant focus. In Stars Wars terms, if I'm Luke Skywalker; she's Yoda and I am not talking about writing.
I am talking about giving.
During a workshop chat, she answered every question asked of her with generosity and humor. I know that many of these questions, she's probably been asked a thousand times over but she handled every single one as if the she'd never heard it before. Often she used humor to illustrate her point and every person there, even the most clueless newbie (which was probably me) felt validated by her presence. Some people call that acting.
I call that respect.
The next day, I had to opportunity to speak with her semi-privately and found out that she wasn't feeling very well. Scratch that. She felt lousy. But you would have never guessed it--not from the keynote speech or the hour-long workshop that she still had to give right after that. Sherri smiled graciously, downplayed her condition and pushed through it to leave me (and many others) choking up when she recounted her rocky publication journey. Some people call that acting.
I call it honor.
Afterwards, during the booksigning, fans waited on line for their moment with their idol-- teenage Goths, young mothers (some with kiddies in tow), middle-aged momas, and mature women with decades of wisdom carved on their faces. More than one walked away from the encounter with tears in their eyes. It was for some...a religious experience and I completely understand why.
Her connection with people, especially her fans is magical. Each person claimed perhaps five minutes of her time, but let me tell you it was very much the other way around. For those brief moments, Sherrilyn claimed that person. She physically reached out and touched them, letting them know on several levels that yes, she was with you. And for those five minutes, she saw you and you knew she truly listened. Her attention never strayed although a camera crew roamed the room and their were at least 50 other authors present. Sherrilyn connected on an intrinsic level with each and every person who spoke to her.
It was simply...amazing.
And more, it was humbling.
Since the conference, I have rededicated myself to my writing. To touch people through the written word is a great blessing and a greater responsibility. That is the fundamental lesson I have learned and may I never forget it.
Thank you, Sherrilyn Kenyon.