As promised, I spent today at the Duarte Author's Festival, held in the beautiful Westminster Gardens Retirement Oasis. That's what they call it. It's actually a very lovely park with lots of trees and a set of very smooth, paved pathways, which come in handy if you are in a wheelchair or using a walker, etc. Pam Ripling (aka Anne Carter) and I shared a table; her niece, Alyssa Montgomery (also an author) came with her for the day. Jeff Sherratt had a table further into the park, making Echelon Press well represented. Our table was next to the main stage - this will become important later.
The weather was beautiful, and we had a medium-ish crowd, but not a lot of buyers. I sold five books and I think Pam sold at least that many. Jeff, of course, sold two or three cases (LOL).
The featured author for the festival was Ray Bradbury. I heard him speak about two years ago. He was quite frail at the time, but insisted on keeping his appointment with the writer's association luncheon. We could barely hear him because the PA system wasn't working, but I could still sense his energy for life and his love of writing.
I watched him arrive, a young black man pushing his wheelchair while a plumpish-looking fellow led the way. Mr. Bradbury looked much heartier than the last time I saw him. He might have had a stroke at some point - there is a slur to his speech, but he was still in fine form, telling tales of becoming a writer, meeting famous people and doing what he loved. Everyone ate it up.
Pam and I sat at our table during the talk, straining to hear his speech. The black man stood in front of us, waiting, along with a white guy in a suit. There was an extraneous conversation with the black man and another group, which Pam chimed in on, then the white man joined, then I got involved, until it was just the four of us talking.
(May I just say at this point that I wished I'd asked the gentlemen's names. If either of you two stumble upon this blog, could you introduce yourselves?)
The white guy (I found out later he's the driver) looked over at my book and said, "Freezer Burn? What is it?"
"It's a murder mystery," I replied.
"A mystery? Ray loves mysteries. This looks like a book he'd enjoy."
The words spurted before my brain kicked into gear: "Really? I'll give him one."
He seemed ecstatic. "You'd give him one? He'd love that!"
I took a book and autographed it, thinking the driver would take it to Mr. Bradbury later, perhaps tomorrow or next week or something. Just then, the black guy pointed to my chest. "Hey, look at her shirt," he said to the other guy.
In my youth, I'd have been embarrassed to have so much attention paid to my chest, but at my advancing age, I knew they were only looking at the words.
The driver brightened even more. "Oh, man, Ray would love that shirt! He drinks merlot all the time!" (P.S. Mr. Bradbury, I hope that doesn't mean for breakfast, too.)
"You gotta present your book to him so he can see your shirt," the driver told me. "He'll love it. We'll be passing by your table on the way out. Are you going to be here until we leave?"
Are you kidding? "Absolutely!" I said.
Mr. Bradbury spoke and the audience listened, enrapt. Afterward, they lined up for an autograph. I stood by my table and waited patiently. No one else did.
"Are you sure he's with Bradbury? Are you sure he meant it?" Pam's questions were indicative of a mystery writer, suspicious to the core.
Jeff had a different worry. "He's not going to take this path to his car. He's going to take the one over there."
I tried to keep my zen approach, then saw the crowd clear from the signing booth and opted for Plan B. Picking up the book and my camera, I headed to Mr. Bradbury. Pausing at the driver, I asked, "Is this still okay?"
He leaped out of his chair. "Absolutely! Mr. B, Mr. B, I want you to meet somebody." He took me over to the table. "Mr. B, this is Gayle, and she has a book she'd like to give you."
Bless his heart, all that signing had Mr. B on a roll - he took my book and opened it to autograph it. I stopped him.
"No, Mr. Bradbury, you don't have to sign this one," I said, and he laughed.
"Look at her shirt, Mr. B," the driver said.
Once again, I held out my chest for a man to read. (Note to self: try to regain dignity. Soon.) He read it, smiled, and held out his hand.
"I want to drink you!" he announced.
We laughed, took pictures, and I thanked my two champions for introducing me to this great writer (again, I wish I knew their names). I made it as far as my table before I broke out into my Happy Dance, then made it as far as the car before I texted my family about what had just happened.
Will he read my book? I don't know. But he owns it, which still boggles my brain.
My question to you is, was my inscription cheeky? Or should I have addressed it to Mr. Bradbury?
BTW - that shirt is officially my Lucky Shirt after today.