What would you do if one of your favorite authors was suddenly standing right in front of you?
Maybe you’ve had time to prepare because you’re at a signing for their newest book, but what if it was more sudden? What if you encounter them randomly, in the wild?
Authors often draw inspiration by simply living in the world around them, which means, they must (at least sometimes) venture into regular life like the rest of us. So what happens when you cross paths with them at a jazz club, a potluck, or even just standing in line for a latte?
Maybe you keep your distance, perhaps you give them a knowing nod, or maybe you spill every glorious detail about how much their words mean to you. As booklovers, no matter how we decide to handle the encounter (or how well it goes) one thing is certain: for us, that author’s books are forever changed. When we recommend their newest release to people in the future we can say, “I know them!” And at Third Place Books, we do just that.
These are the fun, inspiring, and sometimes wonderfully strange stories from Third Place Books Staff about times they’ve encountered some of their favorite authors out in the world.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
When I first started as a bookseller in 2017, the only thing most people knew about me was that I worshiped at the altar of George Saunders. Even though I was just a bookseller baby, I was invited to help work an event for the release of Lincoln in the Bardo. I was the earliest to arrive at the 300-year-old church where the reading would be held, but I didn't have keys, so I was locked outside a back alley entrance in the middle of Harvard Square. Suddenly, through the alleyway, walks Mr. Saunders wielding a small black coffee and a snack plate from the Starbucks next door. Before he even asked my name, he asked if I wanted a grape. More interesting conversations would happen that night, but none so memorable as the author of Civilwarland in Bad Decline offering me a grape.
Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
While helping set up for her event in 2019, I was able to meet Jenny Slate backstage at the Neptune Theater. I had read the advanced reader's copy of Little Weirds and listened to it twice more on audiobook (with that voice, how could I not?!), and once it came time to actually talk to her, I word-vomited every single beautiful thing her book made me feel while reading it and how it was a true buoy during a tumultuous time in my life. She took the time to ask about my Saturn return and held my hands in hers while we spoke. She even read a letter out loud from her second grade teacher that had just been delivered, as if we had been friends for ages. It was so surreal and lovely, and it was one of those magical occasions where the person you admire rises beyond your wildest expectations. I still recommend the book for anyone who may feel a little lost, or is making a transition in their life that leaves them feeling a Little Weird. Trust me: Jenny gets it.
Curses by Lish McBride
I read Lish McBride's books right after I started working at Third Place Books. She was ALSO working here but went on pregnancy / birth leave the day before I started. She was out for several months, so I read all of her books before actually meeting her. Now she's one of my best friends. It's bizarre and great.
The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palaniuk
I hung out with Chuck Palaniuk all day when he came for a laid back signing. I told him to sign my book because I have had a crush on him for years (his arms…my god). He wrote ‘I am crushing on you so hard right now’ and I made a sound like an embarrassed anime girl. Way to play it cool, Dean.
Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
I talked with Rupi Kaur on IG Live. At the beginning of the pandemic, she was doing writing exercises through Instagram where she would give prompts and then have participants share. I put my name in not thinking she would pick me, with the time difference I was still in my pajamas and my hair a mess, but she picked me and I read my poem about sex in front of her and like 7,000 people. Then she said "You're a really great writer," which I'm sure she has to say to everyone, but still I was freaking out.
The Pink Hotel by Liska Jacobs
I met Liska Jacobs in Chapala, Mexico while we were in residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal. She was working on her book The Pink Hotel, which comes out in July 2022. We had a potluck and I made a special pasta salad.
Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
A few years back at my old bookstore in New Jersey Alan Cumming taught me how to take a selfie. We did an offsite event for Alan and of course he was absolutely fabulous and everyone attending was hanging onto his every word. This was for his book, Not My Father's Son. After the event he asked if I wanted a picture. Of course I said yes and put my phone in position to take the photo but he snatched the phone from my hand and said, "Let me show you how to take a proper selfie." He told me to look directly at the camera and to tilt my head ever so slightly to the left and snap. Picture done. It was perfect.
Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
I sang Evanescence's "Bring Me to Life" at Drag Karaoke in Baltimore to Erik Larson.
A college friend of mine is one of Erik Larson’s daughters. He doesn’t know this, but we played a lot of beer pong and flip cup in their dining room.
Best Barbarian: Poems by Roger Reeves
I went to a jazz club with Roger Reeves in Pullman where I tried and failed to make it seem like I know anything about jazz but because he is a lovely person, it did not matter in the end.
How to Raise a Brighter Child (Revised) by Joan Beck
My husband’s aunt was the famous child care expert and journalist, Joan Beck. She wrote How to Raise a Brighter Child, which is still in print. Thanksgiving dinners, trips to Hawaii with this lovely woman – I have many memories.
In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
I tried to talk to Kage Baker when I was fourteen and in line at Starbucks during a convention. I wish I would have told her then how much her books meant to me.
Death, the Devil and the Goldfish by Andrew Buckley
After mentally preparing for a weekend full of black coffee and squished Clif bars from the bottom of my tote bag, I bonded with Andrew Buckley in the vegan section of the buffet line at the Las Vegas Writers Conference. As we shoveled veggie spring rolls on our plates, I found out as a featured guest with a restrictive diet, he was the reason they’d included plant-based food on the menu. I was very grateful and extremely excited to have options. It honestly changed my entire conference experience. Meeting him there led to a very fun blue pencil session together later in the weekend where he remembered my piece from the First Page Reads event and gave me some great advice. He’s a super genuine guy who writes interesting stories for young audiences and thrives on helping other authors succeed.
Pilgrim Bell by Kaveh Akbar
I met Kaveh Akbar at a reading and signing at Hugo House. We connected about being Persian poets and he seemed like a lovely person.
Borne by Jeff Vandermeer
One time Jeff Vandermeer came in to sign stock and when he read my staff pick for Borne he excitedly said "Oh I love this, "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" meets "Resident Evil" is exactly what I was going for!" and I had a total fan-girl moment. Now I follow him on Twitter where he mostly just gives updates on the wild animals and native plants in his yard.
Facts About the Moon by Dorianne Laux
When I met Dorianne Laux she wanted to take a selfie because one of her students was one of my teachers. It was absolutely the worst picture of me ever taken but I couldn't ask her to retake it because she is, after all, a god of poetry.
The Local News by Miriam Gershow
My aunt Miriam wrote the book The Local News. When I asked her for a copy, she said “Um, you can BUY it!”
Return Flight by Jennifer Huang
I met Jennifer Huang at a Sweet Action Poetry workshop in New York and they are really coooool. Love meeting emerging poets.
The Second Life of Mirielle West by Amanda Skenandore
Amanda Skenandore is the type of person who will always greet you with a smile. We met at a writing group while I was living in Las Vegas, right after her debut book was published. Other than critiquing work together we also hung out with some other incredible writers at a vaguely Alice in Wonderland themed speakeasy while she was working on The Second Life of Mirielle West. Those drinks were stronger than they looked, but there’s nothing quite like talking about interesting storylines over strange cocktails in the desert.
Stephen Colbert’s Midnight Confessions by Stephen Colbert
I had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Colbert a few times but one time I made him laugh! He lives in the town where my old bookstore is located and he comes every holiday to shop at the store. He was asking for book recommendations and as I was helping him he dropped some cash on the floor. I quickly picked it up and said, "For my troubles." He laughed and said, "Clever."
A Theater for Dreamers by Polly Samson
I hosted Polly Samson virtually last year for her novel A Theater for Dreamers. She was an absolute beam of light when we logged into the virtual green room for a mic and camera check, telling us about her fantastic Zoom set, and the shows she’d been doing with her family over the pandemic (which they called the Von Trapped Family Live Streams). She was having some trouble with her mic though, so she asked her husband to come give her a hand. She said something like, “he’s my tech guy, he’ll make it work,” and then breezed off to grab some water. Her husband appeared on screen and said, “Hi, I’m Dave.” I thought that he looked awfully familiar, but my primary concern was getting the mic working, so I introduced myself and we got down to business. It wasn’t until later, when Polly said she had a very famous husband that I realized that when she said tech guy, she meant THE David Gilmour. My dad and his brother are huge Pink Floyd fans so I told him immediately, and he has been telling this story at family gatherings ever since.
Like a Beggar by Ellen Bass
I'm a huge Ellen Bass fan and I was loitering near her at a conference trying to figure out how to say hi when a friend introduced us. I told her I loved her work and how she writes about the northwest and love and women. She thanked me graciously and then she had to go to a reading but before she left she held both my hands and said "I do hope we'll meet again someday" and I almost cried right there in the conference center.
We want to hear from you! Comment below with your author encounter stories and make sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more recommendations!