I Was Going To Write About Other Things

I was going to write about my finished cowl, and I was going to write about my attempts to organize my stash. But then I went to Changing Hands to see Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. So clearly, I’m going to write about that.

I signed up to go see her the second I read (on her blog) that she was coming. Seven years ago, when I first started blogging, she was the first blogger I read. I was an undergraduate at the time, so I needed something to read that was not homework, and something that would make me laugh.

More than that, though, this new blogger needed another blogger to read. From Stephanie, I saw what knit bloggers could write about. I saw that to write well, you just have to sit down and write. I saw how she turned things that happened into a story, how she got as much light as possible into her pictures. Her writing was fun to read, so I tried writing about things knit bloggers write about and writing better, tried making stories, and tried taking better pictures.

The pictures were definitely the easy part.

I was a really shy blogger, and stayed that way for years. First I hid behind a nom de plume, then I hid behind a mouse. Now I hide behind my dog (who is little and furry and only has one eye, so she will always win the awwww category more often anyways), but I feel much more confident in myself and my voice as a blogger.

While I was becoming bold enough to *gasp* write as me, Stephanie was watching her daughters go off to university, writing through sorrow, knitting for new additions to the family, and biking across Canada (only part of it but it’s a big continent). Seven years of watching her life unfold, and growing as a writer as a result of her writing, and yet I’d never even heard her talk.

(I could have looked her up on YouTube, but since I started reading her before YouTube was such a thing, it never occurred to me to process her writing any other way than as words on a page)

After seven years of knowing all these crazy personal things about a person who lived on the other side of the continent and in a different country, seven years of her work impacting me without her having any idea I existed, it was weird to think about meeting her. Like seeing your favorite artist in concert, and knowing you will meet them backstage, and wondering how to negotiate the balance between knowing them through their art and them not knowing you.

In my experience, these interactions are awkward. My brushes with fame usually involve me, in a queue or a crowd, spending a whopping total of twenty seconds babbling incoherently in front of famous admired person while they politely sign the thing I’ve pretty impolitely shoved at them. Things tend to go better when I have people like las hermanas to cover for me and say something intelligent to said person.

But Stephanie is a knitter, and a quirky knitter. Surely I could do this. I could bring her something! People bring her stuff like beer all the time. Maybe not beer, but travel-sized Arizona honey, to thank her for coming to our far-off state that is only sort of close to California. And then, when she’d graciously accepted this thank-you, I would tell her how much her blog meant to me as a blogger, and ask if she’d take a picture with Mousie to represent things coming full circle.

In reality, I arrived at Changing Hands. The knitters were noisy and bossy and champing at the bit. I, Miss Introvert, saw no fewer than six people I knew, four of whom I chatted with at length. All attendees checked out one another’s projects–complete and otherwise–touched yarn, sat down in seats so tightly packed that JetBlue would be envious, and there was Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee at Changing Hands
Here she is during the awkward moment of having someone introduce her while a couple hundred knitters _stare_

She was not so short as her frequent assertions had led me to believe, but she did look like someone who hates public speaking, about to speak in public. Even though we multitudinous knitters continued to stare, she was brilliant, and sharp-witted. She had us all in the palm of her hand before she even started reading from her new book. I really loved hearing her words as she says them, and her awesome Canadian accent (It is amazing the infinite ways which people can speak the 26 letters of the alphabet, and this variety is part of why I love traveling to other places). After two hilarious readings, and an even more uproarious q&a, we queued up–with surprising good manners–for the signing.

It had been lovely, we were all knitters together…

And then suddenly I was standing in front of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. The author who was funny and quick-witted in public as well as on her blog. And I just kind of totally froze.

What happened next is all blurry, but I know a few things

1. I felt incredibly awkward and spoke entirely in two-word sentences

2. She was quite gracious

3. She held Mousie without even asking why I was running around with a stuffed mouse

4. She said nice things about the honey

5. I managed to walk/flee from the store with my book in my hand, which is frankly miraculous

6. She wrote down my blog name

Now I’m wondering what will come up in her Phoenix post. Maybe she will gloss over that strange girl with the knitted mouse and talk about the people who brought the incredible lace bedspread. Or the mom with the cute spodgy baby. Or maybe she will find that sticky note in her bag, and Google the blog, and find this post, and understand.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee holding a knitted mouse
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Mousie. The unverse has come full circle.

70 responses to “I Was Going To Write About Other Things”

  1. OK I give up trying to post this on my phone…off to the laptop…

    You did *way* better than I did. I was too chicken to even ask her to hold my sock for a pic. I don’t think the bookstore personnel are used to authors who actually like to interact with their readers as much as she does. 🙂

    • Thanks Liz 🙂 I agree, the Changing Hands staff were prepared for a totally different kind of signing but the Harlot-style signing came off well 🙂

  2. And here I am, directed to your blog by the YarnHarlot herself!! Your writing is lovely and Mousie is pretty cute 🙂

  3. Hah! Your interaction with Stephanie sounded just like mine. I’d actually seen her at Madrona just a couple weeks ago and made a point of saying hi after the dinner (which took a lot of courage, cause, you know, introvert).

    So I saw her here in Seattle and got in line and then mumbled about whether she remembered my daughter and I from Madrona. Which she did, because my name reminded her of the X-files (hey, whatever works!). She then mentioned the nice email I sent her about her upcoming book tour. And then I was completely tongue-tied and just thrust my books at her for signature and got pics and basically lost the ability to conversate like a grown up person.

    But it was great.

      • It’s a lot of us, apparently. And since Stephanie is clear that she is just as out of her element, it creates a weird binding between all of us. Dare I say it knits our little community together? At any rate, I loved your post and plan on following your blog regularly now.

      • I’m smmoulder on Ravelry (already took the liberty of adding you there). My daughter (Gracecm) is 13, but a much better knitter and I wish you could meet her – I can tell you two would hit it off fabulously.

  4. Your blog made me cry. I know exactly how you felt when meeting Stephanie. She also has kept me going on my darkest days, sung to my heart, and inspired my life. Thank you for this most excellent first-hand account.

  5. Love this post!!! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I’ve yet to meet her in person and have also been reading for years. So glad you got a picture with Mousie.

  6. I think I managed to get 5 words out when I heard her speak in Chapel Hill, NC, late last year. Doubt any of them made any sense! I was so awe-struck at finally seeing her, that I’m quite certain I had heroine-worship plus deer-in-headlights combination look on my face. She is truly wonderful and inspiring! Love your mousie, and I, too, came here from her web log.

  7. your post was the best thing to read this morning, and yes, I was directed by Stephanie herself! Being a shy beginner blogger myself, I could relate to every sentence in your post, though chances of meeting Stephanie, or you, in my little Himalayan town seem rather far-fetched, at the moment! After reading Stephanie for the last four years, its time to add you to my daily read list …thanks for being you!!

  8. A great story and you tell it so well! Anyone who has ever felt shy can relate. Congrats on coming out of your shell, even if only a little, that’s how things happen, little by little…

  9. I think she might understand. I know I do, and I just came from her blog, so you know by now that she saw yours. 🙂 I also know, thanks to you (because I just hadn’t thought about it before now), that I am likely to freeze up, too; so I am going to write out what I want to say before I see her in just a couple of weeks. Thanks. 🙂

    Also, I am now adding your blog to my google-reader-blog-catcher-replacement-thingie (aka Pulse, because it came with the tablet), so I can read more of your blog. 🙂

  10. I was at Stephanie’s reading in San Francisco Thursday evening, and didn’t bring her anything but my admiration. So I was curious how the rest of her tour was going. I love that she directed her readers over here to read your post. Thank you for writing it, and thank you for being you!

  11. The Yarn Harlot sent me. But I am staying on my own. I like your blog and have been searching for one just like yours for a while. Perhaps one day we will line up to meet you in person. 🙂

  12. I dropped by from the Yarn Harlot’s post. I too am her long-time fan and have heard her speak several times, stood in line and then only been able to mutter my name. Lovely blog and lovely writing. I would love to link to you on Ravelry….but can’t find your ID.

  13. Wow, very elegant post. I enjoyed reading it immensely.

    Stephanie should be really proud that you are one of her fans. You absolutely deserve the shout out that Stephanie posted! Go you.

  14. I too came by via the Yarn Harlot and I’ll keep on visiting. You described the emotional impact of meeting a personal heroine so exquisitely. Here’s a story from the other side of the table: When I met Tommy Makem of the Clancy Brothers at an Irish festival a few years ago, I tried to tell him how much his music had meant to me all my life. I’d been listening to his voice for fifty years. I was even teary. He grasped my hand in his, grinned and winked at me, and said, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this…”

  15. I was standing in line right behind you. I got to see your mouse in person. It was a very cute mouse 🙂

  16. Well, what can I say? You, like our dear Yarn Harlot, have brought me to tears! Hers was also my first blog ( can’t even remember HOW I found it!) and it’s the only one that I continue to read because her writing makes me laugh, cry, smile and nod knowingly. You just did the same thing. We really are a great big nerdy, wonderful, creative, knitting community : ) !

  17. I’m also here via Stephanis’ blog. Your account is wonderful but now I’m really curious….what’s the story of Mousie? Can you share it for us newbies?

  18. I’m so glad Stephanie gave a shout out to your blog. From what I’ve read so far, it is well deserved. I’m looking forward to reading more!

  19. Another knitting blogger referred here by Stephanie…. :). Wonderful post. I call Stephanie my blogging idol and, like you, have read her for a long time and learned a lot from her. You wrote so well about that. I did something similar when having her sign my book at Rhinebeck several years ago but it involved awkwardly trying to show her the hand knit socks I was wearing by trying to raise my foot above the level of the table she was sitting behind and almost falling over. So embarrassing. 🙂 Someday I would love to get to one of her talks….

  20. I like so many others followed the Yarn Harlot’s blog to visit you today. Great story, I can imagine feeling much the same way. I started a blog a long time ago, but never have anything to say!! Good for you for finding your voice. I’ll visit more often.

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