Wednesday, June 1, 2016

That one time when I met Pat Conroy

I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach
when the news hit that the world had lost Pat Conroy.

It's such a strange feeling,
to mourn the passing of someone I didn't know.
Somehow, I did know him, though. Through his words.
The Prince of Tides changed me as a writer.
He taught me to inhabit the souls of things
before I wrote about them.

I know he's been gone for months 
but I often find myself missing him.
Just knowing he was in the world
gave me comfort as I 
mustered up all my courage
 to get my novel published.

It was my birthday when I met him. 
He was introducing Mary Hood into 
Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.
I approached him in the hallway,
when no one else was around.

He was so warm and approachable.
He asked me about my life
and he listened.
I told him I was an aspiring writer 
and he told me not to quit.
He looked me in the eye with all sincerity and respect.

Somehow, Pat Conroy made ME feel important.
It wasn't about him.
I asked him to sign my book
and give me writing advice.

I've taken this with me
as I embark on yet another revision,
another round of querying,
going deeper, always deeper.

This month, as I flipped through my favorite magazines,
I've stumbled upon tributes to Mr. Conroy.

One in particular struck me
in the June/July issue of 

David DiBendetto wrote his Editor's Letter
titled Remebering Pat Conroy.

This quote went straight to my heart. 

"In 2013 I finally had the opportunity to meet Conroy in person.
 He and his wife, the novelist Cassandra King, were in town for an event, 
and they agreed to stop by the office to talk about their latest books. 
And while we had a wide-ranging and spirited discussion about their work,
 what I remember most is the way Conroy treated people. 
As soon as he arrived, he started popping into offices introducing himself 
and asking questions with a genuine interest in each person’s life. 
Here was one of the South’s most revered writers,
 and he wanted to hear about us. 
 “That’s Pat,” said King, with a smile."

That was the man I met on my birthday.
I am so humbled that he took a moment to encourage me.
I am honored to be able to say
that I experienced the warmth of Mr. Conroy.
 I'll hold onto that memory like a treasure.