Have I told you about Bella Voce? Because it’s the coolest thing I do. Which is hardly an impressive distinction, I know, considering the level of my Cool Barometer, but that won’t stop me from bragging about it. Bella Voce is an authors series sponsored by the Sterling Wealth Management Group, which is run by Sterling Bank, which is where my hubby’s business banks. (Did you follow that? Me neither.) One of his partners, Lisa, holds three tickets to the tri-annual event and uses them as a marketing tool and fun perk for her many clients and colleagues. A couple of years ago, Lisa–being the kind and generous rock star that she is–offered the third ticket to me, indefinitely. Her reasoning for sacrificing one of the coveted spots to a no-name gal east of the Gorge? She knew I liked to read, and she thought that I’d enjoy it. That’s all; that’s the way warm and thoughtful Lisa thinks. So thanks to her, I get to bypass the long waiting list and high ticket price and, three days each year, I get to shimmy over to downtown Portland to sit in a beautiful ballroom, eat wonderful food, meet wonderful people, and listen to various New York Times bestselling authors talk about life as a writer. If you think it sounds like a Pretentious Wannabe’s Dream Come True, you are absolutely right. I gulp down this opportunity like a Tri-Citian does her Slurpees and let me tell you, even the Cherry Fanta doesn’t go down as smooth. Bella Voce is interesting and exciting and genteel. It’s enough to make a housewife smile.
Here’s me and my tablemate, Judi, after listening to Elizabeth Berg last year, who was charming and funny and really needs to be My New Best Friend. (If only I could make her see.) I have no photos with Lisa, as she is always behind the camera in her signature self-deprecation, making sure everyone else looks great and has fun. I, on the other hand, will grasp at any photographic evidence of me doing Something Cool. (I fear this speaks volumes about my insecurities, but…whatev. Take the picture, get the flowers in it.)
Some of the other writers who’ve come are Lisa See, Ivan Doig, Anita Shreve, Cheryl Strand (I was glad to miss that one; email me if you want to know why), Heidi Durrow and, believe it or not, the great Ann Patchett. (And, believe it or not, I missed the great Ann Patchett because my darling baby sister decided to go and have a darling baby of her own that week and, in spite of myself, I was compelled to go visit said baby and said sister. Hmph. Still kinda mad about it.) (But the baby was darling. I guess.)
So last week Bella Voce rolled around again, and brought with it the fantastic and formidable Rebecca Skloot, who’s won (and is probably still winning) countless awards for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Have you read it? It’s fab. Beefy and fascinating and fab. My science-minded friends were enraptured; I was ardently impressed. This writer knows her stuff. I was determined to meet her afterward, if only for the purpose of bragging about it on this blog. (See pp. 2, insecurities.)
As soon as Ms. Skloot left the stage and the lights went up, I beelined to where she stood talking with some bigwigs and slowed down to make my approach seem casual. Their backs were all turned to me, however, and in a series of unfortunate events, the group began walking away from me just as I was walking toward them, oblivious (I hoped) to my lingering presence several paces behind. An awkward moment ensued as I quickened my pace a little, trying to catch up with Rebecca and Friends, all of whom were walking–deliberately, it seemed–faster than I could follow, still with their backs turned to me, still ignoring my desperate attempt to infiltrate their clique. Flashbacks from middle school nearly thwarted my mission, but I quickly refocused and continued stalking my prey. I followed Rebecca silently and shamelessly all the way across the ballroom, until she found a seat behind a draped table with a long line forming in front of it for book signings. Despite the time I felt we’d already spent together, I had no choice but to redirect my course to the back of the line, even though I was certain none of the ladies in front of me had hunted down Rebecca with the devotion I had. But in the spirit of the event, I chose Graciousness and quietly waited my turn. When it came, I worked up the courage to ask for a picture with her. She agreed and her assistant snapped this dark, terrible shot. I wish I could say it was not another awkward moment, but it was. I can’t put my finger on why. I just felt like a jack-a.
Turns out I looked like one too. Please forgive the pooch. I’m blaming winter, the camera angle, and forgetting to wear my Spanx that day. I am not blaming my own perpetual lack of self-control, thankyouverymuch. (And those are boots, not my calves! Please be aware.) It took a lot of nerve for me to post this pic, and I see my willingness to do so as a mark of emotional growth (read: giving up the fight.)
Rebecca was polite enough, but I think maybe I’m just getting too old to be a groupie. Come to think of it, if chasing down writers (instead of a band) for a photo that will impress no one (instead of everyone) causes you to call yourself a “groupie,” then you are definitely too old to be classified as one–no maybe about it. But hey: I figure with this photo I’ve significantly raised my Cool Barometer–which hasn’t budged since 1995 when I married an engineer–and that’s what it’s really all about. Afterward, I tempered my awkward Rebecca sighting with a little retail therapy downtown (new Spanx and a new skirt were first to be purchased), and that put all things aright. And I still had a blast at this event, and I still think Lisa hangs the moon, and I still can’t wait for the next one in May.
And can you guess whose coming to lunch in May? Leave your answer in the comment section; whoever guesses correctly gets a free copy of his (hint!) book. I haven’t read it yet so I make no claims about the content, but let’s just say that it’s a runaway bestseller with a pretty, pretty cover. And a title that every middle-aged woman can relate to. In fact, so excited am I about this book, that whoever wins it will also receive a framed 16×20 picture of me, Rebecca, and my gut. Just to sweeten the deal–and remind you who your Great Spanxless Benefactress is.