Last week I went to the Louisville Free Public Library to hear my absolute favorite writer: Alexander McCall Smith. He was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), but has lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, for many years. He's all kinds of amazing -- PhD, Professor of Medical Law, world-traveler, philosopher and probably the most charming person on Twitter (@McCallSmith). He's also written approximately four zillion books. Adult books. Kids books. Everything in between. Mysteries. Novels. Every sentence he writes is just so perfectly crafted and pleasant.
I have read so much of his work that I feel we are friends.
As an artist myself, I try not to be creepy about this ... I've had many people tell me they feel they know me because they know my art (or my blog), which, honestly, doesn't creep me out, but I can see how it could.
If I had a fraction of the moxie I had before the Wee Boy was born (when I was hit with postpartum depression that I'm still crawling my way out of), I would have found a way to have a proper one-on-one with the author -- either a legitimate press request or an invitation for a musical saw lesson or at least a cup of tea. Several of my friends in the media were on radio shows or television shows with him, and each gave me plenty of warning time to drop what I was doing and go introduce myself.
But again -- my moxie is missing. I felt too shy and bothersome. As if I've already used up all of my hero-meeting-karma on playing with Elvis Costello multiple times. I, of course, wish I'd gotten up the nerve, as McCall Smith was in Louisville for several days.
Nonetheless, my time with him was limited to a brief enconter in the book-signing line, where I blathered quickly, "Hello! I'm Brigid, this is my son, who was born in Edinburgh, and your daughter Emily was our doctor. It's so nice to meet you." I did not tell him how his writing saved me in Edinburgh (quite literally one night, when I was lost in New Town and only found my way home because I saw Great King Street and remembered how Bertie, in 44 Scotland Street had once found his way from Great King Street to Dundas Street, and so I was able to find Dundas Street and ergo the way to my flat), how I felt his characters were my neighbors, and how I simply think he is a wonderful person for spending his life creating art that brings such joy to so many people. I was flustered in a way that I'm never flustered upon meeting celebrities, partly because I was trying to wrangle an overtired two-year-old and partly because I'm just not my ol' self anymore. But I got a nice photo, and he was so unbelievably kind to the Wee Boy. "Hello! My, what a clever boy you are," he said, which made Graham grin and giggle.
The Wee Boy was, of course, wearing a kilt, complete with a sporran that stored two Hot Wheel Mini Coopers. (Alexander McCall Smith may also be the only person who has properly identified my long-haired, long-eyelashed boy as a boy.)
Anyway, if you missed him at the library (which I'm not sure was possible, since most of Louisville was there), you missed the most charming talk I've ever heard. I was going to say he's the most engaging author I've ever seen, but I'm pretty sure he's simply the most engaging speaker I've ever heard. I had high expectations, and they were met within the first few minutes -- funny, smart, kind (when 8-year-old Peter asked a question about The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, the writer invited the young boy on stage for an autograph and a "general knowledge competition," complete with a prize ... AMcS fished around in his pocket and produced a twenty dollar bill for the boy), an infectuous laugh and the most perfect word choice.
I wish we could be friends, but I will settle for his books on my shelf and a nice photograph.
Oh, also, he's got a new book out, which is a modern re-telling of Emma, the Jane Austen classic. I'm 67% through it -- a fact I know because I didn't want to mess up my signed first-edition and thus also bought the book on Kindle -- and it has already make me smile, laugh, snort, tear up and generally escape the doldroms.