Writing

Why Writers are the Ultimate Groupies

photo via Microsoft clip art

It was two years ago. 

My heart raced as my friend and I stood in the long, zig-zagging line waiting for them to let us in.  It was loud.  Crowded.  We could hear the buzzing murmurs escalating into excited squeals from fellow fans around us. 

“I heard it was sold out!” 

“Love the dreadlocks.” 

“Will she autograph more than one?”

Finally, the heavy doors creaked open, and the anxious herd began to stampede.  We tried not to push — tried to find a good spot so we could see.  Listen.  Hear. 

There was a sudden hush as the announcer came out to prepare us for the show.  Come on, already!, said the tapping of ten thousand impatient toes. 

And, then…she came on stage in all of her dreadlocked, eclectic glory.  The audience’s mouths created a collective “O.”

It was celebrated author, Anne Lamott

Yes, this was no rock concert.  No comedy show.  No Hollywood celebrity-sighting.  It was simply a large group of book-ish fans gathered to listen to someone whom they had only known through printed words on a page. 

But, that was enough.

Readers are like that.  They are loyal.  They make connections.  They yearn to hear more.  And, given a well-read writer (which all writers should be), well, you’ve got a groupie you’ll never be able to shake.

That’s because writers can’t seem to get enough of each other.  If there are two writers in a room of five hundred, there is a 97.5% chance they will find each other.  Yes, it’s that scientific.  They will see the glow of inquisitive eyes and glom on in an effort to commiserate, bond, and extract secrets of writerly glory. 

I don’t know about others, but when my writing magazines arrive each week/month, the first thing I do is flip to the author interviews.  They answer the burning questions that I NEED to know…now!  Questions like, Why do you write?  Where do you get your ideas?  What advice can you give? And, Do you eat M&M’s while you work?

Writers are comforted by these answers, catching hold of those that match up with our own ideas and viewpoints, and (almost unknowingly) discarding those that don’t.  What works?  What doesn’t?

You could call it a “writer’s obsession.”  How could you not, really?  The topics don’t vary all that much, and yet, most never get weary of discussion.  Most never stop bouncing ideas around.   Never stop experimenting.   Never stop hoping for validation from their “posse.”

It’s often a lonely venture, this writing gig.  But, sometimes, thankfully, it’s not.

Anne Lamott’s presentation was proof of this, as is anytime your words are read and appreciated by those who happen upon them.

I’m embarrassed to say that when my turn came in the autograph line, I was rendered mute.  A goofy grin, and a mumbled, “Thank you so much!” was all I could manage.  But, Anne seemed OK with it.  She smiled, and signed, and bid me farewell.

And, for a groupie like me, that was more than enough.

*Find me on Twitter @amandahoving

51 thoughts on “Why Writers are the Ultimate Groupies”

  1. Loved this post, Amanda!

    As writers, we work in isolation, often surrounded by people who don’t “get” what we do. That’s why it’s so much fun to hang out with other writers, because they know what we’re about!

    I’m so happy to be part of this amazing blogging community!

    Wendy

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  2. Love this post, Amanda, and so glad I can finally share MY groupie tale.

    It was at a Barnes and Noble in NYC in the mid-90’s and Clive Barker was signing for his release of Sacrament. When it was my turn, I babbled on about how much I enjoyed his work, but the best part was when I told him my name for the signing, he asked: “Is that Erika with a K or a C?” And when I said, K, he looked at me, smiled and said: “A K? How very exotic.” SWOON!!! Heck, I’m swooning all over again just writing about it–seriously, my hands are shaking! The man was sexy…

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  3. Wendy had a good point. Writers generally work in isolation, so real contact is so precious. Also, don’t you think that most fiction writers and some non-fiction write because of an innate fascination with people and what motivates them to do what they do. We are the great observers of mankind. And so we naturally get energized by contact with others like that, especially the ones who see things in a way that most don’t. One of the great experiences of my life was listening to Barbara Kinsolver read from “Poisonwood Bible,” one of my favorite books.

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    1. You said it perfectly, Renee. And, I love, “we are the great observers of mankind” — makes people-watching sound quite noble, doesn’t it? 😉 But, yes, I agree — we get each other.

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  4. Anne LaMott!! NO.WAY. Get.Out! Gaaaa! She’s on my profile page for women I’d leave my husband for.

    I loved Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird.

    Plus? She is so dang cool.

    Oh, to be her, to be her.

    I think I just proved your point.

    I shall slink away now.

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    1. I haven’t read all of her books, but, yes, Bird by Bird…I think I’ve read at least five times. Lamott is someone who immediately comes to mind from the phrase, “the power of words.” Every sentence she writes packs some sort of emotional punch.

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  5. I read Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” and I LOVED IT. I haven’t had a chance to get anything else she’d written yet but I’ve read a few essays of hers and WOW, she’s just an incredible woman…

    I loved this post, and I agree with you completely – writers love writers. Or hate them – there seems to be a group of writers (I’ve noticed that they’re often the less successful ones) who hate all other writers for whatever reason. These are the writers that seem to me to love writing less and be in it for all sorts of other reasons…

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    1. Thanks, SL! I would definitely recommend picking up some of her other books.

      I think you’re right about the haters — I would question the motives (and the big-headed-ness) of writers who shun all other writers.

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  6. Oh, wow. I don’t know who Anne LaMott is! After your profuse praise, I’m embarrassed to admit to the rock I’ve been living under! I’ll have to check her out.

    I do agree with you, though. No one can understand a writer like another writer. I think that’s because we approach the world differently than most of the rest of the flock. Put a writer and a writer at a table together, walk away, and come back two hours later? They’ll still be there, happily comparing notes, like they’ve known each other forever.

    It’s the best community there is.

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    1. Oh, don’t be embarrassed at all! She’s probably best known (by writers) for Bird by Bird as mentioned above. I would recommend it as a staple for any writer’s library (so, I think you should hint to your husband that it might make a good Christmas gift, ok?).

      Yes, such a great community — like a story-swapping flea market.

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  7. Great post, Amanda. I love what you said about two writers finding each other in a room of 500 other people. It’s totally true.

    I love going to conferences even if I discard half of the advice. There’s just something about the energy of it. Being one of a thousand people who think like I do? That’s a rare thing. I’m used to being the odd man out.

    I met Bob Dugoni at the Willamette Writers Conference in August. I’d never heard of him till I sat in on one of his workshops. He was a fantastic teacher and speaker, and then when he actually SAT BY ME during lunch one day my heart was all fluttery like he was a rock star or something. But he was just a really super nice guy who has a passion for writing and for helping other people write well. Imagine that…. 🙂

    Amy

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    1. I can completely understand the fluttery heart, Amy.

      I would say that “energy” is exactly the right word. Get any group of people who are passionate about something together, whether it’s writing or stamp collecting, and things are going to get interesting. Although, I’ve never been to a stamp collecting conference, but I’m certain they’re off the handle 😉

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  8. I love it! I will never forget getting my ElfQuest graphic novels signed by Richard Pini (Wendy never came to conventions at that time). He was the sweetest, humblest man and seemed quite overcome with all the attention. Like Erika in front of Clive Barker, I just gaped and made idiot noises, but he was real nice about the whole thing. 😉

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    1. Ha! “Gaped and made idiot noises…” glad to know I’m not alone. Also, so nice to hear about all of these humble, sweet authors — the best kind. Great story, Teresa!

      You, like Erika, also have to get ready to meet adoring groupies. Exciting, yes?!

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  9. I had a similar experience hearing Patricia Polacco speak. The whole crowd of teachers transformed into the adult (barely) version of Justin Bieber fangirls. There is something so emotional about the books and authors we love.

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  10. Meeting a favorite writer is definitely a celebrity encounter. And YES! Discarding viewpoints that don’t mesh. Always smart. Don’t hang on the negative. It’s all about boosting yourself up.

    Can I just add, to be annoying, that my son goes to preschool w/ Dave Eggers’ and Vendela Vida’s kid? Talk about groupie syndrome.

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  11. Hahaha
    I’m eating M&M’s as I blog surf today.
    I really like this post. It’s so true that we work in isolation and can disappear for lengths of time only to re-emerge ready for social interaction.
    If I met David Sedaris, I would be rendered totally speechless. For sure.

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  12. Great post Amanda. I think part of what I find so appealing about Twitter is the feeling of being around like-minded people. Writing is an isolating career choice so the camaraderie is a welcome change (whether it’s on a blog, Twitter, or when writers/readers get together to see another writer speak). I would LOVE to see Anne Lamott!!!

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  13. Im not a professional writer,but it is something i love to do…and i could so relate to this post!!!blogging in itself has given me a feeling of belonging to a community…its great to stumble upon like minded people…i think somewhere Anne Lamott,by the way reacted,must have identified you as a fellow writer!

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  14. haha. so true. How lucky you were to see Anne Lamott! When I took my oldest to her first book signing, she was awed. Over 500 kids stood in line (some even camped out overnight) to see Rick Riordan. What a rock star! The kids cheered, shouted for his attention, and gave him a standing ovation. Truly a phenomenal experience.

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  15. That must have been amazing. I LOVE her. I once got to listen to my favorite all-time writer, Lois Lowry, speak at a seminar. When it was time to receive her almighty autograph in my favorite book, I was as tongue-tied as you were. I mean, what can you say that they haven’t already heard a million times? Thank you so much for your amazing words? You shaped my childhood and inspired me to become a writer? No matter what they try to do, they will never be able to create a movie worthy of The Giver?

    Just writing this makes me want to pull out that book again. Thank you for inadvertently reminding me that I’m way overdue in re-reading it.

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  16. Hey Amanda, thanks for stopping by my blog. Loved the fangurl post, hee hee. I have attended some readings by some wonderful authors at larger venues, but I haven’t had the chance to meet some of my favorites yet. It is cool that the internet gives us a chance to get more up close and personal in our communication with authors, though!

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  17. I’ve noticed that a lot of writers seem quite shy; that’s part of their charm. When I was still writing my ‘scholarly’ stuff, I sort of felt compelled to pretend I wasn’t a fangirl when I went up to ask authors about their writing. I’m glad I don’t have to pretend anymore. It’s much more fun this way.

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